Three way hug – Mary Rose Crozier with her daughters Dorothy, left, and Mary, close together and out to lunch in happier times.

Unprecedented has, in this year of death, depression and discontent been the most abused word by politicians and other apologists in response to the Scottish Government’s abysmal performance in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

NOTEBOOK by Bill Heaney

They have used it as an excuse for everything they have done wrong from over-seeing a soaring nationwide death rate from single figures to hundreds and eventually thousands to transferring Covid 19 infected elderly residents from hospitals care homes.

And to divert attention from the absence of a vaccine to a widespread shortage of personal protective equipment for NHS frontline staff and carers, to placing DNR (do not resuscitate) notices in the files of Crosslet House care home residents without their permission or agreement from their relatives.

Spin doctors, not medical doctors, are to the fore as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, below, reads out daily in the longest running televised party political broadcast ever for the SNP, reams of statistics and alleged details of what is claimed to be happening but isn’t, which only few people can grasp.

Ms Sturgeon always said these were from the bottom of her heart. The people of Scotland would have been much better served if the content had they come from the front of her brain.

What the electorate could understand though from the statistics put before them was the fact that the death rate from Covic 19 infections and the number of patients in hospital intensive care units was rising exponentially.

When the promised public inquiry into how this scandal was allowed to engulf 21st century Scotland  eventually takes place in five or maybe even ten years’ time, the government in power and their fellow conspirators in the Civil Service and medical profession, will have their evidence in place for a report which will cost £ millions to produce.

It will be yet another whitewash as have been the reports on child abuse in children’s homes and other scandalous matters,  such as are currently being discussed in the Salmond Inquiry, and have been largely covered up.

The politicians involved will either be dead by that time, as will the lawyers and officials whose legacies to their families and friends will be bolstered by the large wedges of public money paid out to them in fees and salaries.

One example is the £600,000 that was wasted by prosecuting Alex Salmond on sexual harassment charges.

The response from their successors in the Holyrood parliament, St Andrew’s House and the Lawnmarket law courts will be much the same as it is at the moment – “That was then and this now.”

The truth is that this cataclysmic disaster should not be happening.

Much it can be blamed on poverty caused by the austerity policies of the SNP and Conservative governments; lack of investment in social housing, good schools and nursery education; well-funded universities and hospital services, which have been cut to the bone for alleged lack of money.

Public money like the £20,000 which the enigmatic Bailie Denis Agnew, an alleged Independent who keeps the SNP in power here, has had tossed in his direction by the SNP council administration for the production of a song for Clydebank and been described by the equally enigmatic Cllr Jonathan McColl as “not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things”.

Cllr McColl, who draws public money from the council and the health board in emoluments totalling more than £40,000 a year should tell that to the unemployed and the families laid low by the pandemic, who are forced to use food banks.

McColl lives in a parallel universe as did President Donald Trump, who brought widespread public opprobrium down on himself by mimicking a mentally handicapped person while making a speech.

What has McColl, done? Exactly the same thing with someone who looks suspiciously like his partner, who is pictured with him, left, and on on Facebook. He should resign immediately. Like Trump, McColl is unfit for public office.

Minimum wage rates, zero hours contracts, graft and corruption in procurement of contracts and a flagrant disregard by business owners for health and safety regulations, such as occurred at Cameron House Hotel right here on Loch Lomondside.

What does the First Minister have to say about these matters, the lives lost, the damage to property and job opportunities gone up in smoke and flames?

Not much, but you can bet your bottom dollar that she will be only too happy to go along to the re-opening of the £25 million refurbishment project and cut a tartan ribbon to the skirl of the pipes echoing along the Bonnie Banks and beautiful islands.

Deaths like those of the two young men who died at Cameron House are nowadays conveniently referred to as “collateral damage”.

These are the same Bonnie Banks that are currently under pressure as never before from commercial developers who want at Ross Priory, Balloch, Luss and Tarbet to invest borrowed money and bank the tax free profits in offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands.

It should stick in the collective craw of the community here that Flamingoland and their like are being financed from the sporran of Scottish Enterprise, a very expensive to run arm’s length quango attached to  the SNP government.

And the community here? How will our children and grandchildren benefit from these projects?

Cameron House Hotel, where two people died after health and safety warnings were ignored.

Zero hours contracts for low-paid service industry employees dressed in tweeds, kilts and plaids serving beef or salmon, venison and malt whisky, which makes them look like film extras out of Brigadoon or Braveheart..

Given that this is where we – and what we aspire to further – are after 14 years of SNP government (seven each for Sturgeon and Salmond) the Lord knows where we would be if these lunatics took permanent charge of the asylum.

The saddest story of all this week though is the latest episode of how West Dunbartonshire Council, the Health Board and the Scottish Government are treating the residents of our local care homes and their relatives,  who have been locked out from seeing them for nearly a year.

We revealed exclusively long before any other news outlet that Valeman Bob Doris, the SNP MSP for Maryhill in Glasgow, had asked the First Minister when people would be able to visit their frail relatives and friends in care homes.

He told Nicola Sturgeon: “Given the good progress on vaccinating the priority groups, which include not just the over-80s and those in care homes but, in the weeks ahead, groups such as unpaid carers, when will the Scottish Government be able to review and, I hope, ease the significant restrictions that have been placed on hospital and care home visits for family members, so that they can visit their loved ones? Can the First Minister say a little more about when that might happen and what it might look like?”

The First Minister told him: “None of us wants the very severe restrictions on people’s ability to visit loved ones in care homes or hospitals to be in place for a minute longer than is necessary. The impact of the restrictions has been severe and distressing, and the situation has affected the mental well-being of care home residents and the people who love them.

