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UNFIT AUTHORITY: Chair of Scottish Police Authority “is not fit to continue on any public board” – says former SPA board member in evidence to Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee scrutiny of Police watchdog

Former SPA member Moi Ali – SPA Chair Flanagan not fit on any public board THE CHAIR of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is under pressure to resign after heavy criticism from MSPs and former SPA Board member Moi Ali – who gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee (PAPLS) earlier this week.

Andrew Flanagan – appointed by the Scottish Government to run the accident prone Scottish Police Authority was described at the hearing on Thursday as “…not fit to continue on any public board, because he clearly does not observe public sector values” .

The hard hitting criticism came from former SPA Board member Moi Ali, who was invited to appear before MSPs after Flanagan had and others from the Police Watchdog had been accused at a previous PAPLS hearing of being run – by Flanagan – as a Kremlin style “secret society”.

In an exchange between Monica Lennon MSP and the former SPA board member, Ms Lennon asked: “Given the letter and what you have just said about feeling bullied, do you think that Andrew Flanagan is fit to continue as chair of the Scottish Police Authority?”

In her response, Moi Ali gave a highly critical account of the SPA Chair’s position, stating : “I am afraid that I do not. He is actually not fit to continue on any public board, because he clearly does not observe public sector values. However, the Scottish Police Authority is in a different league, because an oversight body that oversees policing has to set even higher standards of corporate governance, and he has clearly not observed those standards.”

Sharp exchanges between members of the Public Audit Committee and remaining SPA board members continued, with Alex Neil MSP commenting a “collective amnesia” appeared to be affecting several of the remaining SPA board members – including David Hume.

Hume sat on a Governance Review of the SPA, along with a former President of the Law Society of Scotland, the Chair of the Fire Service and others. Mr Hume is the former Chief Executive of Scottish Borders Council.

In 2012 it was reported David Hume took a £318,434 secret “too ill to work again” secret legal deal from the corruption ridden south of Scotland local authority.

Hume then joined the SPA while also working for the Scottish Government in a position on Children’s Hearings Scotland. Hume’s salary for the CHS work was funnelled through his consultancy company – Enlighten: David Hume Consulting Ltd.

Hume’s term as SBC Chief Executive span dark years at the local authority, financial scandals with the loss of £4million from the education budget, consistent allegations of a culture of backhanders at the council, and a lack of duty of care.

Scottish Borders Council had been caught up in the Miss X Rape scandal, resulting in a Scottish Parliament inquiry which heard the Council had covered up a years long case where a severely disabled woman who lived close to the Council’s St Boswell’s HQ was repeatedly raped and abused. It transpired Scottish Borders Council held a written admission of rape from the man a full two years before the case came to light. A man was later jailed for 10 years for the crimes.

Scottish Borders Council decided not to discipline any social worker, despite the fact that Miss X, a woman with learning disabilities, had been subjected to an appalling catalogue of violent physical and sexual abuse.

Stopping short of calling for Andrew Flanagan’s resignation, the acting Convener of the Public Audit Committee released a statement yesterday, following the release of a letter sent by the Public Audit Committee to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

The letter from the committee claimed the Chair of the Scottish Police Authority – Andrew Flanagan – appears to have “behaved inappropriately”.

In the letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson, the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee raised serious concerns about the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) Chair Andrew Flanagan.

Within the highly critical letter, the Committee said it appeared that Mr Flanagan treated former SPA board member Moi Ali in a manner that meant she felt “obliged to resign from the board”.

The letter also highlights the need to improve diversity on the SPA board, stating that the current board is “male-dominated” and in need of significant cultural change.

Acting Convener of the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee, Jackie Baillie MSP, said: “The Committee considers Mr Flanagan’s behaviour to be unacceptable on occasion. We would be extremely worried if potential board members were put off from applying to the SPA board because of this.”

“Clearly, the SPA has a lot of work to do in improving transparency at the very heart of the organisation – only then will it be able to gain public confidence.”

The SPA have refused to give further comment on that already given by Andrew Flanagan during the meeting of the Public Audit Committee on 20 April, more of which can be read here: POLICING SECRETS: Former Scottish Police Authority board member Moi Ali invited to give evidence at Holyrood, after MSPs accuse SPA bosses of running Police watchdog like Kremlin ‘secret society’

A glimpse into the world of the Scottish Police Authority’s board meetings features an excerpt from the SPA’s meeting of 15 December 2016, in which Board Member Moi Ali raised serious concerns about recommendations in relation to the publication on the day of board meetings and the holding of committees in private.

More on the discussion around the Governance Framework and input from Moi Ali who raised her concerns at the meeting can be viewed here:

Scottish Police Authority 15 December 2016 meeting Governance framework discussion

Ms Ali said she understood there were good reasons for those recommendations she had serious concerns about the lack of transparency around the two proposals, and that there were real drawbacks in relation to holding committee meetings in private.

Moi Ali said her concerns were two fold – the perception issue in relation to private meetings where it may be perceived that decisions may be taken behind closed doors, and that defacto decision may well be taken behind closed doors and that the process of decision making will be hidden and there is a danger in due course this will morph into a different kind of body in which effectively real decisions are taken albeit not in name but then come back to the SPA Board for rubber stamping rather than transparent debate.

Given there is a public interest in the way public bodies operate in Scotland, and that it is generally accepted among the media that the way in which the SPA is acting, does reflect a level of less than satisfactory operation across other public bodies in Scotland, excerpts of the meeting are reprinted to give readers a flavour of the exchanges as they were reported in the Official report issued by the Scottish Parliament.

Video footage of the PAPLS hearing follows:

Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee – Scottish Parliament: 11th May 2017

Former SPA Board member Moi Ali’s opening statement to the Public Audit & Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee is reprinted below, and is contained in the report issued by the PAPLS Committee published here: Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee 11 May 2017

Moi Ali: Good morning and thank you for the invitation. There is much in Andrew Flanagan’s evidence to the committee to take issue with but, even if his account is to be believed, it raises fundamental corporate governance issues. He knew my views on the governance framework but told the committee that he did not expect me to voice them in public. Should a chair suppress respectful, open debate? He wrote of the value of being seen to be a united board. Where, then, can alternative views be discussed? Can that be done only in private? That seems to me not a good option.

Andrew Flanagan told the committee that dissent is okay, but his letter to me talked about how sharing public disagreement was a resigning matter. Why should members, who have accepted collective responsibility, resign? That is not what the Government’s “On Board” guidance says. Do SPA members now feel constrained about expressing their views in public? Surely that is not good for governance.

The chair claims that his concern was that I did not communicate my intentions in advance. Should board members enter meetings with their minds made up and their position pre-shared? It is clear that doing so would turn board meetings into theatre and board members into actors. In my view, my removal from committees was a straightforward punishment for speaking out. The “On Board” guidance says that members must participate in committees and, equally, that the chair should lead by example. What kind of an example was removing me from committees?

A key question is whether Andrew Flanagan observed the nine principles of public life in Scotland, which include openness, honesty, leadership, respect and integrity. Was withholding Derek Penman’s letter from the board an act of integrity? The “On Board” guidance states:

“It is important that nothing you do or say … as a Board member tarnishes in any way the reputation of the … Board.”

Have Andrew Flanagan’s recent actions damaged the SPA? News reports some five months after the event talked of haemorrhaging confidence in the beleaguered, embattled, control-freak chair and of a Kremlin-style, crisis-hit, secret society board. None of those are my words; in fact, some of them are the committee’s words.

