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Ken Duncan, Gulf veterans spokesman
"Unfortunately the government has been escaping its responsibilities for the last 10 years"
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Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 10:07 GMT
Holyrood move over Gulf War Syndrome
British soldiers
Soldiers who served in the Balkans will be screened
The Scottish Parliament is being asked to investigate allegations that more than 1,000 Scots are suffering from Gulf War-related illnesses.

Veterans of the 1991 conflict are calling for the Scottish Parliament's health committee to examine Gulf War Syndrome.

They also want to be included in the voluntary health-screening programme announced on Tuesday for soldiers who served in the Balkans.

The veterans have won the support of the Scottish National Party which is calling on the health committee to consider launching an inquiry into cases of ill health among former Gulf personnel.

The moves came after the UK Government said it would introduce a voluntary screening programme for military personnel who had served in the Balkans and were worried about their health.

Ken Duncan
Ken Duncan is a Gulf War veteran
The European Union has said it will investigate the suggested link between uranium-tipped weapons and cases of cancer among Balkan peacekeepers.

Britain says there is no evidence of a link between the weapons and cancer.

But Armed Forces Minister John Spellar acknowledged there were some concerns among veterans and said the government recognised the need to reassure them.

More than 1,000 people have now registered with the Gulf War Veterans Association in Scotland, claiming to have suffered health difficulties after serving in the Gulf conflict.

They include Ken Duncan, who fears that he could also have passed on his problems to his three children - all of whom were born after he returned from the Gulf.

Investigation call

He told BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland radio programme on Wednesday: "We have been fighting for the last 10 years to try and get something, some kind of programme to try and find out what is wrong with us.

"We want an independent, outside body to be involved. At the moment we send samples to Canada for an independent test.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon says it is a health issue
"Unfortunately the government has been escaping its responsibilities for the last 10 years on this matter."

Member Bernie McPhillips said: "At the time we served our country for the Ministry of Defence, but we are now a drain on the NHS resources in Scotland.

"We want the Scottish Parliament to take this up with the government and find out exactly what they are going to do about it."

Committee member Nicola Sturgeon said it was "fundamentally a health issue".

"We are dealing with 1000 people who are ill and whose illnesses require better diagnosis, testing and treatment than they are getting," she said.

"Westminster has failed to deal with this issue. It has singularly let down people who served their country in the Gulf."

However, Labour MSP Eric Joyce - a former army major - accused Ms Sturgeon of adopting a "ludicrous" position.

He said it was "clearly a defence issue", and was therefore a matter reserved for the Westminster parliament.

"What Nicola Sturgeon does is to deny the boundaries between reserved areas and devolved areas; it's a fairly cack-handed attempt, really," he said.

The Ministry of Defence says it has monitored Gulf War veterans and has found no evidence of unusual illnesses.

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See also:

09 Jan 01 | Europe
EU probes uranium arms
06 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Tests needed for 'Balkans Syndrome'
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