Cycle to Syracuse

– in the Scottish Parliament on 2nd October 2018.

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Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-13890, in the name of Oliver Mundell, on the cycle to Syracuse to mark the 30th anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament remembers the 259 passengers and crew aboard Pan Am 103 and 11 residents of Lockerbie who were killed on 21 December 1988; recognises the response of the community and emergency services and shows its support for all who experienced pain and distress in the times that followed; notes that a number of commemorative events are planned; draws particular attention to the Lockerbie Memorial Tour 2018, which will see a team of cyclists undertake a continuous journey from Lockerbie Academy to Syracuse University as part of its desire to “complete” the journey that was never finished by the 35 students from the university who were on the flight; understands that the core team will consist of the tour organiser, Colin Dorrance, who will represent Police Scotland, Paul Rae, who will represent the Scottish Fire And Rescue Service, David “Heavy” Whalley BEM MBE, who will represent the RAF Mountain Rescue, David Walpole, who will represent the Scottish Ambulance Service and the “novice” cyclist Brian Asher, who will represent Lockerbie Academy, where he is the head teacher, and the wider community; acknowledges that the team also aims to raise money for the Dumfries and Galloway-based charity, Soul Soup, to support its outstanding work in providing mental health support to 12- to 25-year-olds to reduce their risk of suicide; thanks Scottish Power and the community businesses that are generously supporting the initiative; notes that the first stage of the journey will see over 1,600 pupils from the academy and the surrounding primary schools “crossing” the Atlantic by riding on exercise or their own bikes at school; understands that the second stage will be 70-mile public road cycle ride from the Memorial Cairn at the school to Edinburgh Castle by the core team, other cyclists from the town, the emergency services and members of the Ecclefechan-based cycling club, the Fechan Flyers; notes that the core team will then fly to Washington DC and cycle nearly 600 miles from the Lockerbie Cairn at Arlington National Cemetery to the university in time to join its annual Remembrance Convocation, at which they will make a presentation on behalf of the town, which will include a traditional shepherds crook fashioned by the Lockerbie Men’s Shed with wood sourced from Tundergarth; conveys its thoughts, prayers and best wishes to everyone marking the 2018 Remembrance Week; thanks the university on the important role that it plays in providing a focal point for many families, maintaining an archive and fostering links with the town, including the academy; thanks the university’s staff past and present, including Judy O’Rourke OBE, Kelly Rodoski and Professor Lawrence Mason, on their personal commitment; acknowledges the importance of the Lockerbie Scholarship, which sees two of the school’s pupils study at the university each year, with 58 scholars having taken part so far; believes that the cycle embodies the motto of the remembrance scholarship program, “look back and act forward”; welcomes the strong links that have emerged between the town, the university and friends in the United States; wishes his team well with the 3,238-mile cycle, and recalls the town’s motto, “Forward Lockerbie”.

Photo of Oliver Mundell Oliver Mundell Conservative

Thirty years ago, on the shortest and darkest day, Pan Am flight 103 left Heathrow airport for New York. Shortly after it had crossed into Scottish airspace and gained clearance for the trip over the Atlantic, flight 103 exploded over the Lockerbie area, killing 243 passengers, 16 crew members and 11 people on the ground.

For the victims’ families and the many people in the town who were caught up in the events and aftermath of 21 December 1988, there is “before Lockerbie” and “after Lockerbie”. I was born a year later, almost to the day, and, like an ever-growing number of people, I have only ever known one Lockerbie.

I could not be more proud of my association with the town. It might be full of characters, as some American visitors have pointed out, but better characters we would be hard pushed to find. Lockerbie, more than anything, has heart. There is a quiet determination to move forward and make the best of things. It is a friendly, open and welcoming place, partly because it just is, and partly because it has had to be.

The words that were penned about “gentle Lockerbie” in “On Eagles’ Wings: In Remembrance of all Victims of the Lockerbie Air Disaster who Died on December 21, 1988”, which was written by the mother of one of the victims, are too painful for me to quote here, but they are worth reading and reflecting on. They capture the complicated relationship between the victims on the ground and the victims in the air.

