I am very grateful for having time to reflect on how sad and horrifying the murder of David Amess is, and to offer my sincerest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of that hard-working MP.
David Amess was stabbed as he carried out his duties as an elected representative, working for his constituents conscientiously and courageously. Such a violent attack disrupts our democracy and makes us all question our safety. The incident has shaken our democracy to its core, because it has broken the principle on which we build our prosperity and security: the peaceful transfer of power. We may call loudly—and sometimes emotionally—for elections, referendums and votes, but never for violence. Although we disagree on many things, the condemnation of violence is the basis of what we all believe and is something on which we all agree.
I did not know David Amess, but I know that MPs and MSPs work very hard for their constituents, and that they embody the service role of the public servant. David Amess should not have had to risk—nor to give—his life in order to do his job. None of us should have to do that. I look around the chamber and think, “Am I safe? Are you? How often should I look over my shoulder when I walk around town? When should I press the alarm?”
I think of David Amess’s staff and how traumatised they must be, and I think, too, of those who work for us. I think of all the people—young women in particular—who I have cajoled, nudged and badgered into standing for election, and I wonder whether I am putting their lives in danger. How can I ask people to do this job, knowing that it might cost them their life?
It was only a few years ago that another MP, Jo Cox, was murdered. Even after that, all members of this Parliament have stood for election. They have all had the courage to put themselves forward and to take on public service. I applaud and recognise their courage. Following the murder of David Amess, we will do the same. We may look over our shoulders more and will, I hope, look out more for each other, but we will do our job because peaceful governance, non-violent disagreement and public service are at the core of our democracy and of our decency, and we will not let that horrific act fundamentally change what is important to us.