Failures of flood defences and SNP exposed by Storm Babet

Tuesday 31 October 2023

By Lucy Ashton

Storm Babet exposed the shortcomings of Scotland’s flood defences and the SNP’s indifference to rural Scotland, parliament will be told today (Wednesday).

The Scottish Conservatives will use their party business slot in Holyrood to focus on resilience and flooding in the wake of the storm, which caused death and destruction, particularly in Angus and the North East, as well as a repair bill that could reach £500 million.

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden MSP will highlight the toll Storm Babet – coupled with the wettest October on record – has taken on communities.

The North East region member insists SNP cuts to local government funding have hampered councils’ ability to protect their residents and that the “inadequate response” of ministers to Babet is the latest example of rural communities being “let down by this failing SNP-Green government”.

He is calling on the SNP to ensure that there is better coordination on flood prevention and mitigation for future extreme weather events.

Maurice Golden MSP, left, said: “Storm Babet has left a terrible trail of destruction in its wake – there was widespread damage to infrastructure, families were forced to evacuate from their homes and, tragically, people lost their lives.

“The impact on the North East of Scotland in particular has been utterly devastating.

“Flood defences were found wanting during the storm and, after it, we saw an inadequate response from the SNP Government. Angela Constance’s statement to parliament was full of warm words but no new announcements – just a rehash of existing initiatives.

“We must see urgent action now – both in dealing with the aftermath of the storm and to mitigate the damage of future extreme weather events.

“Humza Yousaf must properly support stricken areas. Repairs and rehousing will cost millions in the months ahead – yet Scotland’s local authorities are already looking at gaping holes in their budgets thanks to brutal SNP cuts. Local authorities have had their budgets hollowed out by the SNP and this has hindered their ability to prepare for floods.

“The Scottish Conservatives are committed to a fair funding deal for councils, and our Communities Bill would introduce this. We would also work to build better local resilience and coordination with emergency responders to prepare for future extreme weather, as well as setting up local Climate Resilience Funds.

“It’s little wonder people feel neglected by the SNP-Green government. On a host of issues – broken promises on dualling trunk roads and broadband roll-out, agriculture uncertainty and botched energy policy – rural communities have been repeatedly let down by this failing SNP-Green government.”

The Scottish Conservative motion reads: That the Parliament recognises the severe impact of Storm Babet on communities across Scotland and is greatly saddened by the resulting loss of life and widespread damage to property and infrastructure; further recognises the serious incidents of flooding across many communities, particularly in the north east across Aberdeenshire, Angus, Dundee and Perth & Kinross, and which saw hundreds of people evacuated from their homes; commends the efforts of emergency services, local authorities and others to preserve life, support the most vulnerable and restore services as quickly as possible; is concerned to hear reports of limited supplies of anti-flood measures in some areas and believes there is a need to review how local government resources are coordinated to support areas most in need; is concerned by the potential for more frequent and more intense extreme weather events fuelled by climate change; recognises the need to consider what further adaptation and mitigation options are available to minimise impacts from future extreme weather events, and calls on the Scottish Government to ensure affected communities continue to be supported during the clean-up and repair effort.

Scotland has just experienced its wettest October on record. This month is set to go down in the record books as the wettest October ever in some parts of Scotland, with some spots suffering almost a foot of rain. Heavy rainfall events took place on the weekend of October 7 and 8, followed by ‘unprecedented’ downpours during the previous weekend during the lethal Storm Babet. (The Scotsman, 30 October 2023, link).

The weather during the past two months has been atrocious in Scotland.

Heavy rainfall in early October caused extensive flooding in Perth, Aviemore, and Argyll. On 9 October there were severe flood warnings in place for Perth and Aviemore and approximately 2,000 tonnes of flood-related debris fell on the A83 at Rest and Be Thankful and elsewhere in Argyll and Bute due to flood-related landslides. (BBC News, 9 October 2023, link).

Storm Babet has caused flooding and extensive damage across the country. Angus and Aberdeenshire were badly hit by floodwater on Saturday 21 October. In Brechin, Angus, the River South Esk burst its banks and flooded dozens of homes. (BBC News, 21 October 2023, link).

Storm Babet could be one of the costliest weather events in Scottish history. The repair bill could reach up to £500 million. (The Courier, 22 October 2023, link).

Angela Constance’s statement to Parliament on 25 October offered nothing new. Angela Constance addressed Parliament in response to the floods, but her statement was merely a rehash of existing programmes. The statement also failed to address how SNP cuts to council budgets will impact their ability to prepare against future flood. (Official Report, 25 October 2023, link).

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