Why bombing Syria isn't the answer

A few days ago, the House of Commons debated the bombing of Syria. It got off to a shaky start, with David Cameron refusing to apologise for his comments the night before when he apparently called anyone opposed to military action a terrorist sympathiser.

Despite the Prime Minister's unwarranted stubbornness, it was a sober and serious event, with voices being heard from all sides. There was real emotion and there were some memorable speeches.

Like my SNP colleagues, I voted against air strikes. That view may not have carried the day, but I believe that it was the right one and that dropping bombs will ultimately do more harm than good.

I don't know of a single MP, regardless of party, who doesn't regard Daesh as evil and wants to see it destroyed. The debate was over the best way of achieving that.

Launching missiles isn't the answer. What is happening in Syria and Iraq is complex, multi-faceted and requires imaginative, carefully thought out and long-reaching solutions. 

I can understand why the UK Government wants to show leadership and take positive action, especially in the wake of the Paris bombings. 

But it would be much better avoiding military action and supporting, as I do, the international initiative on Syria agreed in Vienna to secure a ceasefire, counter terrorist groups and enable a transition to proper government.

Dropping bombs will simply make matters worse. Syria is already the most bombed country in the world and that has not diminished Daesh's presence or influence.

It will lead to more civilian casualties, more resentment, more refugees fleeing a war zone and make a difficult situation even harder to resolve. And, unfortunately, it is likely to strengthen the terrorists rather than degrading them.

Intelligent diplomatic intervention would create a framework for success and that is what is missing at the moment. We cannot deal with pieces of the jigsaw in isolation.

As well as Daesh, we also need to find a solution to the problem of Bashir Al-Assad and factor discussion of a Kurdish state into the equation. Only by looking at the big picture will we achieve a negotiated and durable peace.

This isn't just my view, or that of the SNP. Across most of the mainstream UK parties, there are those who also believe we have rushed into military action too quickly. They include Julian Lewis, a Tory MP and Chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, and also members of the Conservative-dominated Foreign Affairs Committee.

These voices and others like them are powerful and should have been listened to. It was a respectful debate, but to my mind, we got the wrong outcome.

The decision has been taken, though, and we must now get fully behind our armed forces and pray they stay safe. However, the UK Government must not think that with this vote, its work is done.

If anything, it must now work even harder for a political solution. I - and, I'm sure, you - earnestly hope that now happens.