The chair’s style shapes board culture. Did the board ask to see the HMICS letter? Did the board ask why it had not been shared? Was there any discussion of why the chair believed that I should resign? Has any board member questioned Andrew Flanagan about his evidence to this committee? The “On Board” guidance states that board members “should not hesitate to challenge the Chair if you believe that a decision is wrong”.

Did the board members therefore believe that the decisions were right?

Before board members approved the governance framework, they were aware of key stakeholders’ concerns. First, they discussed Audit Scotland’s report, which said that SPA board and committee papers were sometimes insufficiently transparent and issued only on the day of the meeting and that some papers that were taken in private could have been heard in public. Audit Scotland questioned whether the SPA demonstrated

“high standards of corporate governance at all times including openness and transparency in decision making.”

Secondly, board members knew that the internal auditors had questioned whether the proposals complied with best practice. Thirdly, they knew that at least one local authority had raised issues and concerns. Fourthly, colleagues knew that the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, which created the SPA, says:

“The Authority must ensure that its proceedings and those of its committees and sub-committees are held in public”, and that “The Authority must try to carry out its functions in a way which is proportionate, accountable and transparent and which is consistent with any principle of good governance which appears to it to constitute best practice.”

I will summarise the position in a few points. The decision on private committees and last-minute publication of papers was contrary to statute and against the spirit of public service accountability; the board and the chief executive ignored Government guidance and stakeholders’ concerns; the chair was wrong in trying to suppress information and debate and in punishing me for taking a principled stance in public that was consistent with my well-known private view; and the board appears to have failed to challenge, given that three months after the initial decision, the board still felt no need to revise it.

Finally, the ensuing reputational damage has diminished public confidence in an important public body. Policing has to operate within the law and earn the confidence of the public, and so, too, does its oversight body.

Monica Lennon: I move on to a question for Moi Ali. Ms Ali, I have read the letter that Andrew Flanagan sent to you in December after you had raised two objections to part of the governance review. Do you think that that letter amounted to bullying?

Moi Ali: Yes, I believe that it did. A good leader, if he had any concerns, would surely speak to an individual—I think that we would all do that. It is hard to find another word to describe what a letter of that nature amounts to.

Monica Lennon: Do you feel quite sad about the experience? Do you feel that you have been driven out?

Moi Ali: Yes, I do. It has been a really horrendous experience. I am quite surprised that, five months after I received the letter, we are still talking about it. It has been a very difficult thing to live through, particularly as I have been outside all this, on my own, without access to materials. Because I was coming here today, I asked for information from the SPA—not private information, but information about meetings that I attended, information that I had previously held—and I was denied that. I have been very much pushed to the outside.

What has transpired as a result of the letter is exactly what I said would happen. I asked for a meeting with Andrew Flanagan almost immediately—on the first working day—after I received the letter, but for a variety of reasons that simply did not happen.

Monica Lennon: In a previous evidence session, I asked Andrew Flanagan whether he recognised that his conduct could be perceived as control freakery, and he did not accept that characterisation. In the time that I have been pursuing these questions, it has struck me that the SPA is very much a male-dominated organisation. Do you believe that he would have sent the same letter to a man?

Moi Ali: No, I do not think that he would. After I received it, I spoke to Iain Whyte, because he had expressed similar views to mine at the board meeting. The only difference was that he did not ask for his views to be minuted. In a way, the minuting is irrelevant because the meeting was live streamed and recorded for posterity, but he raised very similar issues. I think that his words were, “I share many of the concerns that Moi has raised.”

He pushed on the point that I pushed on about whether the proposals conformed with best practice. I asked Iain Whyte whether he had received a similar letter and he said that he had not.

Monica Lennon: Given the letter and what you have just said about feeling bullied, do you think that Andrew Flanagan is fit to continue as chair of the Scottish Police Authority?

Moi Ali: I am afraid that I do not. He is actually not fit to continue on any public board, because he clearly does not observe public sector values. However, the Scottish Police Authority is in a different league, because an oversight body that oversees policing has to set even higher standards of corporate governance, and he has clearly not observed those standards.

In sharp exchanges between PAPLS Committee member Alex Neil & those giving evidence, the report of the meeting publishes the following excerpt:

Alex Neil (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP): Mr Barbour, in your submission you said that, in relation to the selection of a new chief constable, you had written:

“My real worry is that interested parties identify a preferred candidate and try to influence the selection criteria accordingly.”

Will you be more specific about that?

Brian Barbour: It was a general fear of mine, and I was sharing my thoughts. That memo was written to the chair, who I had not yet met, on the day that I left the SPA. It was my thoughts on moving forward, including things that were good about the board and things that needed to be changed. In the memo I expressed concern that we had had regular intervention. It was a legitimate worry of mine that people might have been wanting to fit the criteria to the person, rather than the board being absolutely clear about the criteria for the right chief constable, and then going through the interview process to see who matched the criteria.

Alex Neil: Were the people you were referring to members of the board?

Brian Barbour: No, the people I was referring to were external influences outwith the board.

Alex Neil: So who are you talking about?

Brian Barbour: I am talking about people in Government, by which I mean both the political side and the official side.

Alex Neil: Were you talking about the civil service?

Brian Barbour: I was talking about the civil service and, potentially, the cabinet secretary, if he had expressed an interest. However, I was not privy to that kind of discussion.

Alex Neil: Do you have any evidence of that?

Brian Barbour: No, which is why I was expressing it as a worry. I was not saying that I had evidence to say that it was happening; I was being open with the chair and saying that it was a concern of mine.

Alex Neil: To be fair, in your submission you should have made it clear that you did not have any evidence and that it was just a feeling.

Brian Barbour: My submission has a verbatim extract from my email to the chair. It said “My real worry”, not “I have seen evidence”. I was very specific.

Alex Neil: However, worries that are publicly expressed should be evidence backed.

Brian Barbour: Indeed.

Alex Neil: Moi Ali, this morning you said that you had sought information for this meeting from the SPA that is publicly available, and you were refused that. What information was it, who refused it and why?

Moi Ali: To clarify, the information was not publicly available, but it was readily available to the SPA. In other words, it would not have been onerous for the SPA to produce it.

Alex Neil: But it was not marked “Private and confidential”.

Moi Ali: I do not know. It was information relating to private meetings, but they were meetings that I attended, so I was not asking for information that I would not have. I will give you examples: I wanted the October, November and December audit committee minutes. I also wanted the minutes of the members meetings—you have received extracts of them, but I wanted the full minutes. I wanted earlier drafts, because one had changed significantly. I had two earlier drafts, and they are very different from the one that you have.

I wanted those documents to get the complete picture. The reason that I was given for being refused them was that it was important to have a level playing field and for everybody to have the same information. I said that I understood that and was perfectly happy for everybody to have the same information.

In fact, my concern was that there was not a level playing field. My colleagues here have that information. I used to have it, because I had an SPA BlackBerry and iPad, and the information was on them. Because I no longer have them, I no longer have the information, yet my colleagues here have it. The argument about a level playing field was being used to deny me that information.

I was then told that, if my colleagues asked for it, I would be given it, but they would not ask for it because they have it. It was a catch-22 situation. As late as 6 o’clock last night, I received a further email saying that some of the information would be made available to me under a subject access request, which I have had to make, but obviously the SPA has 40 days in which to comply with that, so it is of no use to me for today’s meeting.

Alex Neil:The level playing field reason suggests that the SPA saw this as a bit of a bun fight between you and the other board members.

Moi Ali: I think that it feels that I am on the outside and therefore no longer have the same rights as my former colleagues have to information that I previously held. Regardless of whether you want to call that a bun fight or whatever, I am at a disadvantage. I have this one sheet of paper, and my colleagues have files of information.

Alex Neil: Who refused your request?

Moi Ali: The chief executive refused it.

