Friday, 28 August 2015

Rabbits for Equal Pay

Image result for bugs bunny + rabbit hunting images

I was intrigued by this BBC article on 'rights for rabbits' campaigners who have taken their case for bunnies to enjoy greater legal protection to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

The reason being that the Scottish Parliament has had very little to say about the fight for equal pay which has been raging in Scottish councils for the post 10 years, despite the presence of scores of politicians who regard themselves variously as 'socialists', 'feminists', and committed 'trade unionists'.

"How can that possibly be?", I ask myself.

Because the fight for equal pay is a really big issue, one that MSPs of all parties should be queuing up to support, but so far at least I've not heard a 'cheep' out of Holyrood over the scandal in North Lanarkshire, for example, where 500 GMB members are still fighting their own union as well as the Labour-run council for their rights to equal pay.

Now I know it's not the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament to resolve problems created by others including Scotland's local councils and the trade unions, which are independent bodies, of course. 

So the Scottish Parliament does not have the ability to step in and bang heads together, but what politicians and government ministers can do is speak up loud and clear and say what they think when some other body has made a complete hash of things.

For example, only a few years ago a Christmas saving club "Farepak" went bust leaving families in Scotland facing an average loss of £400 and in some cases up top £2,000.

I'm sure readers recall that Scottish politicians of all parties were never off the airwaves denouncing the scandal and demanding action to put things right, yet the sums of money being 'lost' by GMB members in North Lanarkshire are much greater, of course.

Before I leave the 'rabbits require rights campaign' I have a confession to make: many years ago our family had a lovely bunny called Blackie if I recall correctly, but after a while the novelty of cleaning out the rabbit hutch wore off and Blackie was released into some local fields, as if our domesticated bunny had any chance of surviving in the wild.  

So I, for one, will be happy to sign the RRRS petition, not least as an act of contrition for poor old Blackie.

But maybe something similar would be a useful tactic to consider in forcing the issue on to the political agenda of the Scottish Parliament which would, no doubt, put the local MSPs on the spot, especially those like Elaine Smith and Michael McMahon who have close trade union links.  

Rabbit rights call could get second hearing next month

BBC Highlands & Islands

Image caption Rabbits Require Rights Scotland are seeking tighter controls on the sales of rabbits

Campaigners hope a petition calling for greater legal protection for pet rabbits will get a second hearing in Holyrood next month.

Rabbits Require Rights Scotland's 2,044-name petition was first discussed by MSPs earlier this year.

It calls for rabbits to be given the same protection as cats and dogs as well as regulations on breeding and the minimum size of housing.

Earlier this month, it emerged hundreds of pet rabbits have been abandoned.

The Scottish SPCA said it rescued 728 rabbits in 2014 and had taken 550 into care so far this year.

'Like sweeties'

Rabbits Require Rights Scotland described rabbits as the "UK's most neglected pet".

A spokeswoman said: "As the law currently stands there are no enforceable welfare protection available to rabbits.

"They are too easily sold and too easily discarded. For want of a better word, they are sold like sweeties."

Image captionThe Scottish SPCA has been dealing with dozens of unwanted pet rabbits

The spokeswoman added: "We will return to parliament for the second hearing of our petition sometime in September or October when the new session dates are announced.

"We've had some good feedback from other welfare bodies in support of our aims, so it is hoped that some level of the improvements we have called for will be addressed."

Parliament and Equal Pay

I caught a bit of First Minister's Questions (FMQs) at the Scottish Parliament before the Christmas recess, the first encounter between Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister, and Kezia Dugdale, deputy leader of Scottish Labour acting as stand-in for Jim Murphy who is still a Westminster MP.

In any event the debate between the two MSPs was a unedifying affair with Kezia demanding that 'something be done' about of falling oil prices and the impact this was having on jobs in Scotland's oil industry.   

Now the price of oil goes up and down over time and, at the moment, there is a glut of oil on the world market so the cost per barrel has been dropping like a stone, just as in previous boom times the price of oil has gone through the roof.

