You can read the whole debate online here: http://bit.ly/1SzKd4H. I was in the chamber for the whole 11 hours (I wasn't called to speak, unfortunately, but you can read the notes I had for my speech below) and listened to all sides. I respect the sincerely–held opinions that were expressed but I regret that we didn't have enough votes to prevent an escalation of the UK's bombing in the region.
We now have to accept that vote and its results – bombing started shortly after the vote last night – but there are things we can do to help people from Syria and its neighbouring countries. There will be plenty of political debate to come but people have been asking how they can help refugees arriving in Scotland, so I wanted to share a couple of links that you can use to volunteer if you want to:
Scotland welcomes refugees – Scottish Government
Edinburgh churches for sanctuary
I hope we can welcome those refugees and at least offer safe shelter for them. In the midst of all the arguments about military action and who's right there are people suffering and they could do with a bit of our help.
Notes from my planned speech on Syria
It is a nation broken and wounded by internal strife, by a belligerent force wrongly claiming the mantle of Islam and by the incursion of foreign forces.
We know little of the conditions on the ground in the areas controlled by Daesh and not much more about the areas surrounding them.
It may be, as the Prime Minister said, that the Government has information that it cannot share but I cannot see pressing reasons for this action.
It would be better to look at areas where we might have influence.
President Putin indicated that oil was being smuggled through Turkey to finance Daesh and President Obama indicated that the unsecured Turkish border allowed the free movement of its supporters.
UK resources might be better deployed offering Turkey assistance in securing its borders and seeking out criminal activity that might be funding Daesh.
We could also consider support for the Kurdish forces that appear to be having more effect than all the bombing going on elsewhere.
These are better ideas than bombing a country whose people have faced too many horrors already.
They have been abused by their own government and by the forces that rose up in opposition to it.
They've been used as human shields by Daesh and are being bombed now.
More bombs will not help them.
Being able to show footage of exploding bombs makes it easier to show that something is being done but less dramatic actions may be more beneficial.
Less aggressive swagger and more effort into humanitarian relief, more effort to closing off the cashflow that Daesh relies upon – that's the kind of impression that we should be looking to make.
The questions we should be asking are "what does this achieve?", "how do we leave when it ends?", "is there a better way to do this?" and, above all, "how do we ensure that the people in the place we attack can recover and rebuild their lives, their societies and their countries?"
None of those questions appears to have been asked, never mind answered, and this decision is being taken in an information vacuum.
I can neither offer my support in those circumstances nor forget that the Syrian people will be on the receiving end of anything we do in Syria.
I do not doubt the honour or honest intent of anyone who finds themselves on the other side of this debate.
I hope that the arguments might be examined in a similar attitude.
The seventy thousand fighters waiting for our action suggested by the Prime Minister seems a little uncertain.
Estimates from people who are actually on the ground there suggest ten thousand to fifteen thousand.
That surely opens a gap in the Prime Minister's case for bombing.
The seventy thousand, we are told, depends on combined action by up to eighty different factions – not a single force with a single aim but a wide range of groups with an equally wide range of aims and ambitions.
Given what is written in Dabiq, the magazine published by Daesh, about who they think their enemies are, I think we should be wary of counting our enemy's enemy as our friend.
Daesh claims to be fighting against Al Qaeda and the Taliban; it's fighting a war on drugs, taking its own signature action against dealers and smugglers.
It calls Iranian leaders false idols.
Are these the friends we want?Are they included in the seventy thousand?
Blood has been spilled in great quantities in Syria and continues to be spilled.
We should not add to that bloodshed.
Syria bleeds yet and I will be voting against bombing.
25/01/19 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm Royston/Wardieburn Community Centre
01/02/19 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm Constituency Office, 166 Great Junction Street Leith
08/02/19 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm McDonald Road Library
15/02/19 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm Stockbridge Library Surgery
22/02/19 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm Royston/Wardieburn Community Centre