Alex Neil: The chief executive refused it.

Moi Ali: I went via the Scottish Government, because when I asked for information on a previous occasion it was shredded after I made the request. On this occasion I went via Paul Johnston.

Alex Neil: Just stop there. Tell me about that. You made an earlier request for information—

Moi Ali: It was not to do with this committee, but on the only other occasion when I asked the SPA for information, the chief executive wrote to me—I am happy to produce the email—saying that the information had been securely disposed of.

Alex Neil: After you had made the request.

Moi Ali: After I had made the request.

Alex Neil: What was that information?

Moi Ali: I stress that this relates to the previous chair but the same chief executive. I had asked for information when the chair had said that I was a one-trick diversity pony.

Alex Neil:Was it the previous chairman who said that?

Moi Ali: Yes, it was the previous chair. He told me that it was not him saying that, but HMICS. When I said that I did not believe that that was the case or that HMICS would use that terminology and that I wanted to see the information, I was told that I could not have it. Therefore, I made a formal request.

Alex Neil:Was it written information?

Moi Ali:Yes—he had been reading from a piece of paper.

Alex Neil:Was it a minute of a meeting or something like that?

Moi Ali:It was part of the appraisal process. He read that phrase from a document. On three occasions, I asked for that information but was told that I could not have it. When I made a formal request, the chief executive wrote to me to say that the information had been securely disposed of.

Alex Neil:Who was the author of that disgusting statement?

Moi Ali:The previous chair. That was part of a whole process that has been dealt with, so I am not—

Alex Neil:How was it dealt with?

Moi Ali:I was not the only person with concerns—other board members had concerns, and the Scottish Government addressed the issue.

Alex Neil:How did the Government address it?

The Acting Convener:The chair is no longer the chair.

Moi Ali:That is right—thank you.

Alex Neil:Yes, but it was not over that issue that they are no longer the chair, was it?

Moi Ali:That was part of—

Alex Neil:It is quite serious for a chief executive of a public body to preside over such a situation. First of all, the original phraseology is clearly totally unacceptable. If you are saying that the chief executive had the information destroyed after—

Moi Ali:Sorry to interrupt, but I want to clarify that he did not destroy the information; rather, he wrote to me informing me that it had been destroyed. When I asked about who did that and when and why that had happened, I did not receive that information. I do not think that the chief executive destroyed the information. My point is that I had previously tried to get information that was important to me. Following that incident, I now knew what could happen to such information. I am happy to produce the email that said that the information had been disposed of.

Alex Neil:To be clear, are you saying that the information was destroyed after you have made the request?

Moi Ali:Yes, that is correct.

Alex Neil:I think that we need to get much more information on that situation, convener, because it is totally unacceptable. Even though it is a historical event, the same chief executive is in post, and if he is prepared to do that there is something serious in the organisation—

Moi Ali:I confirm that, to the best of my knowledge, he did not shred the information.

Alex Neil:He did not do it; nevertheless, he is the accountable officer.

Moi Ali:Yes.

Alex Neil:Clearly, that should not have happened. The chief executive refused you the information for today’s meeting.

Moi Ali:Yes, that is correct. I wrote to him via the Scottish Government, because it was aware of the previous issue. I spoke to Paul Johnston following the meeting here. He was aware of what had happened previously. Given what had happened before, I told him that I did not have confidence that I would be given the information that I needed. He told me that that was fine and I could make the request through him. Therefore, I wrote to him setting out the information that I required. He then made the request. Days went by and I did not receive the information. I was asking for straightforward information. I chased it up and was told that the chief executive was about to leave the office and that he would not be in on the following Monday. I said that it was urgent, because I was going to be working in London and that I needed the information to prepare. A lot of emails went to and fro.

The Scottish Government was involved—officials spoke to me and to the chief executive. They were supportive and helpful, but they were unable to secure the information that I needed. All that I have is the information that is in the public domain on this committee’s website. I do not have any of the information that I had asked for.

Alex Neil:What are the three non-executive directors going to do about this? The situation is clearly unacceptable.

George Graham:First, I reassure members and Moi Ali that I do not feel like I am in a bun fight with her. She is a former colleague and I very much respect her position—

Alex Neil:Clearly, the chief executive thinks that.

George Graham:I do not feel like I am in a bun fight. However, I do not feel that I have a host of information. I have my opening statement and that is it. Yesterday, the clerk to this committee put out a note saying, “No more information, please,” as there was so much coming in, so I suspect—

Alex Neil:Mr Graham, will you answer the question? What are you going to do about the refusal to give Moi Ali the information and about the fact that it appears that, in the previous incident, although the chief executive did not get rid of the paperwork himself, somebody in the organisation clearly did so after a request was made? That is very serious for an organisation that you have been telling us all morning is running well and is full of improvement, with everything being above board, open and transparent. It is anything but.

George Graham:I think that you made a number of assertions there that I have not made. I do not think that everything is running well and that everything is above board. I know that we can improve and get better, so please—

Alex Neil:What are you going to do about this?

George Graham:If you would let me answer, please, that would be helpful.

In relation to the information that Moi Ali asked for yesterday, all that I can do is research why the situation happened in the way that it did and see whether we can put that right. I do not know why that information was refused as I do not know enough about it, but I undertake to look into that and see.

On the historical issue that Moi Ali has raised, again, I do not know anything about that, but if she wishes to raise it again, we will of course explore it and make sure that that kind of thing does not happen. The historical situation that has been described does not reflect the way that we in the SPA would like our officials to deal with such information requests.

Alex Neil:Clearly, however, that appears to be happening. Obviously, you have to find out the other side of the story before you decide what you want to do about it, but I need a guarantee from the three non-executives that such things will not be allowed to happen with no investigation and no appropriate action, because it clearly breaches every rule and principle in the book on openness and transparency.

George Graham:I can certainly reassure you that we will explore the situation.

Iain Whyte:We will happily go back to the chief executive and question why that information has not been—

Alex Neil:Will you come back to us and tell us what is happening?

Iain Whyte:Yes, and I am sure that we can ask the chief executive to provide you with full details.

Alex Neil:Absolutely. I think that we should bring him back to the committee, actually.

Iain Whyte:My understanding is that the previous incident that Moi Ali mentioned was subject to a complaints process and that there was an outcome. I do not know whether she is content with that, but she understands the outcome. The matter was dealt with through a historical process.

The Acting Convener:I will address a comment that Mr Graham made, because I think that it is important to do so. The committee requested full minutes but we were provided with extracts. If the chief executive and his staff can take the time to extract information, they can surely take the time to provide information to others. We put a time bar on information because it is disrespectful to committee members to provide at the 11th hour bundles more information that is not urgent.

George Graham:I understand that.

The Acting Convener:Okay. Thank you.

Alex Neil:Just to add to that, convener, I ask that we get a copy of all the information that Moi Ali asked for and was refused.

I have a further question for the non-executive directors. I think that both Mr Whyte and Mr Hume have confirmed that they dissented on certain issues at the board meeting, as did Moi Ali, but that did not appear in the minutes.

David Hume:Can I clarify that? My dissent was in relation to a previous discussion about governance that took place in June 2015, and I said that at the time. I have the minute from that meeting in front of me. There were two decisions. With regard to the first decision, Brian Barbour and I are recorded as dissenting—

Alex Neil:So it is in that minute.

David Hume:—and with regard to the second decision, I am shown as dissenting. I have that here.

Alex Neil:Right. That has not been—

Iain Whyte:I clarify that I indicated that I had raised a number of questions at different points but that I did not record dissent to the decisions that were made.