Everyone thinks that they know Lockerbie, but until a person has stood on the High Street and watched life go on as normal, almost as if nothing had happened, it is impossible to understand the town’s achievement. It is by letting life go on that we ensure that those who sought to sow division and fear have not prevailed.

However, that has not come without a cost: the scars are not far beneath the surface. Visually, Lockerbie is healed, but for many the subject is still emotionally raw.

The same complexity and the same grit and determination can be found in America and beyond, where individuals, families and institutions have kept the memory alive while also focusing on the future. For many people on the two sides of the Atlantic, the strong bonds and connections that have been formed are perhaps the only universally positive thing to have come from the disaster.

It could be argued that the link between Lockerbie academy and Syracuse University in upstate New York best embodies that achievement. It is for many people the most tangible of such connections. In the aftermath of Pan Am flight 103, Syracuse University promised that it would not forget its students and pledged to honour their memory through learning and teaching, so that tragedies such as Pan Am flight 103 would not be repeated.

The presence of the 35 remembrance scholars and two Lockerbie scholars who study at Syracuse every year is one of the ways in which the institution strives to fulfil its promise to remember all the victims, including 35 of its own students. Through the scholarships, students are encouraged to exchange ideas and to educate themselves and others about the effects of terrorism.

Thirty years on, the university has not only held true to that promise but has opened its doors to the families and communities of all 270 victims. It holds an annual remembrance week in October and has built up an extensive archive to help to capture an important moment in our collective history. The success of such programmes cannot be denied, and they have inspired and brought out the best in human nature.

To paraphrase the words of a former student, there is now a network of Lockerbie and remembrance scholars who have gone on to become global advocates, educators, activists, government officials, scientists, entrepreneurs and entertainers, all the while embodying the spirit of those who were lost on Pan Am 103.

Of course, everyone who was involved in or has been touched by the events of that day in 1998 wishes that the events had not taken place, but together our communities, recognising that we are all unintended victims, have rediscovered the best in human nature.

That said, like many local people I still want the past to stay in the past. I want to remember—yes—but I want at the same time for people and the town to have the chance to move forward. That remains my view, but through the cycle to Syracuse project I have realised that there will be no closure; after 30 years, the events cannot be wished away. It is easy to think that there is nothing that we can do, or to try to sidestep the issues, which I so nearly did when Colin Dorrance first got in touch.

In the midst of the remembrance scholarship programme there is some good advice for us all: “Look back, act forward.” For me, that is what the cycle to Syracuse is all about. In 1988, a journey began that was not completed; 30 years on, the cycle to Syracuse intends to continue that journey. It aims to complete the 3,238 miles between Lockerbie and the university in upstate New York that lost 35 of its finest students. This is a memorial tour, by the community in Lockerbie, on behalf of the whole town, to demonstrate our on-going support for the families and friends of all the victims of the Lockerbie bombing.

In resuming that journey, we remember those who were lost and those who were affected in the aftermath, and the response of the townspeople and the thousands who came to help. However, it is not just about reflecting or dwelling on the past; it is also about constructing a better future. The aim is to focus on the on-going relationship between Lockerbie and Syracuse University, and to celebrate the hundreds of bonds that have emerged and will endure forever.

The symbolism of the journey is undeniable: completing the journey, linking together our communities, creating new connections, turning words into action and, sometimes, the need just to go through the motions. Most important is that it is an excuse to talk and reflect. Even the gift of a crook, made by Lockerbie men’s shed group from wood that was sourced from the Tundergarth area where the plane’s nose cone fell, has deep meaning.

