Holyrood responds to terror

Silence
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon led MSPs in a minute's silence at Holyrood

Joy. It is, decidedly, a curious word to hear in such a tragic environment. But it was repeated at Holryood today, as MSPs responded to yet another atrocity.

What possible salience could that word possess? What relevance in the midst of tears, pain, sorrow, sympathy and anger?

Listening to the exchanges, I heard it used twice. Both effective, both powerful. Labour's Kezia Dugdale summoned up an image of young girls preparing for the Manchester concert. "Dressed in pink, in sparkles, bunny ears perched on their heads and grins on their faces". Hastening to the gig, thrilling to the music was, she said, "a moment of sheer joy".

A moment brutally extinguished.

And Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats. Our response to that brutality, he said, must involve joy. "Hope, joy and fellowship". Otherwise, he argued, terrorism prevailed.

The presiding officer, Ken Macintosh, opened proceedings by voicing Holyrood's "tangible sense of shock and horror". He announced that a Book of Condolence would be opened. As so often in the past.

From the first minister, a taut and powerful blend of pragmatism and emotion. We learned of Scotland's security preparations, including tighter scrutiny at big events such as the Scottish Cup.

We learned of efforts to garner information from Scots returning from the gig. We learned of initiatives to provide reassurance to young people, exposed to images they should never have had to witness.

Image caption There was a sombre atmosphere in the Holyrood chamber during the emergency session

But Nicola Sturgeon - who had earlier chaired her government's emergency committee - also added a note of determination to her practical plans. Terror, she said, would never divide people in this land. Not now, not ever.

Ruth Davidson of the Tories followed, deftly evoking the hopelessness felt by many, the struggle to find words to encompass the death of innocent children. Words must be found, she emphasised, to signal that we would not be beaten, that we would not descend into hatred and rage.

Like all his fellow leaders, Patrick Harvie of the Greens spoke well, in measured fashion. Yes, security must be tightened. Yes, there must be a determined response. But any hint of retribution against any particular community would play into the hands of those who foment division.

As so often, Parliament rose to the occasion. The comments on all sides were wise, focused and potent.

But think. It is a grim truth that our political leaders have become skilled in responding to terror. Tragically, they have had ample practice.

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