Tavish Scott: Questions to be asked about living in fear
THREE holiday flights arrived at Edinburgh Airport on Monday afternoon. More than 200 people then queued to be allowed back into their own country.
The contrast with Majorca a week before was striking. Palma’s vast airport processes hundreds of Europeans quickly. Why is there a wave-through policy in Palma but a full scan of every passport in Edinburgh?
So as we queued in Edinburgh to be checked, I had plenty of time to consider border security and risk. In 2004, Islamic terrorists killed 191 people in Madrid. Spain’s troops were involved in Iraq. That was judged to be the overriding motive of those behind the atrocity, which injured 1,800 people.
On holiday I read Robert Fisk. He has covered Middle Eastern wars, elections, uprisings and daily happenings for decades. He has lived in Lebanon through civil war and Israeli invasions. Fisk on the Middle East and its reach as a region into international politics, diplomacy and war is a must-read.
It was his proposition on fear that struck me. When governments elevate an undefined terror threat to ever greater levels and then demand that national parliaments pass ever tighter security laws diminishing the rights of citizens, they are creating fear. They do not set out to achieve this objective. At least I do not believe that government would seek to do that in an open, transparent democracy.
But the cumulative effect of keeping terror and terrorism in the headlines does tell on the perception of fear and personal safety that we all feel. Fisk keeps the reader asking the why question. Why is our country even having to contemplate such actions? Why does the UK Border Agency have people queuing for three hours at Heathrow and thankfully rather less at Edinburgh Airport to re-enter one’s own country?
Part of the answer is Palestine and Israel. This small area of the world continues to create the conditions for resentment and tension which spill out across the globe. Where fundamentalists can use television footage of Palestinian families being bombed, persecuted and targeted in ways that are utterly contrary to international law, there are consequences. Fisk makes the link to British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last week, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper attacked the UK government for an incident involving a known suspect visiting the Olympic Park. She demanded greater security measures on the citizens of this country. Yet under Blair, in a government she supported, the personal liberties of you and I were restricted as never before.
So why does an intelligent politician such as Ms Cooper not do us a far greater service? Did British foreign policy under her Labour government make Britain a safer place? Cooper should be asking whether today’s coalition government should address Palestine rather than resorting to the knee-jerk politics of fear.
• Tavish Scott is Liberal Democrat MSP for Shetland
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