EDITORIAL: THE DEMOCRAT

Politicians and public servants blame the press for escalating the crisis at dirty water deaths hospital

Chief Executive Jane Grant; Chair John Brown and SNP Minister Jeane Freeman.

Politicians are shameless individuals, some more than others. In the Scotland in which we live today, we have so many politicians and public servants in that category that it might even justify re-opening Dennystown Forge and Brass Foundry at Dalreoch.

To use the ancient skills of the craftsmen there to buff up and breathe some honesty and humility into the tarnished brass necks around Holyrood and Westminster (and Church Street), where an epidemic of hubris has broken out.

Take First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, for example.

In a television debate with six other politicians last night on ITV, she claimed that her party, the SNP, had been responsible for introducing free personal care for the elderly. They weren’t.

It was the Labour Party and former First Minister Henry McLeish who did that.

And we should know. Our editor was there with him as a special adviser on the east wing of St Andrew’s House when he did it.

McLeish might not have been the best First Minister Scotland ever had, but at least he was honest to the extent that he resigned when errors were found in the bookkeeping for an office he rented.

His office accounts were looked after at the time by his wife, who was his office manager, and was suffering from a terminal illness. Then she died.

Shona Robison, Nicola Sturgeon and Henry McLeish.

Mrs McLeish had got things wrong, but instead of referring the matter to Westminster, where the claim for the rental had been made, and asking for an inquiry which would take possibly six months, and the calls for his resignation would have quietened down, Henry McLeish chose to resign.

It was a matter of honour and he did not wish the blame for the accountancy error to fall on his late wife.

The money involved was around £40,000, and was repaid to the House of Commons.

Accounting errors happen all the time.

Just ask West Dunbartonshire Council leader Jonathan McColl, whose SNP administration are looking down the barrel of a £5 million overspend on a communal heating system in Clydebank. That was not intentional. It was stupid.

The Council’s accountants got that wrong – and much more – in recent times, but no one, and certainly not Cllr McColl or any of his SNP cronies, is queuing up to take the blame or offer his resignation to the basket case Council.

Nicola Sturgeon didn’t even blush while she took the kudos for free personal care from the TV audience and those politicians on the panel who rightly praised Henry’s policy as a hugely beneficial measure, which has still not been introduced across the other parts of the UK.

First Minister Sturgeon also arrogantly put forward her predictions for the future on the presumption that the SNP would hold the balance of power in Westminster after the General Election on December 12.

Good luck with that one.

Should it happen, which is highly unlikely, the SNP would progress two referendums – one on Scottish independence and the other on Brexit.

The Nippy Sweetie, whose colleagues were opposed to free personal care when McLeish introduced it, said nothing at all in regard to what would happen if her scenario crashed and came to nothing.

She is kite-flying without a safety net.

The public are being short changed at every turn by the people who run our public bodies.

On Sunday, The Democrat printed yet another apology from Health Board chief executive, Jane Grant, following the dirty water scandal which claimed two deaths at the £840 million supposedly showpiece QE2 and Royal Children’s Hospital complex.

The spin doctors have a sin to answer for.

I was surprised at how vocal Ms Grant had been on this issue until I realised that much of the statement she issued was devoted to saving the skins of the top people, who are being called on to resign over this, including herself, of course.

These are Ms Grant, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and board chairman, John Brown.

The last time I was pursuing an important story with them, they would never answer any questions at all. They were extremely unhelpful. They appear to specialise in that. The Health Service is now the Secret Service.  Ask the mothers of the children who died.

Our own unfortunate experience with them came after a doctor, a GP, of which there is currently a great shortage in the NHS, was sacked from his practice.

In my view, and in the opinion of many others, this was unjust, a waste of a very good doctor.

There was such strong feeling about it that 1200 of the 2000 patients in his practice signed a petition to the Health Board, a petition which the Health and Social Care Partnership at West Dunbartonshire Council did not even have the courtesy to pass to the Board.

Euan Gear petition

Retired Conservative councillor Euan Gear, who was an aggrieved patient of the doctor,  delivering the petition to the County Buildings.

When they were challenged, the Health Board said they had never seen the petition despite the fact that it had been handed to the person in charge of the Health and Social Care Practice outside the old County Buildings.

This was yet another case of the public not being listened to, which has become par for the course in Dumbarton.

The HSC Partnership was at that time being integrated into West Dunbartonshire Council, which also refused to answer any questions about the way the doctor’s practice was abruptly shut down.

It was a basket case which found great difficulty in bedding in the new arrangements.

Their communications were being looked after by that other basket case, West Dunbartonshire Council.

How could there be any serious allegations against the doctor since they had asked him to look after his patients for a few months until they reorganised matters at Dumbarton Health Centre, which was widely believed to be over-stretched?

White JoyceBut West Dunbartonshire’s Chief Executive, Joyce White, had come up with a cynical wheeze to keep The Democrat away from probing into its affairs, much of which badly needed looking into, according to Audit Scotland.

She demanded we join a regulatory body, something not required in law, and questioned our bona fides as journalists despite the editor’s long and successful, award winning career over a period of nearly 60 years in journalism.

This exclusion edict was a blatant attempt to keep us away from the doctor story by refusing to answer our very pertinent questions.

We were banned by the Council which continued to respond to inquiries from other media outlets, which were not members of the regulatory body they insisted we must join.

We persisted however and went to Edinburgh where we achieved an interview with the then Secretary of State for Health, Shona Robison, who assured us afterwards that any mistake that had been made would be rectified.

Not long after that Ms Robinson, whose troubles and scandals around Scotland were piling up, handed her resignation to Nicola Sturgeon, who must herself have thought Ms Robinson was not fit for purpose since she sacked her.

Robinson’s successor, Jeane Freeman, a former Labour adviser to Jack McConnell, was given her job which has literally and metaphorically turned out to be a hospital pass.

QE2 Hospital

The Queen Elizabeth II University Hospital, where two children died.

That was two years ago, around the time the dirty water scandal was emerging and when the Health Board was being accused of dodging its responsibilities in regard to the construction failings at the new hospital.

The Health Board does not appear to have been fit for purpose in regard to most major matters, such as the failure of hospital water system or keeping infection- spreading pigeons out of the new hospital.

There is a colourful old Scottish saying that some people couldn’t keep hens out of a midden.

That doctor and his family have been in Limbo ever since his practice was closed. He is greatly stressed by that and about the damage to his reputation.

The worst thing we ever heard about him was that he spent too long with his patients.

Following that meeting in Edinburgh, The Democrat received no further correspondence from the SNP government, despite the fact that we have contacted them a number of times to ask for an update on the doctor’s current situation.

Will he or won’t he be reinstated is a reasonable question for a journalist to ask in any free country.

We have had lots of correspondence however from the Board in relations to the dirty water deaths scandal, which could have a significant effect on the senior management at the Health Board.

Did we read or hear somewhere that they were now blaming the escalation of this scandal on the intense media coverage?

It takes a really brass neck to come up with that kind of stuff, but politicians and public servants never tire of trying it on – and, unfortunately, getting away with it.


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