MPs at Westminster should “have their say” before the UK launches military action – and the Tory government must produce evidence of the legal basis for strikes in the Red Sea, Humza Yousaf has said.
It comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak authorised targeted strikes aimed at Houthi militants who had been attacking vessels in the Red Sea in a move they claimed was aimed at Israel due to its assault on Gaza.
The US said that more than 60 targets at 16 sites in Yemen had been hit in the joint action, as fears of escalation of conflict in the Middle East region grew.
There have been calls from across the political spectrum for parliament to be recalled, but Sunak has played down the importance of giving MPs a say on the matter.
“I chaired a Cobra meeting yesterday and convened Cabinet and relevant opposition politicians were informed,” he told broadcasters during a visit to Ukraine.
“What we have done here is take limited and necessary action in response to a specific threat in self defence. And if you look at similar situations in 2015 and 2018 a statement was made to Parliament after the action and that’s what I will be doing on Monday.
“I’ll be making a full statement in Parliament and taking questions.”
But in a speech at the SNP’s General Election campaign launch, the First Minister said MPs should be given a say before any military action is taken.
Yousaf (below) said: “Before I talk about the General Election, can I start by addressing events overnight.
“Everyone here believes that UN Security Council Resolution 2722 [which demands an immediate halt on all attacks on merchants and commercial vessels in the Red Sea] should be adhered to, and that Houthi attacks in the Red Sea should stop.
“We are consistent in our position and believe all UN resolutions should be adhered to. We don’t believe that countries should be selective in what UN Resolutions they choose to comply with.
“Before action as serious as military intervention takes place MPs, who have been elected to represent the people, should have their say.
“The UK does not have a good track record when it comes to military intervention in the Middle East.
“That is why The House of Commons should have been recalled today, ahead of any military action being taken, to allow MPs to debate and scrutinise the UK Government’s plans for military action.”
Yousaf also challenged the UK Government to produce evidence to support its action. He said: “If we have learnt anything from the past, the very recent past, it is that any decision to instigate military action should be evidence based, and we should be transparent with the people of Scotland and indeed the UK about the reasons for military intervention.”
The SNP leader added: “The UK Government needs to produce evidence of the legal basis, not just a summary, the evidence of the legal basis. They need to articulate what is their objective, what is their end goal is, and they need to give detail about the security implications of their action both in the region and here at home.”
The UK Government has posted a brief summary of "the legality of UK military action to target Houthi facilities in Yemen" on its website.
It states: "The UK is permitted under international law to use force in such circumstances where acting in self-defence is the only feasible means to deal with an actual or imminent armed attack and where the force used is necessary and proportionate."
Previously, Labour leader Keir Starmer (below) had also argued for MPs to be given a say before UK military intervention.
Ahead of being elected party leader, Starmer pledged to “pass legislation that said military action could be taken if first the lawful case for it was made, secondly there was a viable objective, and thirdly you got the consent of the Commons”.
He said this would be called the Prevention of Military Intervention Act.
In 2023, Sky News reported that Starmer’s pledge had been watered down but still involved “mandating a parliamentary vote” before military action.
However, speaking on Friday, the Labour leader said he “fully” supported the UK taking military action.
He went on: “I do think there needs to be a statement in Parliament, which isn’t sitting today so it’s for the Government to make sure there’s a statement in Parliament as soon as possible at the first opportunity, to set out the justification, to set out the limits and scope of the operation.”