The Acting Convener:We have not received any of that information. I do not doubt the veracity of what you are telling us, but the SPA chief executive has chosen not to provide us with that information. That is the only conclusion that I can draw.

Mr Penman, you wanted to come in, and then I will go back to Alex Neil.

Derek Penman:I assure you that we will request and review all the minutes—unredacted, and not extracts from them. Clearly, whether they are released publicly will be a matter for you, but we will do that. We will also include the comments that have been made today in terms of historical issues and consistency.

The Acting Convener:That is very helpful.

Alex Neil:That would be very helpful indeed. Clearly, the request was not a formal freedom of information request, but it appeared to be a reasonable request that should have been fulfilled. The behaviour in that regard is part of the problem with the culture of the organisation: it appears to be one of secrecy and non-co-operation with people, which is not acceptable.

Iain Whyte:I do not know the details of why the chief executive has put forward certain parts of minutes and not others. All that I can tell you is that some of the minutes that Moi Ali requested were from private meetings and some were from the members meetings. Among the issues that were discussed, there might be sensitive matters relating to security issues that could not be released publicly and there might also be financial and commercial discussions in there that would obviously be exempt from FOI because it would be to the detriment of the public service were they released. It may be something to do with that, but I do not know. However, I ask that the committee handle any information sensitively for those reasons.

Alex Neil:You can make a robust request and get in first before any excuses are made. As a non-executive director, your role is to challenge and be robust.

Iain Whyte:Absolutely.

Alex Neil:But it seems that you may have made your mind up already.

Iain Whyte:No. I am conscious that some of the things in those meetings may be appropriately heard in private even under FOI legislation.

The Acting Convener:I hear what you are saying but, with all due respect, we are referring to extracts that deal only with governance and nothing else. We have requested minutes and, had there been a request to redact certain things that were sensitive, I am sure that the committee would have looked at that and considered it, as appropriate. However, there is nothing like that in those minutes. The fact that your dissent and Mr Hume’s dissent are not recorded is actually not helpful to the committee’s considerations and I hope that you will take that back to the SPA.

Iain Whyte:I will clarify this yet again. I have said it twice now. The dissent that Mr Hume was talking about was recorded in a public meeting back in June 2015. I did not record dissent at any point. I have said that twice and I would like to clarify that.

The Acting Convener:Okay.

Alex Neil:We will make sure that that is in our minutes.

The Acting Convener:Carry on, Mr Neil.

Alex Neil:I want to focus on the role of the non-executive directors, having been a non-executive director of a number of companies myself, which are obviously operating in the public sector. I will start with the letter from Derek Penman to the chair prior to the December board meeting. Despite the explicit request in the letter to the chair, which Mr Penman confirmed this morning was the case, that the letter be circulated to the board for the December meeting, not only was it not circulated, the chief executive was not even informed by the chair at the time of the existence of the letter, let alone of its contents. I ask you three: when did you find out about the letter and when did you get to read it? Have you read it?

David Hume:Yes. I have it in front of me.

Alex Neil:When did you get it?

David Hume:I cannot recall.

Alex Neil:Here is the collective amnesia again.

David Hume:No, it is not that.

Alex Neil:Amnesia must be contagious in the SPA.

David Hume:No, that is not the case.

Alex Neil:So, roughly when did you get the letter?

David Hume:In recent times.

Alex Neil:How recent? Was it last week or last month? Did you get it in December or January?

David Hume:I do not date stamp material that I get, but I think that I got the letter within the past month. However, as I said earlier, we had a full discussion of HMICS’s view.

Alex Neil:I have heard all that, and my question is not about that. Can Mr Graham and Mr Whyte tell me when they got a copy of the letter and whether they have read it?

George Graham:Yes, I have now read the letter, the full detail of which was apparent to me about two or three weeks ago.

Iain Whyte:It is exactly the same for me. I have a copy of it with me, but I had not seen it until the issue arose at this committee.

Alex Neil:My next question is the obvious one. You are non-executive directors. Part of your function is to make sure that the board is above board and transparent. That is all in your remit and in the nine principles that were referred to earlier. When did you ask the chair why you had not received a copy of the letter from the inspector, who had specifically requested that you all get a copy before the December meeting? When did you take the chair to task for not circulating that letter?

David Hume:Before we answer that, I want to bring us back to the HMICS letter. As I have just confirmed with the chief inspector, who is sitting next to me, the letter says:

“I accept that it will properly be a matter for the Board to approve the Corporate Governance Framework and my comments are intended solely to inform members ahead of their decision next week.”

Alex Neil:Absolutely.

David Hume:I think that, on the basis of conversations that I had had with Derek Penman, and conversations with both Moi Ali and George Graham, I went into that meeting fully aware of the views of HMICS.

Alex Neil:But that is not the point, Mr Hume. The point is that the chief inspector asked the chair to circulate the letter to every board member, which should have been done. If I had been a non-executive director and had found out much later that I had not received that letter but got it only by accident because the chair got a roasting at this committee, I would have been on to the chair to demand that future letters like that, in which there is clearly interest and there is a request for it to be circulated to the board, would be circulated.

David Hume:Indeed. Absolutely.

Alex Neil:If you are not prepared to do that, you are not fit to be a non-executive director. You are there to hold the chair, among others, to account.

David Hume:We are quite aware of that. The letter—

Alex Neil:You do not seem to be. You are making excuses for him.

David Hume:No.

Alex Neil:Why have you not complained to the chair that the letter was not circulated, as requested by the inspector? One of the things that were announced in the letter was the new review and inspection by the inspector.

David Hume:Indeed.

Alex Neil:You did not actually know that, formally.

David Hume:I did.

Alex Neil:No—you did not, formally.

David Hume:Well, he told me.

Alex Neil:No—he did not tell you formally; it has to go to the board. If that is the level of scrutiny that you are exercising as a non-executive director, I find it wholly inadequate. You are supposed to hold the chair to account. If the chair has not circulated a letter from the inspector, who has specifically asked that the board see it, irrespective of whether you already knew the information, perhaps not every other board member knew all of it. The point is that, if the inspector wanted it to be circulated, surely it should have been circulated. Surely, as a former inspector, Mr Graham, you would have expected that to happen.

George Graham:Yes. You have made a number of assertions. There is a fair bit of relationship informality that definitely happens but, with hindsight—and I am sure that the chair will have reflected on this since the committee meeting with him a fortnight or so ago that you described—I certainly would have appreciated seeing the detail of that letter.

Alex Neil:Have you now made it clear to the chair that you do not expect a repeat of that in future?

George Graham:I have not had that conversation.

Alex Neil:Is it not time that you did?

George Graham:It may well be.

Alex Neil:Are you going to?

George Graham:I think that the most important—

Alex Neil:Are you going to?

George Graham:You can keep asking me that question—

Alex Neil:Well, are you going to?

George Graham:—but I would like to give you a full answer, Mr Neil.

Alex Neil:Yes or no—are you going to tell the chair that you do not want it to happen again?

George Graham:I have great respect for how the chair is managing business. I certainly do not want a whole host of issues to come up. I would have a discussion with him in which I say that it would have been useful to see a letter that specifically says that it should be sent to the board. So my answer is yes.

Alex Neil:Mr Whyte?

Iain Whyte:Which bit would you like me to answer?

Alex Neil:Have you complained to the chair that the letter was not circulated as requested?

Iain Whyte:No—I have not complained to the chair.

Alex Neil:Why not?

Iain Whyte:Like others here, I was fully aware of the views of HMICS, so, in a sense, they had already been factored into the decision making that we had.

Alex Neil:Poor.

Derek Penman:If I may add to that, although I had conversations with all the members of the board and they would have been clear on my intention and my views, the letter, which I think extends to three pages, went into some nuance and detail around that.

