NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY
Scotland’s Public Services are to be renamed Scotland’s Secret Services to mark the fact that the SNP government and local councils are pre-eminently engaged in covering things up.
They cannot deny now that it has been widely exposed by investigative journalists that the Health Secretary Jeane Freeman wanted the Freedom of Information service closed down during the Covid-19 crisis, which is of course ongoing.
Is it not scandalous that as the ambulances queued up; hospital intensive care unit beds filled beyond capacity to cope, and cemeteries and crematoria struggled to deal with the 3,000 and rising number of deaths – another 56 were registered yesterday – the Scottish Cabinet were hatching plans to keep their incompetence unexposed.
While First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was at her St Andrew’s House podium pleading with the public to wash their hands and keep to social distance, the ambitious Ms Freeman, who had, with promotion to high office in mind, jumped the political dyke from Labour to SNP, was tasked with keeping the lid on things.
This was lest their outrageous failings should harm the SNP’s chances at the parliamentary elections next May, although Ms Sturgeon sought to assure the public that this was not the case.
Politics should be left out of the pandemic discussions, she said, showing an extraordinary amount of naivety, which is something the country has not come to expect of the First Minister.
She cannot really have thought that was possible. We can now see clear evidence of this in the fact that the pandemic itself is receiving much less air time than the politics.
Lord save us, I almost fell off my chair in astonishment today (Friday) when John Swinney walked to the podium to take the daily televised press conference on Covid 19 – and the Scottish football team’s victory in Serbia.
It’s not like Nicola to pass up an opportunity for personal publicity such as missing an episode of her very own TV soap opera.
She has milked unashamedly that daily press conference on BBC Scotland to achieve national exposure on Sky, ITV and even CNN by turning the whole thing into a race between countries to achieve the fewest numbers for people infected or in hospital or who have died. Like a football league table.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, FM Nicola Sturgeon and Council leader Jonathan McColl.
On the communications front for that, of course, she was pushing at an open door since PM Boris Johnston had fielded the worst team of special advisers and media gurus ever to promote his cause from 10 Downing Street.
Cummings is going and Cain was never able to cope.
The truth of the matter, which Nicola and Jeane Freeman have done their utmost to cover up, has been that the Scottish government has failed to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Sturgeon was being economical with the truth last March when she told the country that Scotland was well placed to deal with one of the worst emergencies in the country’s history.
Devolution hasn’t worked. Thousands of Scots have died or been made seriously ill by Covid-19 which, at the beginning, few if any at all in the higher echelons of the medical profession knew anything about.
We have been seriously ripped off, taken for mugs; the country is broke – it would be absolutely on its knees economically, and millions would have no employment at all had it not been for the furlough scheme funded by Westminster.
So many of our people are still dying with the numbers soaring to exceed those when the pandemic was supposed to be at its worst. Be prepared for more to come.
However, the public should not be informed about this. People like Jeane Freeman and Nicola Sturgeon [and in West Dunbartonshire, Jonathan McColl] don’t think you are mature or intelligent enough to be told about these things.
Thankfully, here in Dumbarton, most of us believe that a secret is something we tell one person at a time.
News has been defined as something that someone somewhere doesn’t wish to see printed. All the rest is merely advertising.
That is why we will continue to publish and be damned here on our 21st century digital platform no matter while Cllr McColl and his SNP colleagues continue to refuse to take our questions and ban and boycott us.
The SNP would not recognise democracy or Freedom of Speech or Freedom of the Press if these things came along and bit them in the throat.
Church Street council offices and the ones now demolished at Garshake.
On the subject of secrets, the latest one to come into my mail box has been a tip off that an inquiry (held in secret, of course) into the suitability of the Burgh Hall in Church Street to do Council business is under close scrutiny.
We know that the suitability of the public chamber or badminton court, or whatever else that space is supposed to double as, is useless as a place in which to hold a public meeting.
We have told the councillors and officials this on a number of occasions only to be unceremoniously thrown out on our ear and told not to come back.
Mature persons these public officials are not.
Why isn’t the Burgh Hall fit for purpose? Well, you can’t see who is speaking and you can’t hear what they are saying, which is probably just as well since most of the members would never get back in there were it down to the electorate.
The people who voted them in would die with their feet up if they found out some of the things that are being done in their name.
My information comes from inside one the political parties.
I am told: “Little birds are chirping that the new £15.4 million WDC headquarters building in Dumbarton has been deemed unfit for use and that it will never be brought back into full use.
“Apparently, it is undersized, utilises too much hot desking, has unsuitable heating and ventilation, and is generally not fit for much future purpose.
So proud, but probably premature for patting oneself on the back given the problems with the building. SNP council leader Cllr Jonathan McColl, his deputy, Cllr Caroline McAllister, Provost William Hendrie and the whole shebang of council officials, guests and hingers on at the opening of the new council offices in Church Street.
“The building, refurbished to accommodate 500 staff, is currently closed but is being used by just over 40 people with only half of them working at the one time.
“Maybe the Democrat could enquire what the future use of the building will be?
Well, we would ask if we were allowed to. In our Orwellian world of Dumbarton though, freedom of speech is not allowed and we are not allowed to ask questions or to sit at a suitable bench from which we could report council meetings.
Undeterred though, I shook the trees though and this monkey was the only one that fell out.
My contact told me: “No not heard anything about this. Personally I think working from home is going to be the norm even without Covid-19.
“Then there might be enough space to accommodate a small number of staff from each department.
“That way they could close their other buildings and split the staff between Church Street and their own homes.”
It seems the white elephant on the Council coat of arms is an appropriate symbol for West Dunbartonshire Council.
Council workers who get a glimpse of committee papers from time to time must have laughed out loud when they read a report from one department director who suggested it wasn’t a bad thing for the council to get hundreds of complaints. His take on this was that if they didn’t get complaints the staff would never have the opportunity to learn how to handle them. Parkinson’s Law comes to mind – Work expands to meet the time allocated to it.