Standing in solidarity with London means standing in solidarity with democracy

Standing in solidarity with London means standing in solidarity with democracy

by Jamie Greene
article from Wednesday 29, March, 2017

LAST WEEK our country witnessed the horrors of terrorism as it once again reared its ugly head on the streets of London.

Reports thus far point towards a so-called Islamic State inspired militant, who took the decision to use the new weapon of choice for “street terrorists”, a car, on Westminster Bridge before turning his attention to the Houses of Parliament. I have walked that bridge more times than I care to remember, I used to work in the offices at the other end of it and look out towards the magnificent skyline of Westminster and Big Ben. That great bastion of democracy and symbol of hope, freedom and governance.

As tourists took selfies in front of the great clock tower, a car was speeding its way along the bridge.

In his attempt to enter the courtyard of Westminster, he attacked PC Keith Palmer, a police officer whose daily task was to protect those inside the Parliament and protect our free country.

The death of PC Keith Palmer is a solemn reminder of the work our police officers perform on a daily basis: when danger comes towards us, they run towards it. As a politician I was reminded of the acute danger facing society and am hugely thankful for the job that all our security and emergency forces do for us, twenty-four seven.

The attack also highlighted the unexpected heroism that can appear in these terrible situations. Amongst the first responders was Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood MP, who ran towards the chaos and attempted to resuscitate PC Palmer.

We should never forget that we cannot take our safety and security for granted, last week showed us the true human sacrifice that we sometimes pay in return for living in a free and open society.

Last week also reminded us of the existence of people in this world who wish to lace terror and chaos amongst peaceful people. It has become all too common in Western Europe. In London, Paris, Brussels. 

Just as there were floral tributes and messages of condolence outside the UK Parliament, the Brussels metro station has a huge display of support and defiance in the ticket hall. It was un-nerving, but emotional. I stopped for a few moments to read the messages, in a multitude of languages, grieving those who had suffered or passed.

Despite our geographic distance from London, and the even further distances between our homes and the homes of many of the victims, we are reminded that innocent people wherever they are, are still innocent people. Caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could have been, and was indeed, anyone. 

Let’s stand in solidarity with London, but also with those the world over who suffer at the hands of fanatics and extremism.   

There is no doubt that the attack on the Palace of Westminster is an attack on the very foundations of democracy. Any attack on these islands, or beyond, only seeks to undermine the fabric of who we are as a people.

We will never fall to terrorism; we shall not let militants, armed with knives or cars, define us as a people or dictate how we live our lives. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will continue to stand tall in spite of the horrors these terrorists may try to bring to our streets.

That day was an unnerving one in Scottish Parliament. Many people were concerned for the security of their friends and family in London, and in the back of our heads many were concerned about our own safety at the Scottish Parliament. Across the political divide, we all know someone who works in Westminster. It felt close to us.

I’d like to thank the incredible security staff and police officers at Scottish Parliament who protect us on a daily basis. 

The greatest act of defiance against this terrorist will be continuing to make great strides in our democracy and way of life. He wished to sow terror and chaos, so we will sow peace and order.

Let us press on with whatever democracy has in store for us. We will continue to debate. We may disagree on many things, passionately at times, but the fact that we live in a free and democratic society says so much about the country we live in and our right to agree to disagree.

Like all of you, I will continue to think of the victims of this terrible act and the first responders and bystanders who acted so bravely in the face of terror. I believe to honour them, we must move forward in our pursuit of a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic society.

So back to the debate we go. A vote on this, a debate on that, a trigger of something and a motion on another. As the cogs of our Chambers turn, with every rotation the machine of democracy goes on – defiant in the face of those who wish it gone.

Jamie Greene is a Scottish Conservative MSP for West Scotland and party spokesman for technology, connectivity, the digital economy and broadcasting.

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