For me, though, the most significant message has come from seeing more than 1,600 pupils from the Lockerbie academy catchment area take part in the initiative—using pupil power to get the team across the Atlantic Ocean. Their excitement alone at being involved makes the whole thing worth while. Even as primary 7s, a number of young people already plan to become the Syracuse scholars of the future. There is, too, the possibility that they will benefit from local charity Soul Soup, which plans to use funds that are raised from the journey to enhance mental health support at Lockerbie academy.

At the heart of the project is an incredible team. I am delighted that they have been able to join us in the gallery. At the helm is organiser Colin Dorrance, who as an 18-year-old rookie police officer was among the first on the scene in 1988. He had the vision and determination to turn the idea into a reality and has a close connection to Syracuse University, where his son was a Lockerbie scholar.

Next up is Paul Rae, who is a serving firefighter in the Lockerbie crew. Paul is the joker in the deck, and I am sure that his sense of humour will come in handy on the home straight.

David “Heavy” Whalley, who joined mountain rescue workers scouring the hills in the aftermath of the disaster, shows that age is no barrier, and is the local favourite to be first over the finish line.

Brian Asher is the headteacher at Lockerbie academy and new to cycling, and is leading by example. He represents the wider community and a successful changing of the guard at the school.

David Walpole completes the team. Maybe it is because of his paramedic training that he looks after everyone else; he is thoughtful and reflective.

In my constituency office, we think of the team as being a bit like a boy band, and we have nicknamed it the MAMILs, which stands for “Middle-aged Men in Lycra”. Presiding Officer, you will see if you look up to the gallery that that description is more generous to some members of the team than to others.

I look forward to performing in a few weeks my role as one of the backing dancers and joining the chair of Lockerbie and district community council, Jan Andrews, on a tandem for the final miles into Syracuse. Although Syracuse is thousands of miles away, doing that seemed more realistic than joining the Fechan Flyers and community riders on the 70 miles from Lockerbie to Edinburgh castle.

The joy is that there is something for everyone in the initiative, and the core team have a grateful community behind them at home and abroad. That is why I thank them and wish the team and all those who are involved in the cycle the best of luck.

Forward Lockerbie and on to Syracuse, where we have forged so many friendships. [

Applause

.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I ask people in the public gallery to make that the last time that they cheer, hiss, boo or otherwise respond.

Photo of Joan McAlpine Joan McAlpine Scottish National Party

I congratulate Oliver Mundell on securing this important debate and on the debate’s timing. The 30th anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster is more than two months away but, by drawing the Parliament’s attention to the cycle to Syracuse memorial tour now, he ensures that more people can follow the cyclists on their epic journey and that there is plenty of time to donate through the JustGiving page that has been set up to support Soul Soup.

The attack on Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 was a terrible act of violence—the worst mass murder that Scotland has experienced. The 259 passengers and crew aboard the plane and 11 more people on the ground lost their lives in the most awful way. We must never forget that.

I was privileged to attend the 25th anniversary commemoration in Lockerbie and to meet relatives of those murdered on the plane, who had travelled across the world. What struck me when I spoke to them—Oliver Mundell referred to this—was the special place that they had in their hearts for the town of Lockerbie and its people. Despite the shock and the scale of the disaster, the town’s people showed so much humanity—they helped to recover the dead and their possessions, assisted the emergency services and opened their homes and hearts to the families who were affected. That has continued long after the wreckage has been cleared, in the support that the people of Lockerbie give to the bereaved and in the special relationships that they have formed with people around the world—not least those at Syracuse University, which lost 35 young students.

Cycle to Syracuse is typical of that Lockerbie spirit; it will complete the journey home that the young people from Syracuse never finished. It is a deeply appropriate response, because it involves the four emergency services that dealt with the aftermath of the bombing that night in the most professional way.

It is appropriate that the team includes the headteacher of Lockerbie academy. As Oliver Mundell said, the school has formed a strong bond with Syracuse because of the scholars it sends there every year, under a programme that has in the past been supported by the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments. As Oliver Mundell also said, many pupils of the academy and surrounding schools are completing the journey virtually, which is marvellous.