Alex Neil:Exactly.

Derek Penman:There were things in there that I know that I would not have discussed with members. Without wanting to be objectionable about it, the letter contained a level of detail that I would not have had the opportunity to explain in conversations on the margins with members.

My other point is to clarify our position and to correct the evidence. When I sent the letter to the SPA, which was on 9 December, it was copied to the chief executive.

Alex Neil:He told this committee that he had not seen it.

Derek Penman:I am offering to correct that evidence, in terms of our recollection of the—

Alex Neil:Having heard what the chief inspector has just said, are you now prepared to go to the chair and say that this is totally unacceptable?

George Graham:I have always been prepared to have that discussion. The chair himself will reflect on exactly the information that he discussed with you a fortnight or so ago.

Alex Neil:You are not leaving us with a lot of confidence that you are doing the proper job of a non-executive director, I have to say.

George Graham: Can I just come back on that? It is wonderful that you can make such assertions, but there are an awful lot of really good things that we do as a body.

Alex Neil: I have no doubt.

George Graham: The focus on one singular point of failure, if you want to call it that—the failure to circulate a letter, which was a deliberate judgment on someone’s behalf—and then to describe the board as inadequate is a poor characterisation of what we are doing. I certainly feel quite passionate about policing. I am in this for only one purpose—to help the Police Service of Scotland deliver the very best it can for communities—so to come in here and hear you assert that, because of one particular issue, we are inadequate as a board is unfair.

Alex Neil: Just a minute. You are being paid as a non-executive director. You are getting paid by the public as a non-executive director, and—

George Graham: I am quite simply—

Alex Neil: Let me finish. You are not doing the job.

George Graham: I am simply disagreeing—

The Acting Convener: Mr Graham—

George Graham: I am quite simply disagreeing with your assertion, and I am entitled to do that.

The Acting Convener: We are not going to get very far collectively this morning if we shout at one another, and if you talk over me again, Mr Graham, your microphone will be cut off. Equally, I would say to members that there are passions round the table, but let us try to lower the temperature. Nevertheless, we will still be seeking answers and we will be robust in our scrutiny, and nothing will stop the committee doing that.

Alex Neil: I just want to make the point that it is not a one-off. Ever since the board was set up, there have been problems, time after time after time. What the chief inspector has just said must be taken very seriously by every member of the board. I absolutely appreciate Mr Graham’s former service and the fact that he is committed to the future of the police service, and he has a good track record of serving the nation and the police. However, in your new role as a non-executive director, Mr Graham, part of your function is to ensure that the board is operating efficiently and transparently, holding the chair, the chief constable and others to account, and the point that I am making is that, on the fundamental issue of governance and the governance review, that has not happened. In that respect—and my comments are solely in that respect—the non-executive members of the board have not fulfilled their function with the robustness that is needed. They must be able to say to the chair, “Don’t do that again.”

I am not asking for the chair’s resignation, or for anyone’s resignation, because we all have to learn lessons. As you said yourself, Mr Graham, you are new to the role of non-executive director. We are paying non-executive directors to hold people to account. On this occasion it is clear, especially in light of the chief inspector’s comments, that that did not happen. Your job now is to ensure that there is no repeat of that, and that in future people are held to account. That is the point that I am making. I am not trying in any way to deride your service or anyone else’s service. Like you, I want to see an efficient Scottish Police Authority holding people to account, and that includes internal account. You have heard this morning about people being denied information, and you have heard loads of other stories as well. As everybody agrees, there is clearly still a lot more to do to get the Scottish Police Authority into the position that it needs to be in to gain the confidence of the Parliament and of the Scottish people.

George Graham: Thank you, Mr Neil, for those comments. I respect your position on the issue and I accept it. As you point out, and as I accept myself, I am still very much learning in my endeavours. There are a number of tangible examples of areas where we have engaged in effective scrutiny, so I would not like the committee to have the impression, just because of that one single issue, that that is how we behaved at all times. Finally, I want to say that a number of staff in the SPA, who have been through a fairly turbulent three or four years, work incredibly hard to support us as non-executive directors. They do an awful lot of good work and sometimes the stories that are published affect how they feel about their work. That is not the fault of the committee, because I respect the fact that it is your job to scrutinise what we do. I just want to put on the record my appreciation for how they support us, and I emphasise that we are still learning.

Alex Neil: I think that we would endorse that appreciation.

I fully understand that there have been some details and issues between the chair of the SPA and Moi Ali that you, as a non-executive director, could not get involved in but, given the damage to the perception of the SPA that was done by the way in which Moi Ali’s departure from the board was forced—not just handled but forced—I would have thought, without necessarily taking sides, that there was a legitimate case for the non-executive directors, with their remit, to raise at the board meeting the question of how that had been handled. Irrespective of who was right and who was wrong, there is no doubt that, over a period of months, that has done significant damage to the perception and the reputation of the Scottish Police Authority. I am trying to be positive. You need to be more robust in such situations, raise such things with the chair, and get them sorted before they become a public relations disaster for the Scottish Police Authority, which what we are talking about has been.

The full transcript of the hearing can be viewed here: Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee 11 May 2017

The previous session of the PAPLS investigation of the Scottish Police Authority can be read here: POLICING SECRETS: Former Scottish Police Authority board member Moi Ali invited to give evidence at Holyrood, after MSPs accuse SPA bosses of running Police watchdog like Kremlin ‘secret society’

 

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What do you do when the Law becomes an invasive weapon ? Suggestions for repeal, asks Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

RIPSA cctvRegulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 : a good case for repealing an invasive law which is abused daily by local authorities. DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER Nick Clegg has called for suggestions from the public on which laws we think invade our freedom too much, to the point they should be considered for repeal. An excellent suggestion from Mr Clegg I urge everyone to take up, considering the raft of anti-terror spying measures implemented over the years which have mostly been used by local councils to spy on residents or indeed in some cases, journalists onto a Council-scandal-scoop …

Feeling some of those laws passed over the years are a little too invasive ? Well, don’t just sit there moaning about it, make your voice heard on the new “Your Freedom” website – before the professions get their oar in ahead of the rest of us :

Your Freedom - Your ideas for your freedom

From the “Your Freedom” website :

“We’re working to create a more open and less intrusive society. We want to restore Britain’s traditions of freedom and fairness, and free our society of unnecessary laws and regulations – both for individuals and businesses.

This site gives you the chance to suggest how we can do this. Your ideas will inform government policy and some of your proposals could end up making it into bills we bring before Parliament to change the law.

So if there are any laws or regulations you’d like us to do away with, then first, check if there are any similar ideas here already and then add your comments to it and rate it to move it up the list. If it’s not here, then add it! And remember – we want you to suggest ideas for removing laws and regulations, rather than ideas for creating them.”

There are so many invasive laws (passed in the past 13 years) which come to mind personally, one of the most prominent being the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 – you know, the one your local council uses to spy on you when it feels like it or if you have criticised or complained against your local council, its staff or inadequate public services.

Yes, out of experience of investigating cases along the years, I’d say RIP(S)A is definitely one to nominate for the dustbin, because why should local councils have anti-terror spying powers they regularly abuse more often to protect themselves from revelations of scandals or public criticism than actually revealing the imminent terror threat of someone’s pet West Highland White Terrier (wee Jock) cocking his leg against a tree in a public park.

However, as I was saying the use of RIP(S)A has not just been limited to spying on the antics of ‘wee Jock’ … as cases over the years such as the infamous Scottish Borders Miss X rape scandal have shown, where a local authority who did nothing to stop an abuse ordeal of a handicapped victim went onto spy on journalists & [then] opposition politicians who were writing about the case, which you can read more about here : Miss X report passed to procurator-fiscal , here : Vital Miss X file removed, claims MSP and here : Borders social work chief quits ..