I've known lots of oils workers down the years and they do a tough, sometimes dangerous,  job which is normally very well paid, partly because they spend so much time working away from home, but that's the nature of the industry.

I checked The Financial Times (FT) to see what's currently happening to jobs and wages in the North Sea after the oil price slump and one recent development is that the Wood Group, one of the UK's leading oil service companies, has announced a pay cut for its contractors and frozen the salaries of its British employees.

In other words, something similar to what's been happening to public sector employees in the UK over the past 5 years because of public sector pay restraint, a policy supported by the Labour Party as well as the Coalition Government, of course.  

The most recent annual survey of for North Sea workers (conducted by Hays and Oil and Gas Job Search) states that average wages were $94,200 in 2013, up from $87,100 the previous year. Before the recent oil price crash some experts were warning that skill shortages in the sector could lead to North Sea oil workers' wages increasing by 15% in 2014, taking average wage levels well beyond $100,000.

So the guys are very well paid by most people's standards and what they're experiencing at the moment is one of the industry's periodic slumps which always have and always will happen from time to time despite the apocryphal warnings from the RMT union's Jake Molloy who was reported in the FT as saying:

"This could be the tip of the iceberg. This could be the beginning of a major, major threat {to jobs}."  

The RMT's comments were referred to with approval by Kezia Dugdale in her first question to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, but as I listened to their exchange I wondered why this senior Labour Party figure had nothing to say about a much bigger issue - the scandal of equal pay in Labour-led North Lanarkshire Council where the problems with the Council's local pay arrangements are 'man made', not the product of the ups and downs of a global oil market.

Now you can't criticise the RMT for standing up for its members, even if the union looks at what's going on from a narrow point of view, but I think you can expect politicians in the Scottish Parliament, and elsewhere to stand up for low paid public sector workers who are being let down by employers like North Lanarkshire Council.

Later on in this session of FMQs a Labour MSP from North Lanarkshire, Elaine Smith, asked the First Minister a question, the substance of which I can't recall although I do remember that it had nothing to do with equal pay or the appalling behaviour of her own Labour-led council.

 Says it all, really.

NLC Update (27/08/15)

GMB members in North Lanarkshire have organised another meeting to discuss their ongoing campaign for equal pay, but this time some senior officials of the union have agreed to attend which is a big step forward, if you ask me.   

The details of the meeting are as follows:

Date - Tuesday 1st September 2015

Time - 3.30pm to 5.00pm

Venue - Kirkshaws Social Club, Coatbridge, ML5 5DN

I've been invited along as well and if I can juggle commitments in my diary, I certainly hope to drop by next Tuesday afternoon.

NLC Update (26/08/15)

Well the GMB members meeting in North Lanarkshire yesterday was certainly a lively affair with well over 40 people turning up, at only a few days notice.

The discussion focused on three main areas:
  • How did GMB members get into the mess they find themselves in today?
  • What is the current position in relation to North Lanarkshire Council and the Employment Tribunals?
  • What can members do if things drag on and the GMB fails to successfully amend their members claims, so that they can be settled on the same basis as the other claimants from Action 4 Equality Scotland, Fox and Partners Solicitors, Unison and Unite? 
In response to the invitation I issued on the blog site, two GMB representatives came along tot he Kirkshaws Social Club: Paul Grieve, a local union organiser and Douglas Japp, a solicitor with Digby Brown.

Paul had virtually nothing to say, of substance anyway, and although Douglas made a better fist of trying to answer people's questions and comments, it's still not clear why the GMB did not act much sooner to abandon the restriction on their members' claims to only 3 years.

So while Douglass was able to explain that the original '3 year' decision was down to a national policy of the GMB, there was no information about when this decision was made, who made the decision (within the GMB) and why the decision wasn't quickly reversed when the GMB realised that all the other claimant groups were challenging the very basis of North Lanarkshire's pay arrangements and the Council's job evaluation scheme.

As you would expect, many of those present had very strong opinions about the handling of their equal pay claims and made their views known to Douglas and Paul who agreed to take people's concerns back to GMB headquarters in Glasgow.