Like Oliver Mundell, I pay tribute to the other community organisations that are supporting the cycle in different ways, including Lockerbie men’s shed and the Fechan Flyers. It is fitting that the team will be joined by local cyclists on the way to Edinburgh castle and by numerous international friends as they complete the journey to New York state, which will make the cycle both a local and a global commemoration.

I am particularly pleased that the fundraising will benefit Soul Soup, which is a mental health charity for 12 to 25-year-olds in Dumfries and Galloway. I was privileged to attend the opening of Soul Soup a few years ago and I have seen at first hand the invaluable support that it offers in a friendly and informal environment, which the young people lead. It is a fantastic charity to benefit from the cycle.

Thirty years after the Lockerbie disaster, we are all far more aware of how adverse childhood experiences can affect the mental health of teenagers and young adults throughout their lives. From speaking to some local people who were children or teenagers at the time of the Lockerbie disaster, I know that the trauma of their experience has left lasting scars.

That is why I mention another commemoration initiative, which has been proposed by some of those who were directly affected by the disaster when they were young, and who contacted me earlier this week. Local environmental artist and curator Jan Hogarth and John Wallace, a film maker and former Syracuse scholar, experienced the disaster that night—John was a child and Jan was a young arts school student who was home for Christmas.

They hope to conduct and film a peace prayer walk at dawn on the morning of the commemoration. The proposed walk would be at Burnswark hill, which is a special and spiritual local landmark that is close to the place where the cockpit landed. It has a 360-degree view of the landscape where many souls came to rest. The proposed prayer walk would be interfaith and non-denominational, and walkers would carry flags from around the world to reflect the diversity of the people who were on the plane. The artists are in discussion with the Allanton world peace sanctuary near Dumfries to discuss how to organise the walk as sensitively as possible. They are also speaking to members of the local community. Although it is early days, I wish them well in their endeavour.

In the meantime, I am delighted to express my support for the cycle to Syracuse Lockerbie memorial tour, which is already well under way and which will involve many people from Scotland and around the world between now and 21 December.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

I thank Oliver Mundell for securing this evening’s important debate. It is a subject that is important to many of my colleagues and many of my constituents. Each year, private remembrance events take place in Dumfries and Galloway and across the USA, most of which we are unaware of as we go about our daily lives.

It is 30 years on but, as someone who was living in Dumfries and Galloway on the night of 21 December 1988, that night will always stay with me. I had just turned 21, and I clearly remember the evening. I arrived in the King’s Arms after an evening with the young farmers, and we were met by the news that a plane had crashed in Lockerbie. We all thought that it was a joke, but then the pictures started to come through. People asked whether it was one of the many low-flying military jets that we often experienced, but it soon became apparent that it was much bigger than that.

I remember sitting up through the night with a good friend, Ian Lynsday, who tried in vain to get through to his brother who lived near Sherwood Crescent—all the telephone lines were down. That brought the horror home; it was a disaster unfolding in front of us. Of course, there were no mobile phones and I remember the tension from the lack of news.

We now know that it was not a military jet or a simple plane crash. It was Pan Am flight 103—a transatlantic flight from Frankfurt to Detroit via London and New York—which was brought down by a terrorist bomb that killed all 259 people on board and 11 people on the ground. It had a huge impact on people right across Dumfries and Galloway and few families were not touched by the events.

Willie Johnston, who has just retired after 35 years as a BBC reporter with Radio Solway, arrived on the scene only hours after the explosion. His contribution is still clear in my mind. As well as telling the news of what had happened and of the aftermath, his was the voice that provided a vital information link from the authorities to the community.

My cousin, Gordon McKnight—who joined the police force shortly before Colin Dorrance—was only four months into the job when he was stationed in the town hall, which served as the initial mortuary. He travelled the 86 miles from Stranraer every day for a 16-hour shift. It was a hugely traumatic eye-opener for a young cop who had seen only a few bodies before then. He became the area inspector for the Lockerbie area and, 27 years after the event, the memories of those dark days are still very much there for him.

