Shetland Times Column 8th October 2021


Sarah Everard’s killer, a policeman, was sentenced and another man was arrested for the murder of teacher Sabina Nessa, who was walking to meet a friend when she was killed. The deaths of both women have once again highlighted the continuing violence against women and girls by some men in our society.

Last week I joined the Cross Party Group on this subject, and on Tuesday was able to ask a topical (or urgent) question in parliament.

Violence against women cannot be stripped back to an incident.  Every day, every minute, women and girls risk assess and change behaviour to stay safe. Scottish Liberal Democrats have been calling for a new Commission to tackle this, as existing strategies aren’t working.

Last Friday evening I joined MSP colleagues in St Giles’ Cathedral for the Kirking of the Parliament, which has its origins in a service performed in the Middle Ages for the Scottish Parliament. It is a Christian service but Friday’s modern service included inter-faith blessings on the Parliament from all faiths and none, representing Scotland’s diversity. It included for the first time a contribution from the Humanist Society Scotland, representing non-religious people.

The service provided a time for reflection, and perhaps because there has been little time to pause and reflect during the last 19 months, there was resonance in the service.

Conducted in the presence of HRH The Duke of Rothesay, the sermon was given by Lord Wallace of Tankerness, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Former MP for Orkney and Shetland, and MSP for Orkney, Lord Wallace was well able to understand and consider the responsibilities on the shoulders of new and returning MSPs.

The following day, HM The Queen gave the address at the Opening Ceremony to Mark the Sixth Session of the Scottish Parliament.

The ceremony was one of celebration with music and performances reflecting Scotland today. I was particularly struck by the music from Musicians in Exile, a group of refugee and asylum-seeking musicians, and their song “Always on the Move”.

After the formalities, MSPs joined their nominated “local heroes” who were sharing this special day. I had the pleasure of welcoming Shetland’s “local hero” Anita Georgeson, accompanied by her son. Anita, like so many social care workers, is dedicated to the residents in her care. During the pandemic Anita raised funds to provide new equipment for care homes while the additional money she raised through her run from Sumburgh to Lerwick will go towards a sensory garden.

The events at the weekend also allowed MSPs, perhaps for the first time since the May elections, to meet each other informally and with their families. I was able to share the day with one of my daughters and, along with Anita, show where we work when we’re not working in our constituencies. It was a special day and, as Anita said, it was one for “making memories“.


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