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Ministers considered impact of Iraq War on Scotland

Official papers released today show cabinet's response to 2003 invasion.

Jack McConnell: First Minister at the time (file pic).
Jack McConnell: First Minister at the time (file pic). PA

Terrorism, falling oil prices and the effect on tourism were among the forecast impacts on Scotland of the Iraq War discussed by Scottish ministers, newly released official papers show.

The Scottish cabinet at the time was given a briefing paper on the likely domestic impacts of the war ahead of Westminster voting for military action.

The paper, from February 2003, which was predicated on a "short, military successful war involving British forces, against Iraq", is among official documents kept secret for 15 years but now made public.

The briefing stressed the need to reassure Muslim residents and prevent the war being used as a pretext for racist attacks in Scotland.

It further warned of the UK-wide threat of a large-scale terrorist attack and that anti-war demonstrations were presenting "significant public order issues".

Principal likely economic effects outlined in the document were rapid rises in oil prices, instability in financial markets and fluctuations in tourism.

National tourism body VisitScotland forecast a drop in transatlantic visitors but viewed an increase in UK tourists as an opportunity to offset this, and marketing plans were said to have been "prepared accordingly".

The paper also warned the call-up of medical reservists could cause problems in individual hospitals.

'Ministers will wish to make it clear... that the actions being taken by the UK Government in Iraq, and by the police and security services, are not targeted at Muslim residents in general'
2003 cabinet briefing

Stressing the need to reassure members of the public, particularly Muslim residents, the briefing stated: "Ministers will wish to make it clear, as after September 11, that the actions being taken by the UK Government in Iraq, and by the police and security services, are not targeted at Muslim residents in general, and should not offer support for racist or other attacks."

Cabinet meeting minutes also released show then deputy first minister James Wallace, who introduced the briefing paper to ministers, said Scotland was "not immune to the general threat to the UK, but there was no specific threat to Scotland".

The cabinet also discussed a number of apparent security breaches at the Scottish Parliament following anti-war demonstrations in the public gallery.

A number of other official documents from 2003 are also being released 15 years later.

One record of cabinet minutes details then-First Minister Jack McConnell's response to the spiralling costs of the Scottish Parliament building.

There was public anger at the home of the new parliament which was completed ten times over budget at £414m and three years late.

Documents from June 2003 reveal Mr McConnell updated his cabinet on the proposals for an inquiry.

The papers state: "...the three main options under consideration were: a full scale public inquiry, which would be costly and take some time; an inquiry by a Parliamentary Committee which could be criticised as amounting to MSPs investigating themselves; and an inquiry by an independent person such as the Auditor General, Mr Robert Black."

Papers also reveal that Scottish Cabinet ministers were told the UK's Health Department was investigating a claim of knowingly supplying contaminated blood and that Government ministers discussed the need to "close down" the public perception of a cover-up over the Dunblane massacre.

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