DH cropLabour Hame Editor Duncan Hothersall says batting off systemic failure into an “inquiry” is simply not good enough. The Scottish Government needs to learn what it means to govern.


The tragic deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill are heartbreaking. We all saw the two families’ desperation when it was a missing persons case, and we all felt their horror and disbelief as it emerged that the police had in fact been informed of the accident in which they were involved.

I listened this morning to Michael Matheson, the Justice Secretary, on BBC Good Morning Scotland. Much can be learned from a government under pressure or in crisis. Some rise to the occasion, as did Alex Salmond’s government after the Glasgow Airport attacks, setting aside Westminster rivalry. Some, I am afraid, do not.

It is right that one aspect of the response to this situation should be an inquiry into how it happened. We need to learn the lessons to try to ensure no other families suffer this again. We also need to establish the full facts of what happened for the families. But Mr Matheson says the inquiry will be asked to provide “an accurate picture of capacity and capability at present” of Police Scotland’s emergency call handling.

What? I’m sorry, Cabinet Secretary, but the “capacity and capability” of a central part of Police Scotland’s operations should be something you track to the minutest detail on a daily basis. A review likely to take several weeks to establish how fit Police Scotland is for purpose? Away and find me the real Justice Secretary, because you clearly aren’t it.

What’s next from this Scottish Government, so divorced from actual governing that they don’t know what they do or how they do it? Angela Constance launching an inquiry to find out how many schools there are in Scotland and what teachers are doing in them? Shona Robison launching a probe into hospital staffing levels?

This. Is. Your. Job. The people of Scotland have placed their trust in you to deliver the services we need, not to stand at arms length and then empathise when things go wrong. You shouldn’t need an inquiry to find out the capacity and capability of your emergency call services. Especially when problems with capacity and capability have been flagged for months and can be traced back directly to funding decisions made by your department.

After eight years, the SNP in government seem to have become so wedded to the idea that everything bad that happens can be blamed on someone else – usually Westminster, but sometimes local authorities, as long as they are Labour-led – that they have genuinely stopped governing in the traditional sense. When something good happens, like the recent drop in various types of crime, they happily claim credit (despite crime falling across the developed world at pretty much the same rate). But when something bad happens, the responsibility is at least two, perhaps three, desks away.

And I’m afraid that Labour’s seemingly endless series of internal debates as we lurch from leadership election to leadership election has meant a woeful lack of holding to account in recent years. Good government should not need a good opposition, but bad government does, and this is turning out to be a terrible government.

Coming up, a CalMac privatisation that the SNP will wash their hands of; more problems at a hospital that can’t possibly be the responsibility of the government that built it; a failure on class sizes which must be the fault of either Westminster local councils, but definitely not Nicola Sturgeon’s government.

This morning Michael Matheson expressed his full confidence in Stephen House, the Chief Constable of Police Scotland. Someone has to, I suppose. It was but the latest in a damning series of denials of reality that leaves Scots almost without a government in the usual sense.

Because what can you really call Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinet of empathetic but apparently powerless faces? It’s not a bloody government, and Scots deserve better.

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29 thoughts on “A contempt of the people

  1. On such matters as this the buck stops with the Chief Constable. The Chief Constable chosen and appointed by the Strathclyde “LABOUR” Council. So once again we see delusional Duncan trying to manufacture another SNP bad story from yet another Labour council failure.

    Do you truly believe stupidly lying your arse off actually helps promote Labour to the public? Seriously? Its because of people like you that Labour in Scotland are now regarded as nothing but a bad joke.

    1. Which “Strathclyde LABOUR Council” is that, “Mike”?

      Stephen House was appointed Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police by the Strathclyde Police Board which consisted of members appointed by Argyll and Bute Council, Dumbarton and Clydebank Council, City of Glasgow Council, East Dunbartonshire Council, Inverclyde Council, North Lanarkshire Council, South Lanarkshire Council, Renfrewshire Council, East Renfrewshire Council, East Ayrshire Council, North Ayrshire Council and South Ayrshire Council.

      More relevantly, he was appointed Chief Constable of Police Scotland by the Scottish Police Authority with the backing of the Scottish Government.

      I’m confident that yet again being shown to have made up the facts won’t deter you for a moment, “Mike”.

  2. So a tragic accident, made so much worse by a “lost message” is to be elevated to an issue of “governance”?
    Much is made of the “centralising” agenda by this SNP government, but it seems from the outside that it is opposition politicians, and their agents, who want ALL responsibilities to rest in Edinburgh.
    How is any Government to blame for someone not logging a car accident into the police system? Any inquiry is to prevent this occurring again, I would have thought.
    There are layers of responsibility here. The Minister is at the top of the heap, obviously, but cannot be expected to carry the can for personal mistakes further down the line.
    Let me expand. Labour, and BBC Scotland made much of a patient being left without a blanket in a Scottish hospital. FM Salmond was blamed by Labour at FMQ’s for this. At a similar time, the Mid Staffs ( and other hospitals) scandal was coming to the public attention. No sane person would have blamed Andy Burnham for these early deaths among patients in England, yet Labour in Scotland, backed by BBC Scotland, routinely blame the Holyrood government for things they cannot, and should not, directly control—and yes that might be education or class sizes, which are first and foremost the responsibility of local authorities and professional( and well paid) officials in those authorities.

