I thank the First Minister for her words and associate myself with them in their entirety. On behalf of the Scottish Labour Party, I also send my condolences, thoughts and prayers to those who were caught in the attacks on Paris and to the people of France.
On Friday evening, people across that city set out to enjoy the ordinary freedom of their weekend in restaurants and bars, at sporting events and at music concerts, just as we did in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and just as others did in towns and cities around the world. What happened on Friday night was not just an attack on the people of Paris; it was an attack on the way of life of those of us who want to live in a world that is marked by the values of freedom and tolerance. We share the grief of the people of Paris, and the world stands with them as they take their first tentative steps on the road to recovery.
There are lots of views about how the world should respond to the attacks, and in this place we can influence how we respond as a society. The French Nobel prize-winning philosopher Albert Camus summed it up well when he wrote:
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
Earlier today, I read the story of a Frenchman whose wife was killed in the attacks. He writes about how he and his 17-month-old son will remain defiant in the face of terror. He says:
“We are only two, my son and I, but we are more powerful than all the world’s armies ... every day of his life this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom.”
The death and destruction—the senseless acts of terror and violence—have one ultimate goal, which is to fundamentally change our society, transforming us from a society that values tolerance, integration, solidarity and freedom into one that rejects all those things. We are a nation that considers all people to be born equal and deserving of respect, regardless of sexuality, gender, race, faith and disability. So, when the first of the refugees from Syria arrive in Glasgow today, let us welcome them with open and loving arms. Let us look at them just as we do those Parisians who fled the violence on Friday evening. They are people like you and me, who do not want to live in constant fear of violence—they are families who just want to get on with their lives. They have travelled halfway across the world to get away from terrorists in their own land, often driven, by the fear that lies behind them, over the road ahead. From this chamber to those refugees who are arriving today, let the message ring out: “You will find friendship in your new home here in Scotland. Please know that you are very, very welcome.”
Presiding Officer, Deputy Consul, may I extend my condolences and the condolences of my party to the families of those who died or were injured on Friday night. Our prayers are with them today.
We stand in solidarity with all the people of Paris. We share their disgust at what were acts of cowardice and evil, and we share their fear, too, because we know that it could have been us, eating a meal at a restaurant, enjoying a night at a concert or watching a game of football. If ever we needed one, Friday’s events were a reminder that this conflict is not one that we choose to take part in, but one that is upon us whether we wish it or not.
The motion calls on us to unite in the wake of the attacks. Indeed, that is the vital task that we face in the coming weeks, not just here in Scotland but across the civilised world. We face an extremist ideology that hopes to divide us—Muslim from non-Muslim; secular from religious—in the hope that the gap becomes so wide that conflict is the only response.
We cannot and must not let the extremists win. Rather, we must confront them and show that those very freedoms that they wish to crush—to wipe from our lives and from our world—are freedoms that we will not give up willingly. The plurality, diversity and creativity of free nations stand in stark contrast to those who would murder aid workers, throw gay men from buildings or stone women in the public square.
Our resolve must be to use hard and soft power to protect those freedoms. Both will be vital in showing that we have it within us to take on extremism and the extremists who would export it to our shores. However, as the Prime Minister said last night, military power and counter-terrorism will only ever get us so far, vital as they are. More important is to understand and address the hatred that underpinned Friday’s attacks and others like them.
We should not kid ourselves or, worse, seek to blame ourselves for what is behind this new threat. Indeed, it is simple: it is an ideology driven to crush the values of freedom, liberty and equality, which all of us in the chamber hold dear. The motion, which I am proud to support, calls on us to ensure
“that acts of terrorism will not succeed in dividing us or destroying the freedoms”.
It must be our response to show that all of us—Muslim and non-Muslim; secular and religious—stand resolute in exposing this poisonous ideology for what it is: a sham cult that preys on immature young, with minds designed only to sow hatred and shed blood. We must confront all those who seek to embed its poison in our society and, as the First Minister said, we must encourage moderate Muslim voices in Scotland and abroad to show the world that it is not the extremists who have ownership of their faith, but them.
For all of us, the message is clear: to sit out this conflict by failing to stand up for our values is to fail—it is to fail ourselves and every other human who looks to the freedoms that we enjoy with longing and hope for their own lives. We will not be cowed, nor will we limit ourselves in the joys that they seek to curb. No matter how many more attacks take place, we will conduct ourselves with confidence, vigour and boldness in our free worship and our free will, at our football matches and concerts and in our restaurants. We stand united, always.