For me there are three key points to emerge from the meeting:
  • What is a realistic timescale for bringing this whole business to a conclusion?
  • Will the GMB give union members in North Lanarkshire a guarantee to compensate them for their financial loss, if the GMB fails to amend their claims from 3 years - to 8 years and 3 months?
  • If GMB members are left 'holding the baby' for the GMB's mistakes, can they sue their own union and its advisers over the handling of their equal pay claims?
I don't know the answer to the first two points, but if the GMB does not step up to the plate and accept responsibility for what's happened, then I would say union members need to consider other ways of holding their own union to account.  

Three final points.

The first is that senior GMB officials have finally agreed (after all this time) to attend a GMB members meeting in North Lanarkshire - I'll post the details on the blog site and an happy to go along as well, if I'm invited.

The second is that the timing (5pm) of yesterday's meeting did not suit the backshift GMB members, so if people want to arrange a meeting a little later in the evening I'm happy to attend.

Thirdly, there was some confusion surrounding the venue of yesterday's meeting at the Kirkshaws Social Club and quite a few GMB members who wanted to be present were told that there was no meeting taking place, apparently. So my apologies for that but there will be a 'next time', I suspect. 

Eyes That Can't See

Image result for four eyes but can't see + images

The Sunday Herald's political editor, Tom Gordon, reported on my complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) at the weekend.

Seems like the GMB's Harry Donaldson could think of nothing more intelligent to say than, "..if we and when we receive a complaint, it will be dealt with...." but why should it take a formal complaint to make the union sit up and take notice of an issue that is as plain as the nose on your face.

Because GMB members in Scotland are clearly not well served by a policy that seeks to recruit people as union organisers - only if they are willing to act as 'ambassadors' for the Labour Party.  

So let's see what the EHRC in Scotland has to say although regular readers will be aware that the close relationship between Labour-run councils and Labour-supporting unions has often proved controversial in the long battle for equal pay.   

As Gene Hackman's said in one of my favourite movies, "What's got four eyes, but can't see?"

Mississippi, of course.  

Union under fire for saying employees must campaign for Labour

GMB accused of discriminating against non-Labour supporters
Exclusive by Tom Gordon

ONE of Scotland’s biggest unions has been accused of a “flagrant breach” of equality law after saying potential employees must campaign for the Labour party.

The GMB, which has 60,000 members north of the border, has now been reported to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in Scotland.

Mark Irvine, an adviser on equal employment rights and former union official, complained after GMB Scotland advertised for two organisers “to develop the membership of the union”.

The main duties for the junior posts were organising, recruiting and motivating union members, and representing them in pay and employments disputes.

The advert boasted “The GMB is an equal opportunities employer”.

However it also said the staff would be expected to “take part in election campaigns in support of Labour candidates” and “increase the membership of the Labour party”.

Irvine, who helps win backpay for female council workers underpaid on gender grounds, said the need to back Labour discriminated against people on the basis of their political beliefs.

Although the trade union movement gave birth to Labour a century ago, many union members support other parties, with around 16,000 union members in the SNP alone.

Irvine raised the job advert in a letter to GMB general secretary Sir Paul Kenny last month.

“In my view the requirement that GMB job applicants must be willing to work in the interests of the Labour party must be discriminatory because it must exclude people who actively support other political parties, eg SNP or Greens” he wrote.

After Kenny failed to reply, Irvine lodged a formal complaint on Friday with the EHRC, which enforces equality legislation to ensure employers do not discriminate on “religion or belief”.

In his complaint, Irvine said: “As a former trade union official myself, latterly as Unison's Head of Local Government in Scotland, I fail to see how the GMB can legitimately insist that potential candidates for a non-specialist job such as Union Organiser must be willing to work in the interests of the Labour Party.

“To my mind this job criterion specified by the GMB is a flagrant breach of UK equality legislation which makes it unlawful to deny a potential employee a job because they do not share their prospective employer's political beliefs.”

