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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 18:42 GMT 19:42 UK
Aid pledged for Scots victims
New York devastation
Help has been pledged for Scots victims of the tragedy
The Scottish Executive has pledged financial help for the families of Scots victims of the American terrorist attacks if it is required.

First Minister Henry McLeish told MSPs that the UK Government and the executive would consider helping in cases where insurance difficulties prevented casualties or loved ones being brought home.

An official spokesman for Mr McLeish later said that money would be made available by the executive to cover the medical costs of those who have been injured and do not have insurance.

The money would also be used to help pay for the costs of returning the bodies of Scots killed in the tragedy, the spokesman said.

World Trade Centre on fire
It is likely Scots are among the victims
He said: "It would apply to people who are victims in a broad term. It will be those injured or who have suffered in this terrible tragedy and are unable to meet medical bills or don't have insurance.

"What matters is that the money is there and it can help people in their time of need.

"At this stage, we don't even know precise numbers, but the first minister wanted to make the point that the help and the money is there for people if they want it."

The spokesman also said "a range of services", such as counselling, would also be made available by either the executive, local councils or health boards to help those who need it.

Insurance difficulties

During First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament, Mr McLeish told Scottish National Party leader John Swinney that the UK government had agreed to consider helping in any cases where personal insurance difficulties prevented casualties or loved ones being brought back to Britain.

"I am pleased to say today that we will want to do the same for those families affected in Scotland," he said.

The usual round of political knockabout of First Minister's Questions was put on hold in favour of a muted and sombre affair in the wake of the American tragedy.

Mr McLeish also told MSPs it was likely that Scots would be among the several hundreds of Britons feared to be casualties of the outrage.

At this stage, we don't even know precise numbers, but the first minister wanted to make the point that the help and the money is there for people if they want it.

A Scottish Executive spokesman
He said 100 Britons in the area at the time were unaccounted for, but went on to warn: "The actual number of casulties is likely to run into several hundreds, given the number of inquiries that have been taken by the Metropolitan Police."

"Although we have no precise figures for Scotland, I fear there will be Scots among them," he said.

A Scottish police information coordinating centre has been established to coordinate security and intelligence matters. Its work will involve liaising with other British forces, including the Metropolitan Police casualty bureau, which is responsible for British victims, he told MSPs.

Mr McLeish also faced questions from the SNP leader about measures to help families - and to help those affected among the 20,000 Americans who live in Scotland.

Fire engine in NY
A fire engine ploughs through the dust of Manhattan
The first minister said the executive had offered to put telecommunications and staff help at the disposal of the US consulate in Edinburgh to help tackle the volume of inquries.

The justice department was dealing with "a whole range of issues" related to "this terrorist atrocity" and Mr McLeish and other ministers were involved, he said.

Responding to a question from Tory leader David McLetchie, Mr McLeish called on all Scots, including those of the Muslim faith, to unite to condemn Tuesday's attack.

He said: "In terms of the Islamic community, it is absolutely right that there is solidarity between them and us in relation to terrorist activity.

Barbaric act

"We must all of us, Muslim Britons, Muslim Scots, Scots people generally, those of other religions and people who profess no established religion but just feel for their fellow human beings, unite in condemnation of this barbaric act.

"We must renew our collective pledge that democracies across the world are united in their refusal to bow to the evil men of terror."

Mr McLeish also welcomed NATO's decision to back the USA and insisted "Scotland would not be found wanting" should it be called on to provide help.

The first minister also called on Scots across the country to observe tomorrow's three minute silence at 1100BST in memory of those who died in the terrorist attacks.

Alan MacKay reports
"Strathclyde Fire Brigade paid tribute to New York's fire chief who died in the attacks."
See also:

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UK on high security alert
13 Sep 01 | UK
'They told us we were safe'
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