The local police force, which is the smallest in Scotland, and the local community, local authority, emergency services and support workers made a huge effort on the ground, which I know will never be forgotten by the families who were hit by the tragedy. Colin Dorrance was on site as a policeman 30 years ago. At the time, he was the youngest policeman in the whole of Scotland. Colin has taken the lead on the cycle to Syracuse, which is a community initiative instigated by the people and services in Lockerbie to remember all those who were lost, to honour the community and emergency services response and to show support for all who suffered in the times that followed.

To mark the 30th anniversary, four emergency service cyclists and the Lockerbie academy headteacher will complete the journey that the 35 Syracuse students never completed. The challenge over 3,238 miles from here in Scotland and across the United States will finish at Syracuse university. It will help to raise funds for Soul Soup, a charity that is based in the region and does excellent work to help young people who have mental health problems. Such challenges and fundraising ideas are the positive legacy of such an horrendous event—people come together and help others in their greatest time of need. Nowhere epitomises that spirit better than Lockerbie and across Dumfries and Galloway. Yet again, we have people going above and beyond to help other individuals.

I wish the cycling team the very best of success with their cycle ride and I encourage everyone to get behind such a wonderful cause. As Oliver Mundell said, the motto goes, “Forward Lockerbie”.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I declare an interest as a member of the Justice for Megrahi campaign. I congratulate Oliver Mundell on securing the debate and welcome his so-called Syracuse team to the gallery.

It is important to recall that dreadful night nearly 30 years ago, with the deaths of so many people. They included the young students who will be commemorated on the cycle journey. Their lives ended tragically, but now the cyclists are taking the journey to the destination that those students never reached. We are also reminded of the 11 Lockerbie residents who died that night, and the actions of the professionals who, through their sensitivity and kindness, then and over the years, have created a bond across the ocean between the families of those who were killed that night.

Lockerbie, like Aberfan before it and Dunblane, never wanted to be in the headlines for being a graveyard for so many, but it has dealt with the atrocity with grace and dignity. It should not have been Lockerbie, of course. The delay to flight 103 meant that the bomb, which was probably intended to detonate over the sea without evidential trace, did so over acres of bleak winter Scottish countryside.

Although I have nothing but admiration for the Lockerbie community, I feel that no line can be drawn under that night until the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is finally and fully tried on a last appeal. Members will recall that a second appeal on a referral from the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission was abandoned by Megrahi. In my view, that was to secure his transfer from Greenock to Libya to be with his family as he succumbed to terminal cancer. The evidence has not been heard to this day.

I met him three times, and he made it clear at our last meeting that it was not for himself but for his family that he wished his name to be cleared. He did not want the name “Megrahi” to forever be part of the Lockerbie atrocity. At this moment, a third application for review, which has been lodged by his family, is in process with the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. I have been told by the SCCRC that the application has passed stage 1; in other words, the commission has accepted his reasons for abandoning the second appeal—in other words, because he thought that would help to secure his release. The process is now at stage 2; that is, the substance of the grounds for a new appeal are being considered. The commission hopes to report by summer 2019.

In the meantime, yet to be completed and sent to the Crown Office is the separate police-led Sandwood inquiry into the actions at the time of police, prosecutors and forensic officials. The inquiry, which is investigating claims of attempts to pervert the course of justice prior to the Camp Zeist trial, started in 2014. Pronouncements have been made on its imminent conclusion, which has been much postponed. Although the SCCRC could conclude its findings without that report, I have no doubt that it would be difficult for it to fully conclude without it. Sandwood’s—to be kind—slow progress is cause for concern, because 30 years on, justice delayed is justice denied for the people of Lockerbie, the Syracuse students, every other one of the 270 who died and their families and friends—and, perhaps, even the Megrahi family.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

I begin by declaring an interest as my wife is a teacher at Lockerbie academy. I also add my thanks to Oliver Mundell for his motion, which reflects on the tragic events of 30 years ago, on 21 December 1988, when 259 passengers and crew along with 11 residents of Lockerbie lost their lives in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103.