  3. There have now been 3 major SNP reviews into Police Scotland:
    1. Stop & search.
    2. Armed police.
    3. Call handling.

    A review of the reviews is needed. 😉

    1. My sympathy is largely with Police Scotland.
      1. They were tasked with reducing knife and drug crime on our streets. An obvious way was stop and search. No one appeared to be overly upset, and Englands problem with racial profiling is not relevant in Scotland.
      2. Armed police are a necessary evil nowadays. A small percentage always will be armed, and if I required a weapon, I would prefer it on my hip, than locked up in a gun safe in the boot of a car.
      3. Unfair to call this a police problem.

  4. Keep poking at those windmills. Or have you switched to chasing ambulances?

  5. I think when you look back in later life on all the articles you have written Duncan, this is the one that you will be the most ashamed of. You don’t try and score cheap political points with a scatter gun on the back of real human tragedy. Desperate stuff.

    1. No cheap points, no scatter gun. It’s you who should be ashamed, trying to silence people on an issue we should all be shouting ourselves hoarse over.

      1. What is your “issue”, Duncan?
        A failure to log a call, which has exacerbated a tragic accident? Its an all too human error, which may haunt the person involved for many years.
        Shouting yourself hoarse may make YOU feel better, but it will only encourage a mob response—-what then? Hang the culprit from a lamppost? Shame them in public? A flogging?

        1. At no point have I placed any blame on the individual involved. I place the blame on the people responsible for a failed system. Why won’t you?

          1. Because I don’t think it to be a system failure, but a human error. It was a failure to log a call on the non-emergency line which has led us here.
            A human being taking calls from the public, not some gracious scheme failing because of A lack of resources.

          2. No you divert the blame from those responsible i.e a Labour Council onto the SNP as usual.

          3. Are you still under the impression that he was appointed by the fictional “Strathclyde Council”?

          4. Duncan you do make some good points on a very emotional and sensitive subject. If we look at the UK police in general, it is a lack of funding and resources, the westminster policies do have an impact on any Scottish government, until we get full control of all of our policies then this will continue……. My sympathies are with the poor person not given adequate training making the mistake, we wouldn’t allow anyone to jump in at a minutes notice to take control of air traffic control. So the MP’s of Scotland, all of them, need to now come together to create an opposition instead of bickering about our failed policies as a result of a failed UK policy…..

  6. A good piece about, among other things, the refusal of the Scottish Government to take responsibility for failures that happen on their watch.

    In the comments, a succession of nationalists refusing to accept that the Scottish Government is responsible for failures that happen on their watch.


    1. The Scottish Government didn’t appoint this Chief Constable Strathclyde Labour council did and the buck stops with him!
      Again Labour trying desperately to divert their failings onto the Scottish Government and nobody is listening to you anymore. Too many lies spoken far too often.
      That’s why your heading for another election disaster next year.

      1. Mike,

        Firstly, Strathclyde Council ceased to exist in 1996 when the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994 abolished it. Secondly, the Strathclyde Police Authority appointed Stephen House as Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police. The Strathclyde Police Authority was made up of Councillors from across the Councils that fell within the area of Strathclyde Police; including SNP Councillors. The Scottish Police Authority was established by the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, the Act of the Scottish Parliament that also created the Police Service of Scotland (branded as ‘Police Scotland’). The members of the Scottish Police Authroity can be seen here. The Scottish Police Authority appointed House as Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland, an appointment that the then Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Kenny MacAskill MSP) welcomed.

        1. House was NOT a Scottish Government appointment! It was Strathclyde council who appointed House as the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police force. They made him! Not the SNP! His appointment as Chief Constable to Police Scotland was once again at Local council level and NOT Scottish Government level!!!!!!!!!!! So once again we see Labour trying to pass off the blame of their local council corruption and incompetence onto the Scottish Government because they cant find anything to genuinely complain about with regards to the Scottish Government record in Government!
          And that’s why Labour is SHIT in Scotland and its about time you started to acknowledge the reality instead of trying to pretend you can alter it.

          1. You’ve reached levels of denial I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed before, Mike. You’ve had the reality explained to you several times. Enough.

          2. I’ve read through the comments and three times now you have been told you are wrong. Not only that but evidence has been given to correct you.

            Does the tinfoil act as a firewall to facts?

    2. The logic of your comments would be that you hold Andy Burnham responsible for the Mid Staffs scandal while English Health Minister? I don’t. I find your position absurd.

  7. So you admit, Duncan, that it was human error and NOT a system failure, that exacerbated this tragedy.
    That’s progress.

    1. How you can possibly read the piece I linked to and then claim there was no system failure is beyond me. That is prima facie evidence of a system failure.

  8. Such a terrible incident but to pin this solely on the snp is stupid. Human error also plays a big part in this. As for the staff shortages due to funding cutbacks again the snp can only do so much with this. With the uk government so obsessed with cutting govt spending, there has been a rising number of failures in public services

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