Saturday, 2 January 2010

Gritting - II

I was shocked to learn this morning that a young man of 24 died in a collision on the A859, Stornoway to Tarbert road, at the turn-off for Arnish Point. Five other people were taken to hospital with injuries, one of them was seriously hurt. My sympathies go out to friends and family of the deceased. A report on this incident will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal. Because of this, and on account of the on-going investigation into the cause of the collision, I cannot stress strongly enough that it is wholly inappropriate for me or anyone else to speculate.

Road conditions in Lewis at the moment appear to be atrocious (I'm off island at present), and I was severely critical of the council in yesterday's post. I think we want to bear in mind though, that the lack of gritting in the island is not wholly to blame on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. It is not customary for me to stand up for our council, but on this occasion I am turning my fire on a higher authority: the Scottish Government. One of the sources of income of any council in Scotland (or indeed the UK) is the council tax. The Scottish Government has not allowed councils in Scotland to raise council tax bills since the current administration came to power in 2007. The result is that council budgets have grown tighter and tighter, and cuts are having to be made.

Cutting back on gritting is a bad choice and I maintain my criticism of the Comhairle for that. However, the council tax freeze appears to have been a populist move on the part of the Scottish Government and I'm sure everybody will have relished in the non-elevation of their council tax bills since '07. I wonder if that joy will continue, now that we're all slithering along roads and pavements, either on foot or in vehicles - because the council no longer has the funds to do the gritting.


  1. We had friends and relations telephoning us yesterday, enquiring if it was myself, or my son that was killed in the crash, as we share the same surname as the deceased. Very sad business AL, although not sure if it was because of the gritting, or lack of, that was to blame. I think that the SNP were trying to please all of the people all of the time, (with reference to the council tax) however we know that can't be done, so they will (SNP ) blame it all on Westminister, as they generally do if something goes wrong, or proves unpopular, and takes all the plaudits when something turns out to be good, just my humble opinion...

  2. When you show a link of the vehicles involved in the Lochs Road accident (which incidentally was not at the Arnish Road End junction) under a post on gritting and say "No comment" you are implying that lack of gritting was contributing factor if not the actual cause. The road was not a sheet of ice. There was some snow in the centre of the carraige way and the road was perfectly passable providing the road conditions were taken into account. Many European Countries do not grit but drivers observe the conditions. The fact is in Lewis that fatal accidents happen at all times of the year snow or no snow and grit or no grit. Speed is frequently the primary cause, coupled with inexperience.

  3. Observer,
    I captioned the link "No comment" for the reason I outlined at the start of this particular post: this will go to the Procurator Fiscal, is sub-judice and I can therefore NOT comment. I'd thank you for not commenting either, until such time as police and forensics have done their work. I distance myself from the implications you draw from the comment I left on my previous post, as they are yours, and NOT mine.

    I agree with you that inappropriate speed is a factor in many road traffic accidents, coupled with inexperience. Drivers should at all time drive in accordance with the conditions.

  4. We have something called the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 that lumps obligations on to the Roads Authority (in this case the Comhairle) to do everything possible to prevent injury etc to the public on its roads. Words to that effect. They may not have such legislation in European countries but we have it here. And we PAY for the various authorities to look after our roads not only in our council tax but also with car tax. There's probably half a dozen other taxes that we also cough up blindly hoping that it will be of some benefit. The roads on these islands are in a shocking state with or without snow or ice. The conditions change from one minute to the next and quite often one is left to use the powers of The Force to guess where the next blind bend will lead to.
    The Comhairle overspent on Winter Maintenance last year to the tune of £500k. Apparently this was due to the sustained wintry conditions. Call me old fashioned but was the winter weather that bad last year? So we are paying for it now with cut backs.
    There must be other areas where the council can make cut backs which will not effect the public's safety? I am sure we can all think of a few examples. Consultants, too many councillors, various junkets, and so on.

    The Scottish Exec were trying to earn a few Brownie points by freezing council tax but it has always been my assertion that the more money you give local authorities the more they will waste. Fiona Hyslop probably got the boot for asking what councils had actually spent their education budgets on. How did the Comhairle manage to overspend on winter maintenance last year and what is the bill going to be this year?

  5. Audience Participant3 January 2010 at 21:16

    The comedy council trips and slips its way through a slap-stick impression of the functions of a local authority. Self-employed, we have lost a significant amount of income due to the failure to keep roads open. This afternoon our eyes suddenly feasted on the rare festive lights of the gritter, apparently clearing the roads in time for this evenings Service. All I can say is it better be back tomorrow morning and Tuesday and Wednesday and every other day....

  6. AP- You suggesting the self employed or indeed class 1 employed work over Christmas and New year?
    UK Ltd and Scotland plc grinds to a halt from the third week of December until the second week of January. Try and get an engineer/joiner/ mechanic/doctor in this period. Almost impossible. Not so long ago in Scotland all people worked on Christmas day and one day off at New Year. Then we imported the English practice of a fortnight off. In the Council they call it ''Throttling Back" for the holidays.

  7. Audience Participant4 January 2010 at 11:21

    Yes Observer, I am sorry to have to tell you that you are not always right and some of us do work, even over the festive period. Also working or trying to work were nurses, home carers and a variety of other essential services and trades. You don't give clue as to where you are 'observing' from, but as my name suggests I am actually living in the UK, indeed on the island in question, so I have a working (:-)] knowledge of our seasonal customs. I can also provide clarification that in England and Wales, for the majority, the custom is to have only the festival days off and the rest of the time it is business as usual.

    I am pleased to say that the gritters passed by again this morning!

  8. I worked during xmas ,so what??? Getting away from the gritting question--two years ago on xmas day,an underground telephone cable was cut(don't ask how)in auckland ,nz; By 10h15a.m BT,nz guys were out and by lunchtime the lines were repaired. The point is most counries have standby staff working on xmas(and every other "public"holiday,to deal with the unaccepted,why should lewis be different?