You’d have to wonder just how bad a local authority really is when they spend more time targeting journalists & critics than trying to save an abuse victim just a few yards away from Council HQ ….

RIP(S)A is that kind of law where some council official with a chip on their shoulder after being complained against, can .. well .. lie about a member of the public, and have their colleagues in the spying department try to get something on the person who made the complaint in the first place …

For example, a crooked building control official obviously on the take who just passed a plan which financially benefits a local councillor while sweeping planning objections aside, he runs off to his colleagues to use RIP(S)A to spy on the objectors, to keep an eye out for any adverse publicity coming his way … its that kind of law that just begs to be repealed …

So, visit the Your Freedom website, wherever you are in the UK, and put forward some ideas of laws you think should be repealed … after all, if an invasive law in England & Wales gets the chop through Mr Clegg’s campaign, yet the Scottish Government keeps the ‘Scottish version’ of it intact … well, wouldn’t that be a turn up for the books …

 

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Life & Times in Jedburgh take a turn for the worst …

It seems that the Royal Burgh of Jedburgh,my former town, has become a place where drunken & drug filled youths terrorise the tourists, vandalising everything in their path. I sort of remember Jedburgh has always been a bit like that .. so why the cry of foul now ?

I remember when drunken members of Jed Thistle Rugby Team went round smashing up peoples property, vandalising cars, and setting alight all kinds of things … people targeted in their homes by jealous elements of the town, drugs being sold openly – for years, even at the town’s secondary School … but what can one expect from the youth of a town where the parents inspire their children to carry on hatreds of others though the generations ? .. I don’t think we can expect much really.

In 1990, our family was targeted by some of the Town’s Rugby playing & businessmen’s sons, in a frightening attack in the early hours of a July Sunday Morning, where around 8 men broke into our property with weapons, even a can of petrol, to burn down my late father’s old shop in the Bongate & terrorise myself & my mum. I caught one of the attackers, Mr Raymond McKay, and handed him over to two attending Police Officers, PC Ian Anderson & another … My mum & the Police listened while Raymond (we knew him well, used to live opposite in the Bongate) confessed openly, (although he was drunk) .. that he & his friends were there to “wipe us out” because they were jealous I had a car and that I was to inherit my father’s properties. Such noble motives then, for what could have been an attempted murder ?

Not surprisingly, because the group of attackers contained members of the Town’s Jedforest Rugby Club (which my father had played for in his own youth). we heard nothing more .. no charges were preferred against the rest of the villains .. and that was it. Pretty horrible thing to happen then, you may think .. and you would be correct .. but, it’s happened before in Jedburgh .. and has happened a few times to others since that attack on us by some of the children of the town’s ‘great & good’.

Jedburgh is one of those .. hard to describe communities. A lovely town, don’t get me wrong .. in it’s architecture .. for instance, Jedburgh Abbey has to be the most beautiful Abbey in the Scottish Borders .. although I would say that of course, because I lived there … but the townsfolk can be twisted to the point of hatred which one can only shiver at .. and openly delight in the suffering of others. Also, the murders the Town has suffered in recent times .. these have usually went unsolved … or have occurred over typical drunken fights which the town suffers every weekend.

For instance, don’t go thinking I ever got any support from others in Jedburgh for my stance against crooked lawyers. Most of the people in the town were delighted when they heard Andrew Penman & Norman Howitt had robbed my fathers assets – I would say, there was almost a ‘party atmosphere’ among some over the coverage I had in the Scotsman newspaper … a very strange reaction indeed. Even after my mother died .. a neighbour couldn’t wait to tell me I was an ‘orphan’ .. this comment coming from a 60 year old adult who lived within the grounds of a Church ! .. not something which troubled me too much though, as one of her sons had been in on the attack on our property I mentioned in 1990. Only a few people (not being from Jedburgh themselves) had anything to say on this by way of support, but I did have some friends who were instrumental in exposing what happened to me at the hands of the legal profession .. those persons I shall not identify, but my eternal gratitude & respect goes to them.

The townsfolk’s hatred continued though, past the death of my mother, and from late 2001 to the end of 2003, when I left Jedburgh, I was subject to a bitter campaign of violence, verbal abuse, and almost daily attacks of vandalism against my property, in a bid to force me out so that a neighbour could buy it up on the cheap.

I had no friends of course, at Scottish Borders Council .. due to my exposing of their incessant corruption (albeit from sources within the Council workforce) .. so when the Bosses at SBC realised this ‘neighbour’ (who had a history of violence & threats to others) was out to force me out of my home .. the Council joined in with glee .. and a long running legal action in Jedburgh Sheriff Court, to obtain an interdict & claim damages for vandalism & harassment against a neighbour, was about the only thing I could do to keep the fearsome locals at bay – with almost daily visits to my property from the Police over further incidents of harassment & violent threats towards me.

Even my legal action against the violent neighbour in Jedburgh Sheriff Court was fiddled to the extent that opposing legal counsel lied through their teeth … tried to thwart my legal aid application, lied to the Sheriff, tried everything they could to wipe my side of the story out .. byt when my MSP, Phil Gallie, intervened, helping me to get legal aid .. then, as surprises go, the violent neighbour’s lawyer asked to settle the case the very next day .. and sure enough .. a couple of weeks later in Jedburgh Sheriff Court .. that was the end of it .. with this same neighbour, who had led me a life of hell, along with his biker colleagues from all over the Borders for 2 years, asked to buy my late father’s property in a deal which then went on to be ruined by .. yes, you guessed it, a lawyer from Edinburgh who walked away from the deal taking a sick note of stress, to get out of the mess he created.

Think I didn’t do anything for my community ? well .. think again.

I mentioned that Jedburgh had been full of drugs for a number of years .. from at least 1993 I should say .. where a well known family who lived in the infamous “Bongate View’ Council tenements .. were openly dealing drugs to the townsfolk and were carrying out systematic burglaries of all premises within Jedburgh.

Not one of the gutless cowards on Jedburgh Community Council, or Scottish Borders Council, did anything about this mob … even the local Police seemed powerless, while car after car and child after child visited Bongate View for their drugs supply. I remember one day, for instance, two uniformed Police officers were there to serve a warrant on the family’s matriarch for shoplifting .. but customers had arrived for their weekend supply of cannabis & whatever .. so the son of the family had to sit in the car with the customers while the Police finished their business …. wholesome stuff, don’t you think ?

The whole mess only ended when I asked Lothian & Borders CID from Hawick to use one of my fathers buildings in a surveillence operation against the dealers – but after months of work, the operation was botched and eventually, only meetings with the then head of Housing for the then Roxburgh District Council at Hawick, got this lot evicted .. to Niddrie in Edinburgh, where I’m sure they were happy.

What happened to the drugs ? well, the dealers only went to other parts of the town .. most of it was being brought in from Hawick anyway .. and I remember vividly, years later from the Bongate View troubles, a Tabloid reporter contacting me from Glasgow over a story that even a Policeman’s son had been selling the ectasy drug at the town’s secondary School … again .. not much was done, and the boy certainly never prosecuted .. I wonder if that lad put on his cv he was a former drugs dealer too.

Suffice to say .. it was a horrible time .. something I have yet to write about in detail .. but it showed to me the depravity of the Jedburgh Community, where crooked elected Councillors were just liars .. basically criminals, really .. they would fiddle planning applications & lie .. happily make racist or sectarian comments in public .. run round spreading gossip & lies . out of a twisted jealousy which one can hardly define through words.