The city of love is wounded by hate. Today, to Paris we send our love to help it heal.
Of course we are afraid. We saw the fear of people in Paris on Friday, so we can imagine the fear of the refugees who are fleeing the barbarity of those same killers back home.
Of course we must tread with care across the world, yet western Governments did not have it coming. Nothing justifies what happened.
Of course there is no “them”. These killers do not represent the Muslim faith, Muslim countries or Muslim people, or anything else good and noble; these killers represent only themselves.
Of course something must be done, yet we must protect what we cherish most and what they detest most: our freedom. We must nurture our progressive, liberal, free society.
This is no time for haste, revenge, insularity or generalisations. We must be resolute. This is a time to grieve, to heal, to plan, to solve and to unite.
May I extend the support of the Green and Independent group for the motion of condolence today?
Every single one of us will have felt the shock as the news was announced on Friday evening, but also the wave of empathy across Europe and the world in the wake of these terrible events. We mourn with those who have lost people close to them; we express our concern for those critically injured and still fighting for their lives; we extend our solidarity with Paris and Parisians; and we oppose not only the criminals responsible for this latest atrocity but the twisted ideology that they follow.
The 129 deaths in Paris add to the gruesome tally of atrocities committed in the name of that ideology, not least the series of attacks in France in January, including on the Charlie Hebdo office; the countless deaths in Syria and the wider region; the sexual violence on a mass scale, with unknown thousands of women and girls abducted into sexual slavery; the torture, mutilation and summary executions, often most noticed when perpetrated against western victims or used as propaganda weapons but, in truth, happening on a vast scale; and the mass murder, including on grounds of religion.
The Paris attacks came in the same week as reports of yet another mass grave of Yazidi women in Sinjar and just a day after 41 people were killed in a double suicide bombing in Beirut. Every single one of those lives matters. Today’s motion offers our condolences but also our solidarity—that is critical. These attacks are designed to strike not just at individuals but at the very nature of our societies. They are designed to provoke a backlash, to provoke the mindless reaction that we have tragically already seen in parts of Scotland and to drive more disaffected and angry young people who experience anti-Islamic prejudice every day of their lives into the arms of the terrorists. We must deny them the backlash that they seek.
Liberty, equality and fraternity: those are the values that should be at the heart of European society, and they are under direct attack. They are values that must be protected and extended. As we prepare to welcome those who have been forced to flee this violence, and in memory of those who have been lost in the attacks in Paris, we must live by those values as never before.
Thank you very much for letting me say a few words, Presiding Officer. The few words will be a thank you to the chamber, to everybody who has spoken already and to all the communities in Scotland and all the Scottish people who assembled in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh and all across the country in support of a community that is very close to me as a French citizen: the French community living here in Scotland. Some of them are working here in Parliament.
I just want to convey how much we appreciate your support. Your heartfelt support at the beginning of the year and your support now, and particularly this weekend, is very much appreciated. From the bottom of my heart, for all French citizens living in Scotland, I say merci.
I will now allow a brief suspension before we move to the next item of business.
14:24 Meeting suspended.
14:35 On resuming—
The next item of business is motion S4M-14848, in the of Nicola Sturgeon, on a motion of condolence for Paris 13 November 2015.
I am pleased that we are joined in the gallery for the motion of condolence by the French Deputy Consul Emeline Javierre, who is accompanied by representatives from the French community in Scotland and staff of French origin who are working in the Parliament.
Le parlement écossais voudrait exprimer sa profonde sympathie et solidarité avec les habitants de Paris et le peuple français.
The Scottish Parliament is united in our sympathy and solidarity with the people of Paris and France.
Before we turn to party leaders, I also want to let you know that after today's motion of condolence I will write to Monsieur Claude Bartolone and Monsieur Gérard Larcher, who are presidents of the National Assembly and Senate of France, informing them of the support that is being offered here today and expressing our condolences from all across Parliament.
A book of condolence was opened to the public yesterday in our main hall, and the hall is today lit up in the colours of the French tricolour. The book was signed earlier this afternoon by the party leaders; I invite members to join them and the public in doing so.
I call Nicola Sturgeon to speak to and move the motion.
Presiding Officer and Deputy Consul, it is with great sadness that I rise to move the motion.
The terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night have caused shock and grief right around the world. Today, we mourn the innocent victims—there are at least 129—who lost their lives. We hope for the recovery of all those who were injured, and we send our thoughts, prayers and condolences to all those who are affected. In doing so, this Parliament—and, indeed, all of the people of Scotland—say unequivocally that we stand in solidarity with France and with the French people.
