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999 Festival of Thanksgiving 2019

On Friday 6th September 2019 I delivered a speech to the Emergency Services Festival of Thanksgiving at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, attended by the Minister of State for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service, Rt Hon Kit Malthouse MP, Scottish Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf MSP, Scottish Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman MSP, Welsh Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn AM, dignitaries and personnel from across the emergency services. The text of my speech is below. At the Service I was also proud to lay a wreath on behalf of the National Emergency Services Memorial, Emergency Services Day and 999 Festival to remember all emergency services personnel killed as a result of their duties.


Lord Provost, Ministers, Distinguished guests, Sirs and Ma’ams.

It is a GREAT honour to welcome you to the Emergency Services Festival of Thanksgiving. Special thanks are due to Reverend Calum MacLeod of this spectacular Cathedral and to Dr Jordan Girardin of the French Consulate for their help and assistance with the logistics of putting on this Festival.

I want to also thank our committed Trustees and Ambassadors. And the ever-wonderful Blue Light Choir and Edinburgh Police Choir – they’re all such wonderful people.

Last but by no means least, thank you to all of you for being here today– some of you have travelled a short distance and some have travelled many hundreds of miles.

As we sit here in this great Cathedral, we have with us, Emergency Services personnel from all four countries of our United Kingdom.

In 2016, I set up the National Emergency Services Memorial, Emergency Services Day and 999 Festival after carrying out research into what events were held across the country to not only remember the more than 7,000 999 personnel killed as a result of their duty, but to also shine a light on being an emergency services worker today.

There were a great many individual service events but nothing where the emergency services were brought together.

As you can read in page one of the Order of Service, the charity has its roots going back to 2001 when one of my grandfather’s officers, PC Alison Armitage of Greater Manchester Police, was run over by a stolen vehicle and killed at the age of just 29-years-old.

The murder of PC Andrew Harper last month and the circumstances surrounding his death are a reminder that working or indeed volunteering in the emergency services is a dangerous job, but it is so much more than just a job.

Around TWO MILLION people currently work across our emergency services, including many volunteers. From our first responders to control room operators and porters – personnel on the frontline could not do their job without the support from those behind the scenes.

As a national charity, we are doing three things – firstly, we are raising at least £3 million to build the UK’s first ever national monument to ALL emergency services personnel – past and present – this will also pay tribute to the work of service animals.

The National Emergency Services Memorial will be THE NATIONAL, symbol of gratitude, sacrifice and remembrance for all emergency services combined. It is not meant to replace the important individual service memorials; instead it is aimed at complementing them and reminding us that whilst we may be individual services – we are all one team.

Since the formal launch of the charity in September 2017, NESM has grown enormously in terms of awareness and support.

We are pleased to have not only The Prime Minister’s support, but the support of all living former Prime and Deputy Prime Ministers, the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, and political leaders from across the UK.

I am very pleased to today announce that Mr Philip Jackson CVO DL has been commissioned to build this important monument.

Philip Jackson’s sculptural work includes the equestrian figure of Her Majesty The Queen in The Great Park, Windsor; the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother statue in the Mall, Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park; the Korean War Memorial on the Embankment; the Bobby Moore sculpture at Wembley Stadium and the Gandhi statue in Parliament Square amongst many others.

My team and I are immensely honoured that such a distinguished and well-respected sculptor is building this once in a lifetime monument.

There will be some additional very important announcements coming very soon so watch this space!

The second aim of the charity is to hold these annual 999 Festivals. It rotates across the UK each year so won’t be in Scotland again until 2023. Next year we are aiming to go to Belfast and then Wales in 2021.

And the third aim of the charity is putting on and organising the UK’s annual 999 Day which takes place on 9th September. There is also one main national ‘open day style’ event on the nearest Sunday. That takes place in the host City and Country where the 999 Festival is. This year it is in West Princes Street Gardens this Sunday from 9am until 4pm, so do come along.

The 999 Day flag will be flying across a great many government and emergency services buildings on Monday, including in every country within the UK.

I am pleased that on Emergency Services Day, His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, The Earl of Strathearn, will be doing a visit to meet first responders.

If we are to educate the public about using the emergency services responsibly and efficiently; engage with them on the work we do, and recruit the next generation of emergency service personnel then it is of the utmost importance that we do all we can to strengthen the links into the communities in which we serve.

The overwhelming majority of the work our emergency services do isn’t glamorous, and it doesn’t make the news, but it is the difference between life and death.

It is becoming increasingly common for more than one emergency service to answer a 999 call and having events such as a 999 Day and a 999 Festival, where services are together as equal partners is important, because the emergency services is about partnership.

To conclude – whether you ask police officers here in this magnificent City of Edinburgh, firefighters in Belfast, Paramedics and NHS workers in London, Coastguard or Search and Rescue personnel in Cardiff, all are proud to serve and do their bit.

I truly believe we have the greatest emergency services in the world, and that is because the men and women who serve go above and beyond day in day out.

It is now my pleasure to introduce the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf MSP who will address the Festival.


Speech is copyright protected to Tom Scholes-Fogg. Kindly seek permission before using the text.