Nicola Sturgeon branded 'utterly irresponsible' over no-fly zone comment

10 March 2022, 19:33

Nicola Sturgeon had said a no-fly zone should not be off the table
Nicola Sturgeon had said a no-fly zone should not be off the table. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

Nicola Sturgeon has been branded "utterly irresponsible" and "naive" after she said NATO should not rule out a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said the Scottish First Minister's suggestion could lead to World War III.

In an interview with ITV Border Nicola Sturgeon said that “the West has to keep its mind open to every way in which Ukraine can be helped".

“I understand and I share the concerns about a direct military confrontation between Russia and Nato that a no-fly zone may lead to. Nobody wants to see an escalation of that nature.

“But on the other hand, Putin is not acting in any way rationally or defensibly. We have a situation right now where perhaps the only thing nuclear weapons are deterring is the ability to properly and directly help Ukraine.

“All of these things must be considered on a daily basis right now because the world cannot stand by and watch Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty be extinguished – that would be morally wrong from Ukraine’s perspective, but the implications of that for the rest of us in terms of the values we hold dear would be severe too.”

Today Mr Jack told LBC her remarks were "utterly irresponsible" - but a spokesman for the First Minister accused him of "base politicking" and denied Nicola Sturgeon was advocating a no-fly zone.

Mr Jack said: "I think her remark was utterly irresponsible, it was very, very naive. The good news is it's the UK government that takes these decisions.

"In Cabinet this week we had the Chief of the Defence Staff brief us, and the Prime Minister's position and the Secretary of State for Defence's position, is that we will absolutely not go into Ukraine and escalate this into World War III.

"We, along with many of our European friends and the US, are giving military support to the Ukraine. It's taken to the border in the form of weapons and ammunitions which is absolutely right, but the idea of putting in place a no-fly zone would mean that within hours yo'd have a NATO jet taking a decision whether or not to shoot down a Russian jet and that escalation would be instant and it's what we must avoid.

"I've had the argument put to me that the terrible bombing of the maternity hospital, that a no-fly zone is the solution, but it's not the solution, because that was bombed by artillery."

Asked about the Scottish Secretary's comments, Nicola Sturgeon's official spokesman said: “The First Minister is not advocating a no-fly zone and we are very well aware of what our partners have said about that.

“At the same time, the FM has made clear that going forward things have to be potentially on the table as the situation evolves.

“But we are not in any way blind to the risks of escalation which various people have talked about. You possibly heard the US Secretary of State [Antony Blinken] yesterday speaking about this in Washington and he was very clear, as indeed the Prime Minister and others have been, about the risk involved. So that’s the position."

He added: "The issues here are of such a magnitude that I don’t think that kind of base politicking is where we need to be. It sounds pretty patronising stuff from the Secretary of State and he should reflect on that.”

He denied Ms Sturgeon being both against and open to a no-fly zone was a “muddle”.

Mr Jack also said a £4bn investment in shipbuilding, announced by Boris Johnson today, was being driven by geopolitical threats.

"Even with Ukraine we started Operation Orbital in 2015 when our forces were helping the Ukrainians, training them, arming them, so we'e seen this threat from a long way out.

"We seen threats elsewhere from a long distance out. So the extra £24bn increase for the armed forces this year is responding to the geopolitics of the world.

"We are increasing our defences and also increasing our capability."