Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has welcomed the First Minister’s confirmation today, that the Scottish Government is supportive of the calls to have the site of the Iolaire wreck to be designated by the MOD as a military maritime grave.
The Isles MSP posed the question to Nicola Sturgeon in the first FMQs since the Parliament returned from the winter recess. The First Minister also confirmed that members of the Scottish Commemorations Panel have already raised the issue with the Ministry of Defence, who have powers over the decision.
Alasdair Allan said:
“I’m pleased that the First Minister today confirmed that the calls to designate the site of Iolaire as a military maritime grave have the Scottish Government’s full backing.
“The Iolaire tragedy is one of the saddest tales ever told in the Islands. So many were never recovered from the wreck – around one third of those who lost their lives. A fitting way to recognise their sacrifice would be to designate the Iolaire as a military maritime grave – protecting the site in their memory, in perpetuity.
“It was very welcome to have the First Minister, alongside Prince Charles present at the commemoratory ceremony on New Year’s Day in Stornoway. The commemorations for the Iolaire have been incredibly moving, and it is clear that the tragedy of New Year’s Day 1919, will never be forgotten.
“The First Minister’s backing for the Iolaire site becoming a military grave is a very positive step, and I hope that the MOD will make the decision, which would be welcomed across the Western Isles, and across Scotland.”
Transcript of FMQs exchange (10/01/2019) below:
HMY Iolaire (Military Maritime Grave)
The communities of Lewis and Harris recently commemorated the centenary of the loss of HMY Iolaire, which on new year’s day in 1919 claimed the lives of 201 servicemen. The First Minister will, from her recent very welcome visit to Lewis, be aware of the deep feelings that the tragedy still invokes. Will the Scottish Government give its support to the communities’ calls for the Ministry of Defence to designate the site as a military maritime grave?
I thank Alasdair Allan for raising the issue. On 1 January, I attended the very moving commemoration of the loss of HMY Iolaire. Clearly, the event is still keenly felt by the local community. The bodies of about one third of those who were lost in the tragedy were never recovered, so I support the call to have the wreck of the Iolaire recognised as a war grave. The Scottish commemorations panel, whose members are appointed by the Scottish Government, has already raised the matter with the Ministry of Defence, with whom the decision rests. The Scottish Government will continue to support the call.