Irvine told the Sunday Herald: “While the GMB could legitimately argue that its political officer in Scotland is exempt from the rules because he has to be a Labour party member to carry out a significant part of his job, the same cannot be said for GMB organisers.”

A GMB organiser in London recently won an employment tribunal against the union on the basis that he was wrongly dismissed for being “too left wing”.

The GMB successfully appealed, however the appeal judge agreed that a person’s political beliefs were protected just as much as their religious beliefs under employment law.

Harry Donaldson, the general secretary of GMB Scotland, said: “We’re well aware of this individual’s continual push for coverage in the media. Our position is clear: if and when we receive a complaint it will be dealt with, but as yet we have not.”

Glasgow South West MP Chris Stephen, chair of the SNP’s trade union group, said: “The Trade Union movement in Scotland is strengthened by its political diversity, and advertising a job explicitly based on party membership, whether illegal or not, certainly seems naive in today's world. The most effective Trade Unions engage with all political parties."

An EHRC spokesman said: “There are circumstances where discriminating against a person, or restricting their access to work, on the basis of their political beliefs could be unlawful.”

Angry Mobs

The decision of Scotland's police chief, Sir Stephen House, to stand down from his join nine months early suggests that the 'angry mob' has had its way although the reality is that at his age and length of service the chief constable could have gone at anytime.

But what bothers me is that many of those calling for Stephen House's head would never in a million years expose themselves to the same exacting standards by which they have been judging the chief constable's performance.

For example, a Police Scotland survey is reportedly critical of the organisation's management style albeit the details have yet to be published yet, so the story is based totally on internal leaks and speculation.  

By way of comparison I remember when Unison was created back in 1993, an internal survey suggested that around 40% of staff felt 'bullied' by the merger of three trade unions (Cohse, Nalgo and Nupe) into one, yet the senior management of Unison put these claims down to a campaign led by a disgruntled minority who had lost out in one way or another.

What's for sure is that none one at the top resigned or stood down. 

Another example, is the failure of Police Scotland to respond promptly to the car crash on the M9 which claimed two lives, but I've yet to hear how Stephen House can be held responsible for the behaviour of an experienced senior officer who failed to log the call on the force's computer system.

Yet the fact is that this experienced and as yet unidentified police officer is still in his job and is presumably being defended by the Police Federation, the police trade union.  

If the same standards had been applied to the Glasgow bin lorry crash which claimed six lives, the chief executive of Glasgow City Council would have resigned long ago over the failures within the Council's human resources department which did not seek references from the bin lorry driver, Harry Clarke.

Likewise with the politicians who have been calling for House's head, notably Labour and the Lib Dems. Both parties suffered near wipe-out in Scotland at the 2015 general election and yet they have the brass neck to lecture others on how to do their jobs.

So I wish Stephen House well because he has spoken out on controversial issues and has stood up for common sense policing, for example by criticising defence lawyers who argue that the victims of terrible crimes happen to be in the 'wrong place at the wrong time'.    

Sir Stephen House to quit as Police Scotland chief constable
sir stephen house
The chief constable of Police Scotland is to stand down from his post at the start of December, he has confirmed.

Sir Stephen House, 57, said the time was right to take up new challenges after 35 years as a police officer.

He has been under severe pressure over the three days it took his officers to respond to a fatal crash on the M9.

He has also been criticised over armed officers being put on routine patrol and his force's policies on stopping and searching juveniles.

Sir Stephen had previously indicated he was likely to stand down when his four-year contract expired in September of next year.

Confirming the details of his departure at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) in Stirling, he outlined some of the successes of Police Scotland, including the new national approach to domestic abuse and sexual attack.

'Recruit my successor'

He added: "As the leader of a national organisation that provides a vital public service 24 hours every day of the year, there can never be a convenient time to move on, but after nearly 35 years as a police officer and the last nine as a chief constable in Scotland, I believe the time is right for me to take up a new challenge and thereby allow the process to recruit my successor to begin.