The motion rightly urges us to recognise the truly humbling response of the community and emergency services to the tragedy at the time and since. Like other members who live in Dumfriesshire, I have met many of the people who responded at the time. My then neighbour was a nurse who responded to the messages from Border TV that flashed up on our TV screens that evening asking all medical professionals to report to Dumfries and Galloway royal infirmary. Given the finality of events, sadly there were no survivors for her to treat.

A family friend, who was a council catering worker at the time, helped to feed hundreds of rescue workers over many long days and evenings. There was also the local newspaper photographer, whose home overlooked Lockerbie, and whose photographs appeared, with no personal gain to him, on the front pages of newspapers across the world the following day.

I could go on and on about the remarkable people who were at the sharp end of the response to the Lockerbie bombing from the community and the emergency services, many of whom worked tirelessly for days on end, trying to cope and helping others to cope with the magnitude of the destruction that they faced. It is right that we recognise them. The organisers of the cycle to Syracuse are to be congratulated for doing just that as they embark on the 3,238 miles to Syracuse University, which is involving the community, especially hundreds of young people, every step—or should I say, every pedal—along the way.

Remembering and paying appropriate tribute is what the people of Lockerbie have always done. A visitor to the town will see the peaceful memorials to the people who lost their lives located in Sherwood Crescent and Rosebank Crescent, and the memorial garden in Dryfesdale cemetery. In 2003, the community developed the former caretaker’s house at the entrance to the cemetery to make a visitor centre to provide a space for visitors to reflect, as well as for exhibitions to chart the proud history of Lockerbie. Volunteers at the centre have played a quiet but important role in helping those who lost loved ones to grieve, to find peace and to explore Lockerbie and the surrounding area.

In the town hall at the centre of Lockerbie, visitors can see another memorial—the dramatic stained-glass window that depicts the flags of the 21 countries that lost citizens in the bombing.

It is not just about physical memorials. As we have already heard, a lasting legacy has been formed through the Syracuse scholarship between Lockerbie academy and Syracuse University, which lost 35 of its students in the bombing. Every year, the scholarship allows two students from Lockerbie academy to spend a year at Syracuse before they begin their university study. In addition to the two Lockerbie scholars—who are Joe Holland and Harriet Graham this year—35 remembrance scholars study at Syracuse University each year.

In 2003, the then rector of Lockerbie academy, Graham Herbert, was recognised at Syracuse University with the chancellor’s medal for outstanding service, and this year his successor Brian Asher will be one of the five who cycle from Lockerbie to Syracuse, thereby adding another fitting legacy by raising money to provide vital mental health counselling services for local young people.

It is worth reflecting on the fact that the outward-looking international focus of the town’s academy and young people lies behind the strong links that have been fostered by the tragedy of 30 years ago. Next year, the academy will celebrate a decade of its strong partnership with Thawale primary school in the Mulanje district of Malawi, including raising funds for the development of a Mary’s Meals feeding station at the school and the setting up of a scholarship programme to support a number of pupils at Thawale through to secondary education.

For 30 years, young people have also been at the heart of the development of the wonderful Eskrigg reserve on the edge of town by the Lockerbie Wildlife Trust, led by former principal teacher of biology at Lockerbie academy, Jim Rae, who taught students biology at the reserve for two decades.

Lockerbie is also famous internationally for its love of curling. It is the home of one of Scotland’s oldest curling rinks and has given rise to world and European champions and Olympians of all ages.

I make those points because, although it is so important to reflect on the tragic loss of the Maid of the Seas over Lockerbie in 1988 and how it will, of course, always be part of the town’s story, we should also recognise that, 30 years on, there is so much that is positive to reflect on about the town of Lockerbie, which is a vibrant, proud and forward-looking community.

