“The Scottish Government were walking on thin ice when they said that Scotland was ready for winter’s worst. But even when they saw the cracks in the ice, they kept walking.”
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament debate on the severe weather problems, Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie praised local communities who rallied to clear snow and ice, but criticised the slow and inadequate response from Scottish Ministers.
“Why, in what was clearly an emergency situation, were resources not deployed sooner? Why was there not a more coordinated response and consistent advice regularly issued through news channels to keep those affected well informed about the belated efforts to help them – and to prevent more people joining those in difficulty?”
Cathy highlighted the conflicting advice given to the public and local authorities, when “the police are saying don’t travel, but the Scottish Government are saying don’t close schools” and the public are told “salt is available from local authorities, but the Scottish Government has told local authorities to conserve their stocks, so no handouts to the public.
“People can’t get to work or school if the buses are not running or they can’t get to the bus stop. Public transport has to be a priority, but some of my constituents didn’t see a bus for over a week. I congratulate my constituents in Canal Walk who organised a “Snow Party”, attended by thirty people armed with spades, shovels and home baking. They spent an hour clearing the street of snow. Such instances of locally organised action are great examples of Scotland’s communities at their best, organising themselves to tackle adversity for the benefit of the community as a whole. Such initiatives should be supported and encouraged by local authorities and the Scottish Government.”
Noting the further mistake “of trying to pretend that the actions that were taken have been the best that they could have been in the circumstances”, Cathy then turned to the new minister’s “six-point plan”. While much of this was welcome, Cathy expressed concerns that better supplies of salt and grit were only mentioned with regard to trunk roads, when better supplies were also needed for local communities.
She also had concerns about the measures affecting road haulage: “Taking HGVs off the road might be a welcome announcement to some, but it is not good enough if it means full warehouses, empty shelves and petrol pumps, mail not delivered and businesses losing money. We cannot cancel Christmas — we need to keep traffic moving.”