"Much has been achieved since the creation of Police Scotland and I firmly believe that Scotland is better served for it. Not only in managing the changes brought about by reform and substantial financial cuts, but most importantly in the public service we provide."

He acknowledged: "There remains a lot to do, but knowing as I do the quality of our officers and staff, I am confident that the challenges will be met.

"The dedication and commitment of our people is truly outstanding and I know will serve Scotland well in the future under a new chief constable."

Image captionSir Stephen confirmed details of his departure at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority

Image captionPolice Scotland was forced to backtrack on its policy of allowing armed officers to respond to routine incidents

Paying tribute to the chief constable, SPA chairman Vic Emery said he firmly believed that Sir Stephen had been "the right individual at the right time" to lead Police Scotland through the "combined challenges of major reorganisation, fundamental reform, and reduced funding".

He added: "Sometimes the public don't always see the real person behind the public profile. Steve has always been a constable first, and a chief officer second."

Sir Stephen, who was previously the chief constable of Strathclyde Police, oversaw the complex amalgamation in 2013 of Scotland's eight regional police forces into the single national force, which is the second largest in the UK.

Since then, he has overseen successes such as the policing of last year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

But he was criticised over his decision to allow armed officers to attend routine incidents, as well as the force's policy on stopping and searching juveniles.

The force is also under pressure over its response to the M9 crash in July in which John Yuill and his partner Lamara Bell died after it took three days for officers to respond to reports of their car leaving the road near Stirling.

Profile: Sir Stephen House

When Sir Stephen House was appointed the first chief constable of the new Police Service of Scotland he was credited with being the best candidate because of his "impressive track record of leadership, partnership working and delivery".

Those were the words of the then Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who believed Sir Stephen would make "an outstanding" chief constable.

Before the 57-year-old took on the role in October 2012 - seven months before Police Scotland came into being - he already had an impressive CV of public service both north and south of the border.

Sir Stephen's police career began 34 years ago when he joined Sussex Police.

He was a uniform officer between 1981 and 1988, initially working for Sussex and then later transferring to Northamptonshire Police followed by West Yorkshire Police.

Sir Stephen's first taste of high command came in 1998 when he joined Staffordshire Police as an assistant chief constable, initially in territorial policing and later in crime and operations.

After three years in that job he joined the Metropolitan Police Service as a deputy assistant commissioner.

Despite what he described as his "estuary English" accent, Sir Stephen is Scottish, having been born in Glasgow.

Police Scotland officers are being investigated by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner over the death of Sheku Bayoh, who died in police custody after being arrested following an incident in Kirkcaldy on 3 May.

And there have also been reports that Police Scotland was one of two unnamed UK forces accused by a watchdog of spying on journalists and their sources.

Sir Stephen had faced calls to resign from opposition politicians in the wake of the controversies, but Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has always insisted she had full confidence in him.

Image caption It took Police Scotland three days to investigate reports that John Yuill and Lamara Bell's car had crashed off the M9 near Stirling

Image captionAn investigation is being carried out into the death of Sheku Bayoh in police custody

Responding to his announcement, Ms Sturgeon thanked Sir Stephen for his "years of dedicated service" with both Strathclyde Police and Police Scotland.

She said: "Strong policing has ensured recorded crime is at a 40-year low. Sir Stephen provided leadership at a crucial time and his strong focus on tackling violent crime made a major contribution to that achievement.

"Reform of policing in Scotland was absolutely vital to sustain the policing upon which Scotland's communities depend and Sir Stephen's contribution to that was invaluable."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who has been a fierce critic of the single force, said Sir Stephen's departure would not by itself solve the "deep-rooted problems" in Police Scotland and that the force needed a "fresh start".

He added: "Ultimately the SNP government must accept responsibility for this chaos. They rammed through the centralisation of our police service despite warnings. They set up the toothless Scottish Police Authority. They appointed the chief constable."

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said Sir Stephen was "bowing to the inevitable" by resigning, and said it was "essential that his replacement is up to the task of tackling the problems that have afflicted the single force since its inception".