I wish all those who are involved in the cycle to Syracuse all the best and good luck.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

I congratulate Oliver Mundell on lodging the motion on the cycle to Syracuse to mark the 30th anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster. I cannae believe that it is 30 years since Pan Am flight 103 crashed on the town of Lockerbie and the surrounding fields on 21 December 1988, just before Christmas

.

Oliver Mundell’s motion, and indeed his speech, show that while we remember and reflect, we can still look forward. I acknowledge the cycle charity ride—the Lockerbie memorial tour 2018—from Lockerbie to Syracuse by a team that includes members of the Ecclefechan–based cycling club, the Fechan Flyers. It is worth noting that, as Oliver Mundell and Joan McAlpine mentioned, many children will perform a virtual cycle ride. That is testament to the resilience that occurs following adversity.

Oliver Mundell’s motion mentions the police, ambulance, fire and mountain rescue services—all were involved. I commend all emergency services personnel for their current work; I also commend all who took part on that night and in the subsequent hours, days and weeks following the UK’s worst terrorist air disaster.

It was an extremely tough time for many. Last year, I heard details from one of the fire and rescue service personnel who attended that night and on the following days and who chose to share his very personal, often quite emotional, recollections with me.

While reflecting on the event myself, I thought about tragedies and disasters that occur across the world. We often hear people state exactly where they were the exact moment when they heard about a particular event. That had me thinking a lot this weekend about where I was at the time of the disaster 30 years ago. I have a couple of recollections that I have been reflecting on. One recollection is from a dairy farmer, my dad, and the other is from a nurse—me.

My dad said that he was “checking a coo oot in the front field” that was about to have a calf when he heard a boom or a low sound that he described as “mebbes an explosion”. Our family home is quite a few miles—almost 8 miles—from the Tundergarth site and Lockerbie, but could my dad have actually heard the bomb go off from 8 miles away?

Just after 7.30 pm on that night, I received a phone call at my flat from the operating theatre manager. I was within walking distance of the royal infirmary. “We need you to come in,” the manager said. “There’s been a major trauma—a disaster. The hospital disaster plan has been activated. We don’t know what’s going on yet but it may be a plane crash—it may be military”.

My role was to help set up the operating rooms—theatre 1 for trauma; theatre 2 for trauma; theatre 3 for orthopaedic trauma; and theatre 4 for minor injuries and suturing cuts and wounds. We were told to prepare for and expect many trauma patients and cases. We got the rooms ready and we waited and waited, but the trauma patients did not come. Hundreds were dead—later, we heard that 270 people lost their lives that night.

That experience of preparation, which was calm, organised and methodical, helped me years later when the massive Northridge earthquake happened in 1994. As a young, new migrant to the USA, I was able to work with professionals from all over the world to care for victims of the Northridge disaster. Perhaps those professionals also came from 21 different countries, like the people who lost their lives at Lockerbie.

I have a comment about the shepherd’s crook that will make its way to the remembrance service at Syracuse University, taken by members of the core cycling team to mark the 2018 remembrance week. I love the fact that wood sourced from Tundergarth has been made into a shepherd’s crook by members of Lockerbie’s men’s shed. The bike ride and the shepherd’s crook are so symbolic, so human and so important.

I recognise and acknowledge the role that Syracuse University plays in providing a focal point for many of the families who were affected, maintaining an archive and continuing to foster links with the town of Lockerbie and Lockerbie academy.

The fantastic motto of the scholarship remembrance programme is “Look back and act forward”, and members have mentioned the town’s motto, “Forward Lockerbie”. Those are apt terms for us to think about after 30 years.

I again thank Oliver Mundell for bringing this important debate to the chamber and I echo his words.

Photo of Ash Denham Ash Denham Scottish National Party

I, too, thank Oliver Mundell for securing the debate and for his moving speech. I wish him well with his tandem ride, when the time comes. I thank him for providing the Parliament with the opportunity to pass on our best wishes to those who will take part in the Lockerbie memorial tour later this month. I add my voice to that of those who have welcomed the team to the public gallery. The debate has been a very good and thoughtful one, with thoughtful contributions from all members who have spoken. I thank them all for taking part.

