Statement to Parliament on Paris attacks

Presiding Officer,

It is with great sadness that I move this motion.

The terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night have caused shock and grief around the world. Today, we mourn the innocent victims – at least 129 of them –  who lost their lives. We hope for the recovery of all of those who were injured. And we send our thoughts, prayers and condolences to all of those affected.

And in doing so, this Chamber – and 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 – who also joins us here today – to convey that message of solidarity; it has been echoed many times over by people from across the country.

Expressions of sympathy have poured into the French consulate and have been widely shared on social media. Landmarks across the country 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 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 last three days, I have chaired 3 meetings of the Scottish government’s resilience committee.  The Scottish Government has also been in regular contact with UK Government Ministers and officials, and I have participated in two COBR meetings. 

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 have, for example, been deploying teams to meet flights incoming from Paris.

We have also reflected on security 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 can assure the chamber that, working closely with Police Scotland and with UK government colleagues, we will continue to reflect carefully on the 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 this Parliament’s commitment to a diverse and multicultural society.

I observed the minute’s silence yesterday at Glasgow Central Mosque. John Swinney on Sunday attended a service at St Giles. 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 those 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 these atrocities in Paris claim to be Muslims – but, in truth, terrorism has no religion.

The evil actions of these terrorists do not speak for Islam – instead 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 undermine our way of life.

They were also meant to be divisive; to drive a wedge into communities and societies and turn neighbour against neighbour.

It is, of course, a normal and entirely understandable human instinct to be anxious and fearful in light of what happened on Friday night. We all feel it. Governments must recognise and address these concerns and I give a commitment today that we will do so.

But 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 – then, difficult and challenging though it undoubtedly is – our response must be one of defiance and solidarity, not of 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.   Other parts of the U.K. will do likewise over the next few weeks.

Let me be clear – people across Scotland and the U.K. 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 comprised.

But, here in Scotland and across the UK, we should also feel proud that we are providing refuge for some very vulnerable individuals who are fleeing for safety from the type of people who carried out the Paris attacks.

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 one of modern Scotland’s great strengths.

Today is an opportunity for this chamber to support that diversity, and also to demonstrate a wider solidarity.

We grieve deeply for those in Paris who lost their lives and stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends in France.

We remember too those 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.

And we reaffirm our commitment to a peaceful, secure, multicultural and tolerant Scotland – the kind of society that the terrorists want to destroy but which we are determined to uphold, to cherish and to protect.

I move the motion in my name.