Ruth Davidson has just returned from Afghanistan where she has been witnessing the work being done by a Scottish-based charity to remove unexploded devices from minefields across the country.
The Scottish Conservative leader spent four days in Kabul at the invitation of the Halo Trust, the Dumfriesshire-based organisation which was associated with Diana, Princess of Wales.
During her visit, the Trust handed control of 95 million square metres of land in western Afghanistan back to the local government – following a ten year long operation to remove landmines many of which were planted during the Soviet invasion of the late 1980s.
Ms Davidson, a former TA soldier, was in Afghanistan from Sunday until yesterday and was only able to talk about her trip on her return once security restrictions were lifted.
She said: “The Halo Trust is doing tough, dangerous and very important work right across Afghanistan.
“Every region in Afghanistan is affected by mines and while some have been laid during the current conflict, thousands are left over from the wars of the past. Every minefield has the capacity to maim and kill civilians and they stop local people from being able to farm, build or even travel certain key routes.
“Learning the techniques of landmine clearance has shown me just how dangerous and painstaking the work is.
“Halo’s staff are committed to ensuring that every part of Afghanistan has a future and every person living here has a chance to go about their daily life without the threat of stepping on one of these killing machines.”
Ms Davidson was given training on how to find, excavate and remove land mines and exploded an anti-personnel mine during a training exercise.
Under supervision, she exploded an Iranian manufactured YM-1 anti-personnel mine and took part in a casualty evacuation exercise. She also operated a specially modified JCB which digs anti-tank mines out of the ground. She met members of the Afghan government to discuss security and also spoke to female Afghan MPs to discuss women’s participation in politics.
James Cowan, CEO of the Halo Trust said: “Ruth saw for herself the work of the 3,500 Halo staff who work across the country. She also witnessed the amazing contribution that UK DFID is making to clearing the country of landmines. It’s 30 years since Halo started its life saving work in Afghanistan. In that time, governments have come and gone and war has ebbed and flowed. We have stuck the course.
“Halo therefore has plans to employ yet more Afghans and give them a peaceful alternative to war, clearing the debris not only of previous conflicts but dealing with today’s lethal weaponry.”