Speech on the Lancastria Association of Scotland : Scottish Parliament 5th. December 2007

Johann Lamont : I add my congratulations to Christine Grahame on securing the debate.
I recognise the work that she has done and I commend her on how powerfully she spoke as an advocate on behalf of those who want recognition for the people who died.
In a previous life, I was a deputy minister.
The thing that I was probably most proud of in that post was that I was veterans minister.
It was a huge privilege to be given the critical responsibility, which lies with this Parliament, for the care of veterans.
As minister, I had an important role in participating in and supporting remembrance celebrations, especially around the 60th anniversary of the end of the second world war.
At the time, people asked why it was important to look back.
In looking back with respect and gratitude to those who lost their lives fighting to defend our country, we are also able to look forward.
We have an opportunity to shape the future through understanding the past and the sacrifices that were made.
It is critical that we remember those people, but it is also important to give out a strong message to our young people about their history so that they understand what happened and what ordinary people were prepared to do.
It is important to mark and to acknowledge those sacrifices and to remind each new generation of them.
Knowing the price that was paid by those who went to war—they were very often young people—and by those who continued to suffer as a consequence teaches important lessons about the horror of war.
Part of the real tragedy of this story is that families not only had to live with the impact of that huge loss of life, but had to suffer without the comfort of some recognition of the price that was paid.
We owe a debt of gratitude to those people who lived in silence.
As someone of island community stock, I remember the respect that people had for the power of the sea and for any tragedy at sea.
The thought of what people saw that night—as Murdo Fraser said—is very powerful.
I also remember the small graveyard on the island of Tiree where the graves marking out those who lost their lives in the war—perhaps unknown people—came to be respected and revered. That, too, said that we remember and are grateful.
I, too, pay my respects to the members of the Lancastria Association of Scotland, who, like many such campaigners, have sustained their campaign over a long period, with compassion and persistence from which many of us could learn.
Another example is the campaign to grant posthumous pardons to those who were executed in the first world war.
Although it took a very long time, eventually the campaign was successful.
It would be fitting if, as Christine Grahame's motion states, the debate contributed to our supporting : "the calls from the remaining survivors"— how poignant that phrase is—
"and relatives of victims for official recognition of this tragedy."
We owe them nothing less.
Their sacrifice was massive, and they have suffered in silence for a long time.
As Christine Grahame says, the Parliament should acknowledge that sacrifice and support calls for it to be recognised.