How politics works: Weather hysteria

I have closely followed the news coverage of the weather in recent weeks. It has become a special topic – what with being stuck in the house for chunks of the time on account of the bad weather. Anyhow, my Newsnight Scotland transcript was fairly representative of Newsnight scotland coverage for the week after. Following the example of the Scottish television stations, radio networks and newspapers in harrying Stewart Stevenson to the point of resignation through personally blaming him for: (a) heavy snow; (b) people going out and travelling on motorways despite warnings from police not to; (c) people not watching weather forecasts; (d) not apologising for people driving (and then getting stuck) when they’ve been told not to drive; (e) not making the snow melt quicker; and (f) not being able to prevent journalists in Glasgow getting to work despite encountering about 1/6 of the snow faced by people 20 miles away on that day (and despite having had a small fraction of the cumulative snow faced by people elsewhere in the country over the previous week) I have been waiting for similar treatment for Transport secretary Philip Hammond (not MD from Private Eye, the other one). Hammond has argued, clearly unreasonably, that bad weather happens, that bad weather happens in other places too and they’re stuck, that sometimes people ignore advice and go out and travel when they’re told not to, and that the people who clear and grit our roads are doing their best to cope in very difficult circumstances.  Or that new transport minister Keith Brown (no, me neither) should resign because Edinburgh has been hit by very bad weather after Aberdeen was hit by very bad weather earlier in the week. But nothing. There’s been as little in the way of media calls for resignations as there has been snow in my immediate area over the past forty eight hours.

I am therefore trying to work out what the difference is.

I think it is something to do with the lack of snow affecting BBC Scotland journalists getting to work in Glasgow or flying away for Christmas from Glasgow airport. The moment they’re hit the media will really start gunning for the transport ministers.

Meanwhile it makes the forced resignation of Stewart Stevenson – which came after sustained media criticism and talk of motions of confidence and the like from opposition politicians who appear not to worry about setting a very dangerous precedent for the extent of ministerial responsibility in Holyrood – look ever more ridiculous and unjustifiable.

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About loveandgarbage

I watch the telly and read when not doing law stuff and plugging my decade and a half old unwatched Edinburgh fringe show.
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6 Responses to How politics works: Weather hysteria

  1. lenathehyena says:

    Media coverage has been hysterical and politically driven. From what I can see of snow around Glasgow and heard from friends, well there isn’t very much – but idiots talk about whiteouts on the M8. No, it’s snowing. Snow is white. That is not a whiteout. Go into the higher hills and see what a whiteout is.

    Here in Aberdeenshire the snow is constant and deep this year. We’ve been under snow for around three weeks. We dig out, more falls, we keep digging. You have to. It’s no-ones fault. Short of a Transport Minister turning up with his snow shovel don’t think he can do much to fix our difficulties – and there are difficulties – getting into shops which are miles away along thick ice and snow takes a lot of courage or foolhardiness. What we don’t do here is jump into a car in our shirtsleeves and assume all will be well. Cars are stuffed full of grit, shovels, sacks, food, water, waterproof clothing etc so if we do get stuck we can take care of ourselves. All the talk of emergency supplies ready to go out to feckless motorists is laughable. I imagine these supplies will be thin on the ground up here so we’ll stock up as usual.

    As for Transport Minister resignations – well the real choice, folks is to assume winters will be like this into the future and cough up more taxes to pay for employing more staff and the cost of equipment to clear roads as far as possible. It is not so long we all were musing about how we don’t get the winters we used to – well maybe we do. There’s as simple equation between funding and provision of services. As I type this it is snowing hard here, around a foot of it has fallen over the past 24 hours – on top of what was there before. I’m not looking for the head of any Minister who is powerless to turn off the elements. What I might be looking for, however, is for the head of Scotrail to be stuck on a pole – somewhere around Wick might be amusing – for failing to run a proper national transport service. Scotrail is crap and should not have the franchise.

    Finally a slap on the back for the guys working day and night in the gritters and snow ploughs. Great work – we’re right behind you.

    • I live in the Falkirk area. We had school closures and about twice to three times as much snow as Edinburgh area (up to today – we’ve escaped the last batch). Edinburgh had appreciably more than Glasgow. And having friends up in Stonehaven I am conscious we have had very little in comparison with the cumulative snowfall up in Aberdeenshire. But we stocked up the freezer and our cupboards (having had 3 weeks of disruption this year); didn’t travel and worked from home where we could; if we have travelled packed anticipating trouble &c. And I’ve seen the main roads here kept clear within a few hours of heavy snowfalls; gritted thereafter and doing their best in really difficult circumstances. The reaction of the media to all of this (to look for someone to blame for stuff completely outwith human control) is sad. And I’m not sure that I like what it says about our media or society.

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  3. Indy says:

    The Monday that all the snow fell over Glasgow (and caught drivers unaware on the M8) was really bad. I’m not saying that it was as bad as what happens in the north in terms of the weather – but it was bad in terms of the numbers of people affected and the impact on the traffic infrastructure. It was the first time I can ever recall that all the buses, as well as all the trains, were cancelled. You may say so what, but it was a serious situation. Many if not most people who were at work would have travelled there by public transport – I don’t know exactly how many but it would be tens of thousands across the city who had to walk home, in my case I had around a 6 mile walk which was OK but others had a lot further to travel – and if you are not all that fit it’s not ideal. It was lucky that it was the second week of bad weather as people were dressed appropriately and had proper footwear etc. It would have been really difficult if it had just happened out of the blue and people did not have their wellies on but had to trudge home through the snow wearing their normal work shoes. I would hope the lesson that has been learned – if we are faced with that situation again people should not be allowed to get in their cars. It was the traffic gridlock caused by motorists that meant the council’s gritters etc were unable to get through. In such circumstances they should keep the roads clear and put on extra buses, while those who can walk walk.

    • Stephen says:

      I was stuck on a bus on the M80 for about 7 hours that night. I was mad at the guy after that.

      I do concede, however, he didn’t actually make it snow.

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