Scottish Labour's justice spokesman, Graeme Pearson - who was formerly a senior police officer - said the process of reforming Police Scotland "can begin now if the SNP government are willing to take responsibility for their mistakes".

'Impressive results'

But the Scottish Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said Sir Stephen had made a "monumental contribution" to policing.

The federation's chairman, Brian Docherty, said: "He has delivered the most significant public sector restructuring in a generation against a background of a brutal austerity agenda.

"He has delivered some very impressive policing results on crimes of violence, particularly domestic violence. I have little doubt that history will prove to be kinder to Sir Stephen than the current commentary which at times has been vindictive and deeply personal.

"Many people feared that a single police service could be susceptible to political interference and those who have called for the head of the chief constable as some form of trophy need to consider that."

Niven Rennie, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, said on Twitter that the first chief constable of Police Scotland "was always going to be on a hiding to nothing".

He also said that critics of the force should "recognise the great achievements of Police Scotland in its formative years not concentrate on the mistakes."

Mr Rennie said Sir Stephen's decision would give the force a chance to rebuild on a "crazy" two years, and that he believed a "change in style will help".

Scotland's Gain (03/011/12)

I meant to write something about the public comments made by Strathclyde's police chief - Stephen House - back in December 2010 in the wake of the Reammon Gormley murder trial.

Reamonn Gormley was on his way home one night after watching a football match on TV in Blantyre - when he was set upon by two thugs who were both carrying dangerous weapons.

For refusing to hand over what his attackers wanted - Reamonn was murdered in cold blood - stabbed three times, once in the neck - before his killers ran off.

The thug who wielded the fatal blow - Daryn Maxwell - was defended in court by an expensive  lawyer - Iain Duguid QC - who submitted a plea in mitigation on his client's behalf.

In which he stated that the murder was "street robbery gone wrong" and that - Reamonn Gormley "was in the wrong place at the wrong time".

But Strathclyde's police chief - Stephen House - spoke out and criticised these comments in a letter to The Herald newspaper in which he said:

"You included comments attributed to Ian Duguid, QC, who was Maxwell's defence advocate. I find both quotes to be incredibly insensitive and concerning.

I realise that it is the role of the defence advocate to show their clients in the best light, but to do so in a way which seeks to shift blame from the offender to the victim is something that I'm sure the public will struggle to understand.

Mr Duguid described the murder as a 'street robbery gone wrong'. This seems to me to suggest that it was just a robbery. Let us not forget that these two men went out armed to carry out their crime.

To try to explain their behaviour by suggesting they were only really looking to carry out a robbery is insensitive in the extreme.

Mr Duguid also suggests that Mr Gormley, the wholly innocent victim, was "in the wrong place at the wrong time". I know that this is a commonly used phrase, but I cannot help but think that this comment suggests that Mr Gormley made some kind of mistake that night.

Mr Gormley was walking home from a night out with friends. He did nothing wrong."

Now Strathclyde's top cop attracted some criticism himself for speaking out - some members of the legal profession said at the time that it was not his role to criticise the conduct of the trial - or the defence plea in mitigation.

But in my view Stephen House spoke common sense - the police know well the kind of thugs who murdered Reamonn Gormley - because they deal with them on a regular basis - often as repeat and violent offenders.

People who take knives out on the street must be prepared to use them - otherwise what are their weapons for?

In this case the crime was planned and premeditated - and the weapons were carried for a purpose - not as a fashion statement.

The problem with leaving public debate around the law solely to lawyers - is that important issues often get discussed in a lofty, remote, even superior way.

As if the practice of law is an arcane, academic, wholly 'professional' pursuit - not something that affects ordinary people and the way we lead our lives.

A plea of mitigation is one thing - using sophistry to try and stand reality on its head - quite another.

Daryn Maxwell received a minimum sentence of 19 years for the murder of Reamonn Gormley - while his fellow attacker - Barry Smith - got 8 years for culpable homicide - presumably because he did not actually strike the fatal blow.

