Leader: Past, present and future, we must not forget

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon lays a wreath at the Stone of Remembrance in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon lays a wreath at the Stone of Remembrance in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
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Remembrance is more than just honouring the fallen of past conflicts, we must also remember those protecting us today

Three simple words, carved without decoration on the Cenotaph and on memorials throughout the land, define the rights and rituals of Remembrance: “Lest we Forget”.

With every year, the silence of Remembrance Sunday grows more poignant. It is as if we are marking not only the courage and sacrifice of previous generations, but also the passing of an age and a country which is being lost in a slow dissolve.

But in these profound two minutes, the past is not another country. It is at the very centre of the present we have uniquely made and to the past we owe respect.

That is why we cannot forget the sacrifices made through the generations, by men and women from all walks of life, and the contribution they have made to our national story.

The remembrance services may be scattered across the country – from St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh to events in Glasgow, Stirling, Aberdeen and across the Highlands – but we are brought together as one.

And this is never more important than today, for remembrance is also about the present. It is fit and proper that we honour the dead. But it has become of more pressing import when we look today at what is happening elsewhere in the world and the threats that are posed to our safety, our values, our freedoms and our way of life.

Across the Middle East and north Africa, an appalling ideology has taken hold, spreading terror and destruction and forcing millions to flee their homes and embark on the most hazardous journeys in a search for safety.

No distinction is made between civilians and soldiers or young and old: hundreds of holiday passengers, many of them children, flying back from a holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh are seen as legitimate targets for mid-air slaughter.

Here in the UK we look to the police, the security services and our armed forces to protect us from all-too-real attack on our streets.

From bombings on the London Underground to the slaughter of an off-duty soldier, nothing and no-one is spared from lethal and random attack in the name of an ideology we can barely understand and whose ferocity is beyond comprehension.

It can be hard to appreciate that, because of the readiness of our armed forces to provide this protection, we enjoy a safety envied by many countries around the world.

And it is this invisible protection, outside of formal wars and the battlefields of the past, where our forces today provide their greatest service.

It deserves to be more appreciated, both by those on the Right who see defence as fair game for constant budget cutting, and those on the Left who can display a lack of understanding or sympathy for the military and its importance.

It is not in the faraway past that our need for remembrance lies, but in the present and in the future.

That is why remembrance is always so much more than a ceremony, and why we have a compelling duty to remember, this year, every year and in years to come.