I think, I could safely call Jedburgh, the North Korea of the Scottish Borders. Just think of it that way .. and then make it about 10 times worse. I feel sorry for the good people there .. because there are some .. but the town is being run by a dangerous clique who will stop at nothing to get their way .. and violence seems just a part of their vast arsenal they employ against those which don’t fit their mould.

I really don’t see how the Town Provost Len Wyse can stand there pontificating about these things, when he refused to help me when I asked for Community Council support against those who were causing me grief … I was told he arbitrarily declared at one Community Council meeting ‘there would be no answering any letter from Peter Cherbi and no member of the Community Council was to contact him’ .. after Councillor Hugh Wight jumped up one night and made a “frenzied verbal attack on me” .. wanting rid of me from the town.

Well, they got their way, I was driven out .. but Wyse, Wight, and the rest of them, are the problem for Jedburgh .. not the town’s youth. After all .. how can the young be expected to act any different, when the adults act like, or worse than, animals.

Here then are a selection of articles from the “Southern Reporter”of news from Jedburgh, which saw a lot of bad publicity this week .. the story on town violence (which is excessive compared with other towns its size in the Borders) and the loss of the Jedburgh Cottage Hospital … seems Jedburgh is dying on it’s feet these days .. but I think the people should really be questioning who their leaders are .. because they aren’t doing a good enough job at all.

Maybe the town would benefit from some new blood ?.

As for me .. I’m glad to be out of it ..and to be able to see from afar, what a silly, corrupt wee place it has become .. or was it ever anything different I now ask myself …

http://www.borderstoday.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=968&ArticleID=1819458

Mob doesn’t rule Jedburgh claims provost

CLAIMS that tourists will think twice before stopping overnight in Jedburgh because of “mob rule” by rowdy local teenagers have been dismissed by town provost Len Wyse this week, writes Mark Entwistle.

In last week’s Southern, a visitor from Leicestershire complained about the behaviour of Jedburgh youngsters during a stay to celebrate a golden wedding anniversary.

D.T. Alexander, from Melton Mowbray, wrote that on previous trips the couple had always found Jedburgh to be “a quiet, respectful town and a pleasure to visit”.

However, the letter continued: “On this occasion we walked along the river banks and up the town to get a meal. In the Market Place we observed a group of teenagers on the benches and they appeared to be indulging in alco-pops and other drinks.

“We returned to the guest house about 7.30pm and soon after we heard a lot of noise from Queen Street. A group of teenagers was observed – shouting, swearing, climbing over fences, being sick on the pavement and making a downright nuisance of themselves with their noise and behaviour.

This behaviour carried on until after 10pm – by this time the gang numbered between 20 to 30 teenagers. On going to my car on the following morning, I found that the windscreen wipers had been tampered with and the driver’s side wing mirror ripped apart, with the glass smashed and the plastic components scattered.

“On making inquiries about reporting the vandalism to the police, I was informed that the police station at Jedburgh is unmanned after certain hours. I did wonder why no police intervened the previous night, but was informed that the nearest active police station was at Hawick.

“Speaking to other residents in the Queen Street area, they informed me that this behaviour is normal every Friday/Saturday night and most residents just shut their doors and curtains, and let mob rule roam the streets
.
“What a pity that Jedburgh has fallen victim to this obnoxious behaviour and no doubt many tourists, like myself, will think twice before stopping overnight”.

However, Provost Wyse says the royal burgh is no different from any other Border towns when it comes to young people.

“I appreciate that older people may feel a bit threatened or intimidated by groups of youngsters hanging about, but apart from a bit of minor vandalism occasionally, there’s no real problem. There’s never any violence,” he told TheSouthern this week.

“There’s a bit of under-age drinking going on and that’s what leads to the kids being a bit loud.”

However, Provost Wyse did feel that a police presence on foot in the town more often – particularly at weekends – would go a long way to cracking down on such behaviour.

“That’s what’s really needed, more bobbies on the beat. We could do with more of that – however, the situation still isn’t as bad as that letter in TheSouthern last week made out.”

http://www.borderstoday.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=968&ArticleID=1819566

Century of care ends in tears
Bob Burgess

TEARS flowed this week as the last patients were moved out of Sister Margaret Cottage Hospital in Jedburgh.

There were similar scenes at Coldstream where the doors were also closed. Both hospitals have been axed by NHS Borders with the sanction of the Scottish Executive.

Campaigners who fought to retain the hospitals claimed the closures were part of a cost-cutting exercise – a charge denied by health service bosses who maintained they were part of a much-needed re-vamp to move the health service forward.

Staff members Carol Wright, Margaret Irving, Annie Stewart, Moira Kelly, above, prior to the closure. Photograph: Alastair Watson

The last patient moved out of Jedburgh on Tuesday and into the Borders General Hospital. Others have gone to the new Hawick community hospital and some have gone home. At Coldstream, patients have moved to The Inch at Kelso.

NHS Borders chairman Tony Taylor declared: “On behalf of the board, I would want to record my thanks and gratitude to all of the staff, both past and present, of Jedburgh and Coldstream hospitals for their personal service and for their major contribution to health care in these community hospitals.”

Inside the Jedburgh hospital yesterday staff were preparing for the final shutdown. Minor emergency cover was being retained until 8am today

All that remained of more than a century of community care were memories and gratitude. Wards stood empty – beds stripped to the springs. In the deserted day-room a box full of well-read books and a battered box of draughts; a television and mini stereo bore the labels of their new destination – Millfield and Kelso.

On the walls of a corridor were colourful photos of happy Christmas parties, joyful concerts, proud visits by Jethart Callants; nurses and staff in comic dress, enthusiastic outings and merry birthday parties. We were told by one member of staff: “This is all so sad – very sad. They will realise in a few years time just how big a mistake they have made.”

Looking at the photos another staff member told us: “The last patient left yesterday and when we came back into the hospital it was so very strange – no patients. We just stood still. It was so very quiet.

“There have been a lot of tears. Tears from patients, tears from their families and tears from staff.”

But we were told that staff from the Sister Margaret had visited the Hawick hospital and found their former charges in good fettle. “They seem to be settling in fine after some early apprehension.”

Jedburgh Provost Len Wyse who led the campaign to save the hospital stood in an empty ward and admitted: “This is a big blow to the town. I still believe that our case was not listened to – we had an excellent argument against closure, but it was ignored.

“I don’t feel a lot just now but we have a meeting of our action group tonight and all this will really kick into me tomorrow.”

Security guards move in today and tomorrow joiners will board up windows and doors.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2007 in Scottish Borders

 

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Promoting the Scottish Borders in the USA, without telling the whole story …

Laughably, the Conservative Scottish Borders Councillor & Convener Alisdair Hutton has been reported by BBC News as being in the USA on a chance to “promote the Borders across the Atlantic”.

However, Mr Hutton, amongst other things, a former Conservative MEP & now Convener of SBC, won’t be telling his audience the other side of the story .. the truth, in other words, which as a long time Borderer myself, I know from my own horrible experience living in the region .. which is that the Borders is run by something akin to a criminal gang .. an administration about as honest as a Drugs Cartel.