The truth is that without acting together these two cowards and bullies would never have attacked Reamonn Gormley in the first place - yet one may be out of jail in four years or so.

Stephen House was interviewed for the job of Commissioner of Metropolitan Police - but I take my hat off to him.

To my mind London's loss - is Scotland's gain.

Heads Must Roll! (14/07/15)

Image result for heads must roll + images

I suppose some kind of independent review was inevitable after the police in Scotland fail to investigate a car crash until three days after the event was first reported.

But as things stand the only fact we know is that the original call was taken by an experienced police officer who for some inexplicable reason failed to 'log' the incident on the police computer system.

Yet the officer concerned is apparently still on active duty while opposition politicians call loudly for heads to roll and for the chief constable, Stephen House, to consider his position.

Now please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall senior officials or Labour politicians volunteering to fall on their swords when serious failings in public services have been exposed in years gone by.

For example, Andy Burnham was Labour's health secretary at the time of the Mid Staffs NHS scandal where poor standards of patient care caused up to 1200 patients unnecessary deaths, but neither Andy Burnham or the local NHS chief, David Nicholson, resigned.

In fact David Nicholson went on to become chief executive for the whole of NHS England, before being awarded a knighthood by Her Majesty the Queen, while Andy Burnham is, of course, staring to become leader of the Labour Party.    

Scots police face review as crash victim dies

John Yuill and Lamara Bell were left lying in a crashed car for three days PA

By Georgie Keate - The Times

An urgent review of how Police Scotland handles calls from the public was ordered by ministers yesterday after a woman who was left for three days in a crashed car died in hospital.

Lamara Bell, 25, died from her injuries after the car in which she was travelling with her boyfriend, John Yuill, 28, crashed off the M9 in Stirlingshire.

Even though a member of the public reported the accident to police, the couple were found only three days later, when a second member of the public telephoned in.

Mr Yuill was pronounced dead at the scene, while Ms Bell was taken to hospital with severe injuries and dehydration. Now Michael Matheson, the justice secretary, has directed Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland to undertake an urgent review of police call handling.

“It is essential that answers are found quickly,” he said. “This independent review will provide the Scottish government with an accurate picture of capacity and capability at present, and clearly identify any issues so they can be promptly remedied.”

The announcement came after allegations that the officer who took the original call was not trained to use the computer system for call handling. Police Scotland said it could not “go into specifics” but said that all those who worked in its call centres “should be” properly trained.

Sir Stephen House, chief constable of Police Scotland, has admitted that a member of the public rang the non-emergency number 101 at 11.30am last Sunday and the call had not been logged. He apologised to the families of Ms Bell and Mr Yuill for the “individual failure in our service”.

Union chiefs at Unison have claimed that civilian staff cuts at Police Scotland’s call centres have led to more officers answering 101 and 999 calls since the country’s forces were merged in April 2013. There are concerns that the failures could be systemic.

“What this is about is that an experienced officer did not know how to work the system,” Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said. “It’s what an awful lot of my police sources have surmised and it’s what Unison have been warning about — where an inexperienced or inappropriate person is taking calls.

“Therefore, the way the chief constable implied on Friday that this was an isolated failure looks a bit hollow. The problem could be systemic.”

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner is also investigating the case. There will also be an examination of Police Scotland’s actions after Ms Bell and Mr Yuill were reported missing last Monday — the day after the first call about the crash and two days before they were found.

“The commissioner will also examine the robustness of Police Scotland’s missing person inquiry and look at why that was not linked with the information received in the call,” a spokesman said.

Ms Bell’s brother, Martin, announced her death yesterday after surgery failed to remove a blockage in her brain.

The previous day, he had written on Facebook that she was “going to go downhill”. He said: “You can start down at her toe and work your way up to her head and you will find a cut, bruise or broken bone on every part of her body.”

At 7am yesterday he wrote “My sister just passed away”. The Yuill family said that they were “devastated by the sad news this morning”.

Over the weekend Mr Bell said on Facebook that he wanted the police “to see how a huge error by a senior officer has absolutely devastated us”.