As we have heard, the event marks the 30th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which remains the worst terrorist attack ever perpetrated in Scotland, with 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 people on the ground murdered on 21 December 1988. It is important that we do not forget the pain and suffering of the families and friends of those who died that night. The town of Lockerbie will never forget what happened that fateful evening. The memorial, the remembrance garden and the stained-glass windows at the town hall stand as a tribute to those who were killed in that incomprehensible atrocity.

Throughout what was a hugely complicated and traumatic investigation and trial, the families and friends of those who died carried themselves with great resilience and dignity. People from across the world were affected by the tragedy. The passenger list included people from 21 different countries and, as the 30th anniversary approaches, our thoughts are with them. Many of those who were on board were heading back to the United States to celebrate Christmas with their families. As we have heard, the bombing claimed the lives of 35 students from Syracuse University—35 young people whose lives were cut short in their prime.

Out of that horrific tragedy has come an outward-facing spirit of friendship and companionship among the people of Lockerbie. The six volunteers who are taking part in the US leg of the cycle challenge will ride from the Lockerbie cairn at Arlington national cemetery to Syracuse University and will arrive in time to join the university’s annual remembrance ceremony. That reflects the close links that have been formed between the town of Lockerbie and Syracuse University, which continue to this day.

In the aftermath of the Lockerbie bombing, the Lockerbie and Syracuse University Scholarship Trust was established. Each year, it gives two students from Lockerbie academy the opportunity to attend Syracuse University for one academic year, with Syracuse University and the trust jointly meeting the costs of their attendance. Since the trust was established in 1990, 58 students from Lockerbie academy have spent a year at Syracuse University, giving those students an opportunity to extend their academic education, experience what life is like in another country and develop their self-confidence and independence—all things that those 35 Syracuse students had been doing before their lives were taken on that fateful night.

As we have heard, the motto of Syracuse’s scholarship remembrance programme is “Look back and act forward”, and the Lockerbie memorial challenge is acting forward by raising money to help young people closer to home. The money that is raised will go to support Soul Soup, a mental health charity that is based in the Dumfries and Galloway area. Statistics published recently in the Scottish health survey showed that 21 per cent of young people aged 16 to 24 reported that they had self-harmed. That highlights the importance of providing support to young people who are experiencing mental health difficulties. Soul Soup works in the Dumfries area to provide free counselling and support to young people in the region who may be in need of help, someone to talk to, referral to a specialist counselling or treatment service or advice and guidance as they navigate their way through the stresses and strains of growing up. The aim of the challenge is to provide sufficient funding to help place a dedicated Soul Soup worker at Lockerbie academy, to serve the school and the youth of the local Lockerbie community.

I would also like to highlight the contribution being made by the schoolchildren who are helping to meet the challenge of cycling the total distance of 3,238 miles between Lockerbie and Syracuse. Of course, we cannot actually cycle across the Atlantic Ocean, so the first part of the challenge has involved children from 12 local schools on their own bikes or on exercise bikes at school. They are seeking to complete the 2,568-mile combined cycle at events that began in September and will conclude with an event at Lockerbie academy on 10 October.

I wish the best of luck to all those participating in the Lockerbie memorial tour. On 13 October, the team will set off from Lockerbie academy to ride to Edinburgh castle, accompanied by other cyclists from Lockerbie and members of the Ecclefechan-based cycle club, the Fechan Flyers. When they reach the castle, there will be a reception to welcome them and others who have helped in organising the event, which the Cabinet Secretary for Justice will attend. I hope that the weather holds good that day and that there is a southerly wind to help them on their way up to the castle, because that could be a difficult part of the ride.

In the spirit that has been formed from adversity, those taking part are truly looking back and acting forward in a very inspiring manner.

Meeting closed at 17:46.