A large crowd of people from different political parties gathered in Perceval Square, Stornoway, this lunchtime to remember the life of murdered MP Jo Cox.
Speaking first at the event organised by the Western Isles Labour party, local MSP Alasdair Allan, from the SNP, thanked the organisers for the invitation to join in the memorial event.
The MSP said: “I certainly really appreciate this chance to bring people together from across the political spectrum.”
He said that he did not know Jo personally but he did know many people in politics and in Oxfam where she was active for many years before becoming a MP, who did.
“Her former colleagues there are devastated by her loss.”
“This has been a callous murder and has caused unspeakable pain for Jo’s family, for her constituents and for all who knew her.”
He said there were lessons from her life and death in an event which has struck at the heart of the kind of democracy we have where MPs and MSPs are accessible to people.
“Jo’s husband has asked to reflect on the uncomfortable subject of hatred. Hatred does not appear out of nowhere, it is nourished by casual expressions of racism and bigotry, hatred gets respectability whenever ignorance is proclaimed from the platforms of the media and politics and hatred is actively endorsed by us as individuals whenever we as individuals fail to confront it.”
This was a moment, he said, for us to remember “the exceptional life of an exceptional woman and reflect on what it means for us all.”
The second speaker, former Labour MP and former Government minister, Brian Wilson drew attention to the fact that this was one of many events taking place in memory of Jo Cox all across the country, as well as in Parliament.
“People realise that a line has been crossed here. People feel not only the tremendous outpouring of sympathy to an exceptional person.
“It’s symbolic of a wider challenge to the whole democratic system on which we all depend.” Undoubtedly, the language of debate had created a backdrop for this situation.
“There is a tendency which has accelerated in recent years to denigrate politicians as a class. This event should remind us that the vast proportion of the politicians work for high motives, not for low ones and that the vast majority of work which they do is far removed from headlines and controversy but is in the true name of public service.”
He pointed out that Jo Cox was shot down, stabbed and brutally murdered outside a constituency surgery where she had been dealing with the day-to-day concerns of ordinary people.
“If you have an atmosphere of hatred it is at some point likely that the words are matched by deeds, and however marginal the likelihood of that, it’s a margin too much.
“Through social media – or very anti-social media, there’s been a liberation of people to use language and express sentiments which have no part in public discourse and we have to face up to that.”
There was unacceptable abuse from under the cloak of anonymity, hiding from view over a keyboard.
“Today we are not just remembering a politician, we are remembering a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and obviously a very, very fine person, a very highly motivated person and the best we can do is not just to remember, but for each of us to look at how we can ensure that the democratic standards on which we all depend and on which, however imperfect, our society and progress within our society depends.”
"We can never legislate entirely to prevent events like this but we should act to make sure the neither freedom of speech nor freedom of action is abused."