On Saturday, I met the French Consul General to convey that message of solidarity; it is a message that has been echoed many times over by people from right across our country. Expressions of sympathy have poured into the French consulate and have been widely shared on social media. Landmarks across the country, including our Parliament, have been lit in the colours of the French flag. Yesterday’s one-minute silence was widely observed in Scotland, as it was across the whole of Europe. People across Scotland have sent the clearest possible message that we stand as one with France in their condemnation of terror and in their grief for its victims.
As well as making that fundamental and heartfelt statement of solidarity, the Scottish Government has also considered what steps need to be taken as a result of the attacks in Paris. Over the past three days, I have chaired three meetings of the Scottish Government’s resilience committee. The Scottish Government has also been in close and regular contact with United Kingdom Government ministers and officials, and I have participated in two meetings of the COBRA committee.
An important initial focus has been on ensuring that we provide assistance and support to anyone who needs it. Police Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service, for example, have been deploying teams to meet incoming flights from Paris.
We have also reflected on security here in Scotland. The overall threat level in the UK is classified as “severe”; however, people in Scotland are safe to go about their day-to-day business and should continue to do so. Police Scotland is advising people to be vigilant and alert, but not alarmed.
I assure Parliament that we will, working closely with Police Scotland and with UK Government colleagues, continue to reflect carefully on the security position, and take all necessary and proportionate steps to ensure that people and communities here at home are as safe and as well protected as possible.
One important part of doing that is to reaffirm Parliament’s commitment to a diverse and multicultural society. I observed the one-minute silence yesterday at Glasgow central mosque. On Sunday, John Swinney attended a service at St Giles’ cathedral here in Edinburgh. Michael Matheson is meeting the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities this afternoon.
What is very clear is that the reaction to the events in Paris—the shock, sorrow, anger and fear—is shared by people of all faiths and none, just as it is shared throughout this chamber, and in every community across Scotland and around the world. The terrorists who committed the atrocities in Paris claim to be Muslims, but in truth, terrorism has no religion. The evil actions of those terrorists do not speak for Islam; rather, they are a perversion of that faith and a deep insult to the millions across the world who adhere peacefully to its values.
The attacks in Paris, like all acts of terrorism, were intended to spread fear and to undermine our way of life. They were also meant to be divisive—to drive a wedge into communities and societies and to turn neighbour against neighbour.
It is, of course, a normal and entirely understandable human instinct to be anxious and fearful in the light of what happened on Friday night. We all feel it. Governments must recognise and address the concerns, and I give a commitment today that this Government will do so. However, we must also, together as a society, resist the instinct to retreat or to turn on each other. If we are determined—as we must be—that the terrorists will not prevail, difficult and challenging though it undoubtedly will be, our response must be defiance and solidarity, not fear and division. The actions of the few must not be allowed to undermine the values, the freedoms and the way of life of the many.
Today, Scotland is welcoming refugees from Syria, and other parts of the United Kingdom will do likewise over the next few weeks. Let me be clear: people across Scotland and the UK have every right to seek and receive assurances from their Governments that robust security checks are being carried out and that public safety is not being compromised. However, here in Scotland and across the UK, we should also feel proud that we are providing refuge for some of the most vulnerable individuals who are fleeing for safety from the type of people who carried out the attacks in Paris on Friday night. We should be confident that Scotland will benefit from their presence, just as we have benefited so often in the past when we have welcomed people from around the world, and we should reflect once again that diversity is not a weakness but is one of modern Scotland’s great strengths.
Today is an opportunity for Parliament to support that diversity and to demonstrate wider solidarity. We grieve deeply for those in Paris who lost their lives, and we stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends in France. We remember, too, the people who have been the victims of terror elsewhere, including the 224 people who died when a Russian airliner was brought down in Egypt last month. Today, we reaffirm our unshakeable commitment to a peaceful, secure, multicultural and tolerant Scotland—the kind of society that the terrorists want to destroy but that we are determined to uphold, cherish and protect.
That the Parliament extends its solidarity and that of the people of Scotland to the people of France and offers its condolences to all those affected by the appalling terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015; reaffirms its commitment to a diverse and multicultural society, and calls on people across Scotland to unite as one community, both here at home and in solidarity with France, to make clear that acts of terrorism will not succeed in dividing us or destroying the freedoms and way of life that are valued so highly.