Yet, while Mr Hutton will be master of ceremonies at the 50th anniversary dinner held by the American Scottish Foundation in New York later this month at New York University’s Club, what he won’t be telling his audience is that the Scottish Borders is run by such an incompetent & corrupt administration that when it loses taxpayers .. or even investors funds … it gets itself off the hook in all manner of devious ways and no one gets compensated. It seems a wonder these days what Conservative Party funds have done for people or those they have been involved with in the past …

Just look, for instance, how Scottish Borders Council dealt with a $8 million dollar fraud in it’s Education Budget … blaming the whole thing on one man .. but where obviously, as I found out myself which was reported in Scotland on Sunday here Police probe claims of backhanders at council .. that many others were involved but of course .. got off the hook … Link here : The Budget Chronicles a long & sorry saga here : Police probe £4m council deficit and here : Borders tax plan falters

Scottish Borders Council then dodged a Scottish Parliament investigation into the scandal, where officials from the Council were either retired or put on sick leave so they wouldn’t be able to testify at the Parliament or give evidence in other parts of the investigation.

This kind of crooked conduct by the region’s administration also extends into other areas, such as Social matters, where a woman was allowed to be abused for years by those who were supposed to be caring for her … the Council seemingly knowing all about it .. but, doing nothing … read here ; Miss X report passed to procurator-fiscal .. but the Council seems to have got itself off the hook again in this case, by removing documents from the investigation .. as Christine Grahame MSP claimed in a report here : Vital Miss X file removed, claims MSP and since the Borders social work chief quits .. they could bury the whole thing .. just like all the other scandals the Council seems to get itself into.

Then there was the incompetent way the Council handled the transfer of public housing stock to a firm set up from within the Council itself .. read here : Housing transfer plan in trouble .. which has resulted in a lot of broken promises to the regions tenants.

Yes, Alisdair Hutton won’t be telling his audience about all this .. and the many other scandals which have hit the region .. from fraud & embezzlement by officials of Common Good funds & Land to private companies & individuals .. to deliberate undervaluing of publicly owned properties, to fiddled expenses claims, to bullying & harassment & exploitation of workers, to fiddling complaints & investigations in serious crimes, and of course not forgetting members of local government who have been caught up in their own scandals .. which range from everything from charges of kerb crawling for prostitutes in Salamander Street, Edinburgh, to fiddling planning applications .. and there’s a lot more …. a LOT more .. from this scandal hit region which never seems to improve. Phew .. and some people think there’s corruption in China .. they should just take a look at the Scottish Borders !

I got involved in exposing some of the scandals of Scottish Borders Council … as, being a resident of the region, I was sickened by the way it was being run … and you know what ? it hasn’t changed a bit.

The same crooked faces are still there in 2006 running their little empires, while the Borders languishes somewhere in the 19th Century … and the politicians of the Borders – whether they are in Westminster, or the Scottish Parliament .. haven’t done much at all for local affairs .. in fact .. mostly, with the odd exception, I would say .. the local politicians are a damn disgrace … and I often wondered if they only got their positions because they got the sheep & rabbits to vote for them .. of which I think probably outnumber the local human population these days.

Even when people exposed the corruption at the Council, they themselves were targeted in merciless campaigns to hound them out of existence .. something which they did to me after my own local Councillor Wight revealed to me in a meeting there were backhanders flying all over the place in the education budget scandal … all of which was reported in the earlier Scotland on Sunday article I quoted.

Now .. don’t get me wrong about the Scottish Borders … I think the region is a lovely place .. in terms of countryside .. and there are some lovely towns too such as Kelso, Hawick, Selkirk ..but without a doubt .. local government in the region has turned out to be worse than the Russian Mafia. There are also plenty good people in the Borders .. but they don’t run the region … that is left to those who think they are a cut above everyone else .. but they aren’t .. they are a few cuts below everyone else .. especially when it comes to honesty or transparency.

If something goes wrong with a public service, or a mistake is made by an official .. it seems the entire infrastructure of the region is brought into play to make sure there is a cover up.

For instance, in the Education Budget fraud scandal .. those officials who were ‘retired’ or put out on sick leave, with excuses they could never work again .. went on to even higher positions in private companies with higher salaries .. after the investigations into the frauds had concluded … but they couldn’t have escaped questioning on the affair if it hadn’t been for those in charge of the region who ‘put them out to grass’.

The “Miss X” rape scandal where Scottish Borders Social Work Department knew for years what was happening but did nothing .. and even worse, removed evidence & staff from the investigation .. again, another example of what goes on in the Borders when there is a need to cover up .. and it happend of course, to me in my case against the crooked lawyers, and particularly when my mother died at the local hospital.

I remember, for instance, when my mother died at the Borders General Hospital, through medical negligence, how everyone clammed up to lie about what happened in my mums death, and even how the Procurator Fiscal who was involved in the investigation, used the Police to try and protect the guilty from a proper investigation after I had to do a brain scan on my own mum in the Hospital there were people actively encouraged to write letters praising the Hospital for it’s case – but the letters were fake. The Doctors who were involved protected each other .. and I went through a meeting with the then Administrator of the BGH John Glennie (now Chief Executive of NHS Borders) and Dr Gaddie . the then Medical Services Director .. who simply lied & dodged the questions I put to them in a meeting, which I was accompanied by two shocked members of the local Health Complaints Advocate system.

The crooked accountant Norman Howitt of Welch Accountants Hawick & Galashiels who ripped off my my family and stole my mothers pension & bank books, trying to set up secret trusts to keep the money for his own control ended up as a Board Member of the Borders College, was promoted to being a senior partner at his accountancy firm, has a position at Scottish Building ..is a Board member of Eildon Housing weasled his way into all other walks of life .. along with the crooked lawyer Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors and Estate Agents, Kelso…. both rewarded highly by the region .. for being .. crooks .. and that is how it works in the Scottish Borders .. so it’s not a very safe region to be investing in, as long as there is this culture of crookery.

Visitors to the Scottish Borders, and those who haven’t lived there, or have experience ot the place, have the perception it is a quaint region .. lovely countryside, easy living, everything .. hunky-dory … but as you can see, it is certainly very far from that.

“Something from the past” … well, that’s good for the tourists .. and the Councillors, flotsam poor quality politicians who would never get in anywhere else, a few crooked construction company owners, and not forgetting of course the regions crooked lawyers & accountancy firms & others who like to keep the Borders that way, so they can have their little fiefdoms … but it’s very bad for the locals .. bad for jobs, bad for investment, bad for just about everything else .. and is an almost perfect recipe for corruption, as scandal after scandal has demonstrated. I for one, would be very cautious about investing in the Scottish Borders with this lot in charge .. but maybe if we had a case of “regime change” .. and I think the Borders is certainly in need of that more than some countries in the Middle East … we might see a region which thrives, rather than one which lives in the past … and one which you can see, is run by a bunch of crooks & incompetents.

I will be writing more about my experiences in the Scottish Borders later this week and how one of Alisdair Hutton’s Conservative colleagues, Councillor Mr Hugh Wight, (Jedburgh & District West) lied in meetings with myself & local Jedburgh Community Council members concerning a threatening & violent neighbour,& helped drive me out of my own home .. in what became a well organised, vindictive & malicious campaign against me by those who wanted me out.

What did I learn from all this ? exposing corruption comes at a price !

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/south_of_scotland/6036737.stm

Councillor builds US connections

A leading councillor from the Borders will head a prestigious event designed to bolster Scots-American relations.

Scottish Borders Council’s convener, Alasdair Hutton, will be master of ceremonies at a meeting of the American Scottish Foundation in New York.

The 50th anniversary dinner is to be held later this month at New York University’s Club.

The society will present its Wallace Award to Euan Baird, former chairman of oil service giant Schlumberger Ltd.

Mr Hutton said: “This is a great honour and a chance to promote the Borders across the Atlantic.

“This gathering will bring together many people with Scottish roots and I look forward to giving them an up-to-date picture of the Borders as the ideal place to invest in and visit.”

Mr Hutton has been writer and presenter with the Edinburgh Military Tattoo since 1992.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2007 in Scottish Borders

 

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