MSPs show sombre solidarity at FMQs

Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright PA
Image caption MSPs were in a reflective mood for the weekly session of first minister's questions

In moments of emotion, poetry frequently insinuates itself into my thoughts. I seldom discard the offer.

So it was while presenting coverage of questions to the First Minister at Holyrood today. I listened as Ruth Davidson, Kezia Dugdale and Nicola Sturgeon contrived admirably - very admirably - to sustain democratic discourse without the abrasive comment which customarily attends upon such exchanges.

I listened, too, as Patrick Harvie constructed an edifice upon the bloody foundations of the Manchester tragedy. He referred to other deaths, specifically to the lives lost on the despairing sea voyage from Libya to Italy.

Immediately, I thought of John Donne and his anthem in praise of common humanity. Writing in the 17th Century, Donne habitually talks of "man" and "mankind". However, in your thoughts, you can substitute "humanity" or what you will.

"Each man's death diminishes me

Because I am involved in mankind

Therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls

It tolls for thee."

In Scotland, especially on the island of Barra, the death at the forefront of consciousness will be that of a girl. A young girl. Fourteen-year-old Eilidh MacLeod. She was in Manchester for the concert with her friend, 15-year-old Laura Macintyre who is in hospital with serious injuries.

In an emotive contribution, the first minister reminded us that young lives should be filled with "joy and happiness".

Such was no longer the case with those families in Barra or others afflicted by the Manchester cruelty.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Politicians including the first minister and opposition party leaders observed a minute's silence at Holyrood

Nicola Sturgeon spoke of tears welling up at the thought of such loss. Collectively, the chamber expressed its solidarity, in murmuring silence.

Once again, our elected leaders rose to the occasion. It was plain there could be no robust conflict, let alone electioneering.

Opening the session, the Conservative leader Ruth Davidson found an effective solution. She endorsed the words of sympathy offered by the FM - then raised a topic suggested by the Scottish Youth Parliament: that of the stresses and strains, the mental problems, which can occasionally torment the young.

Similarly, Labour's Kezia Dugdale raised a substantive topic - ovarian cancer. But the comments which will be remembered are her words of empathy for the young folk of Barra.

The first minister endorsed those comments and expounded upon efforts to offer support and counselling to the Hebridean youth.

Perhaps the most substantive comments came from Patrick Harvie of the Greens. Apart from his remarks on the commonality of humankind, he endorsed the UK government's presumably temporary prohibition upon sharing intelligence with the USA, in protest at leaks. As did the FM.

Away from the chamber, Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats urged people to bind together, to shun any inter-community conflict.

"No man is an island

Entire of itself"

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