“We all want to get to a position of normality as soon as possible, but it has to be done safely. Given the level at which the virus is circulating, and particularly the impact of the new variant that is circulating widely in Scotland and the fear about other new variants, we have to be cautious.”

She added: “The reason for focusing on care homes first [for the vaccine] was to ensure that we gave maximum protection to that most vulnerable group and the staff members who work closely with them.

“I hope that the vaccine will allow us to get back to greater normality there, sooner rather than later. However, there are still unanswered questions about the impact of the vaccine on transmission, so we have to continue to be cautious. That is why I will not put a date on it.

“However, I absolutely assure everybody who is watching, and who is desperately missing a loved one in a care home, that we will get you back to visiting as normally as possible just as quickly as it is deemed safe to do so.”

And the band – is it same one as the SNP wants to spend £20,000 on to write a song for Clydebank? – played Believe It If You Like.

Jackie Baillie MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh  and Lomond,  said:  “Scottish Labour has advocated for a National Care Service since 2011. It is welcome to see our proposal backed up by the Independent Review. It is clear that after 14 years in power it is time for the SNP Government to take responsibility for improving social care services.

“Social care workers are at the heart of a caring and a well-functioning care service and it’s time we started to value those who care for the ones we love.

“Scottish Labour are further calling for a £15-an-hour pay increase for care workers.

“A National Care Service that puts people before profit is the only way forward. The Scottish Government must now listen and take steps to make this happen. We cannot allow our care service to be further weakened by inaction and slow responses to urgent need.”

She added: “Dorothy and Mary [Crozier] are proof that family members of care home residents are so much more than just visitors.

“They are also primary care givers and the support that they continue to provide to loved ones is invaluable.

The lack of social contact and physical touch allowed in care homes is having a truly devastating impact on everyone involved.

“Mary Rose will benefit as much from her daughters’ hugs as much as they benefit from giving them to her.

“The current system is not fit for purpose and an alternative is needed urgently to put an end to this heartbreak.”

We reported that Mary Crozier Carr, whose mother, Mary Rose, formerly of Mayfield, Bonhill Road, Dumbarton,  and widow of the late Sheriff George Crozier, has been campaigning to allow relatives access to Crosslet House Care Home, which is situated on an out of the way site at the back of Dumbarton.

Crosslet House Care Home, where Mrs Crozier’s family are banned from visiting her.

We told readers how Mary and her sister Dorothy O’Donnell had been trying for nearly a year to obtain access to visit their mother, 92-year-old Mary Rose, in Crosslet House Care home, just to hold her hand and hug her.

The women said it was “beyond heart-breaking” that that West Dunbartonshire Council had not agreed to this and that they had been left standing outside a window waving in to her and writing messages to her on a piece of board.

The Croziers have always been seen by people in Dumbarton as a highly respectable, close-knit family in which there were a total of eight children. Their father, Sheriff George Crozier, pictured left, who died aged 80 in 2007, was a leading Roman Catholic layman – a Papal Knight even – and one of Scotland’s best-known legal practitioners for more than half a century.

He became renowned both as an eloquent pleader and a feared prosecutor in the criminal courts, working mainly in Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire. He was also a skilled advocate in civil matters, an astute judge and a powerful political lobbyist for the Pro-Life movement.

If Nicola Sturgeon is serious about letting relatives into care homes to see their loved ones, she should do it now.

People are becoming so worried that their relatives might die alone that they have moved them out of care homes and back to live with their family despite the fact that the accommodation is unsuitable and the family have admitted they have neither the skills nor the knowledge to cope with a sick, elderly relative.

The Crozier sisters have praised the care they have been given by the staff at Crosslet, but the Scottish government and the health and social care committee at West Dunbartonshire Council – the fact that this committee is chaired by an un-elected accountant gives an indication of where their priorities lie – have dug their heels in.

This committee is wary of making mistakes as it has done in the past when it sold off Langcraigs Care Home in Gooseholm, Dumbarton, for £200,000 less than it was worth after receiving assurances from the purchaser, which have never been adhered to.

They also took away the practice of a GP in Dumbarton even though the doctor won his appeal for unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal,  and they ignored a petition from 1,200 of his patients to keep him on. They closed his surgery and refused to put the petition before the committee.

The Crozier family are hanging on in there, hopeful of a quick rethink by the First Minister and her special advisers, but that could be a long time coming.

Today (Wednesday) however she told Jackie Baillie MSP that an announcement on this was “imminent”.


New care home visiting guidance ‘imminent’

At today’s (Tuesday) Holyrood briefing on the virus, BBC Scotland’s David Shanks also asked about care home visiting guidance.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the health secretary [Jeane Freeman] is continually looking at how greater normality can be returned to care homes.  Ms Sturgeon warned against any risk being added to older people in care homes.

“There is no doubt the vaccine will pave the way to more normal visiting,” she said.

National Clinical Director Jason Leitch, pictured right, added: “New guidance is imminent.”

The matter was discussed in the Scottish Parliament again today (Wednesday) when Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie asked the First Minister when senior citizens in care homes will be able to receive visits from their loved ones.

Mr Rennie said:  “Care home residents have been separated from their families for months just when they needed each other most. Now the First Minister says almost all care home residents have been vaccinated. Once the immunity takes hold, relatives should be allowed to hug their loved ones.

“The forced distance has had a severe toll on care home residents. A member of my constituency wrote to lament the unbearable situation her mother, a care home resident with early onset dementia, has been experiencing during the lockdown. Clinicians say that the separation is worsening dementia as visits from family are the only tether to reality that these people have left. Families are giving evidence to parliament and to their MSPs. They are crying out for urgent change. We cannot ignore them.

“The FM must give families a date when visits can begin, for everyone’s mental and physical wellbeing. Residents in care homes have to be living, not just existing “

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