Highlands & Islands

Manchester attack: Family say bomb victim from Barra 'is a fighter'

Laura MacIntyre
Image caption Laura MacIntyre was seriously injured in the explosion which killed her friend Eilidh MacLeod

The family of a 15-year-old girl from Scotland who is in a critical condition after the Manchester bomb attack have described her as "a fighter".

Laura MacIntyre, from Barra, suffered serious injuries in the blast which killed her friend Eilidh MacLeod.

Her family said she was a strong-willed girl who would continue to battle.

Eilidh's parents had earlier confirmed she was one of 22 people to have died, saying: "Our family is devastated."

Laura's family said in a statement their "hearts and minds" had been with Eilidh's family since they heard the news.

'Night of tragedy'

They added: "Our daughter Laura is a funny and witty young girl who excels in everything she does.

"Laura and her friend Eilidh were so looking forward to the concert, but that night has now ended in tragedy where Eilidh has lost her life and Laura is in a critical condition.

"We want to thank everybody for their support including the emergency services for all that they have done and all they continue to do.

"We know that Laura is in the best possible place and is receiving the best care that she can."

Eilidh and Laura, pupils at Castlebay Community School, were among thousands of people who had attended a show by US singer Ariana Grande.

Image caption Eilidh MacLeod died in the blast

Eilidh's parents said: "Our family is devastated and words cannot express how we feel at losing our darling Eilidh.

"Eilidh was vivacious and full of fun. She loved all music whether it was listening to Ariana or playing the bagpipes with her pipe band.

"As a family we would like to express our thanks and gratitude for the support and kind messages we have received at this difficult time."

A minute's silence was held at 11:00 across Scotland to remember the victims of the attack.

A crowdfunding page set up to help the girls' families, originally set at £2,000, has raised more than £26,000.

The girls were accompanied on their trip to Manchester by family members. Their parents flew to the city following the attack.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament that support would be in place on Barra for anyone who needs it, and for as long as it is needed.

Ms Sturgeon said the death of Eilidh and the "horrific" injuries suffered by Laura would be felt in a way that was "much, much more intense" in the close-knit island community.

She said Scottish government officials had contacted Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - Western Isles Council - to see what further assistance they could offer.

The council's education director, who is an educational psychologist, is already on Barra, and will be joined later on Thursday by a further educational psychologist and an NHS clinical psychologist.

Image copyright New York Times
Image caption Ms Sturgeon condemned US leaks of information, including photos appearing to show debris from the attack

Ms Sturgeon said: "Between them they are going to be focusing on the support that the families and those who were closest to these two girls will need.

"Their aim will be to keep things as normal as possible for the school that the girls attended, but to make sure that there is the support in place for young people who are going to need it."

The first minister also pledged that support would be available "not just today, next week or next month, but for as long as it is needed".

And she expressed her "anger and disbelief" at leaks to the media in the US of sensitive intelligence about the Manchester attack investigation, which Ms Sturgeon said was "completely unacceptable and cannot be defended".

The BBC understands that police investigating the attack have stopped sharing information with the US in order to prevent further leaks.

Other party leaders also paid their respects to the victims of the attack during the subdued session of first minister's questions.

Police Scotland, which has sent extra officers to Barra, said at least 41 people from Scotland were at the Manchester Arena during the suicide attack.

Armed officers

Troops have been deployed at Ministry of Defence and civil nuclear sites across Scotland to free up armed officers after the UK's terror threat level was raised to critical.

But Chief Constable Phil Gormley said there was currently "no foreseeable prospect" of Police Scotland asking for soldiers to publicly patrol in Scotland, as they are doing in some areas of England.

Mr Gormley said security arrangements around upcoming events such as the Scottish Cup Final, the visit to Scotland of former US president Barack Obama, the Edinburgh Marathon and the Lisbon Lions memorial events in Glasgow had been reviewed to ensure they were "fit for purpose".

But he said he was confident the force had "sufficient firearms capability to meet all foreseeable threats and demands going forward".

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar confirmed that additional support had already been made available to staff and pupils at Castlebay Community School, where the girls were pupils.

A comhairle spokesman said; "We are continuing to closely monitor events. We are mindful of the impact on pupils and staff at the school and are providing all necessary support."

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Media captionNicola Sturgeon says help is available for those affected for as long as they need it

On Wednesday the head teacher at the school, Annag Maclean, said staff and pupils were "in shock, feeling numb and struggling to come to terms" with a "violent attack targeted at young people". She said all their thoughts were with Laura and Eilidh and their families.

The local authority said it was also having discussions with the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) regarding the exceptional circumstances for pupils sitting exams in the coming week.

The Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, Bishop Brian McGee, has travelled to Barra to visit the school and to offer support to Laura and Eilidh's families.

The Church of Scotland's Rev Dr Lindsay Schluter, minister for Barra and South Uist congregations, has also offered support.

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