Sunday, 12 December 2010

A Slippy Portfolio



It was no surprise to learn Stewart Stevenson, the Scotland's Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change resigned yesterday, although I do think it was rather a pointless resignation in some ways.  He wasn't responsible for the weather or the poor driving standards of some road users last week, but he was responsible for showing the public he had command of his transport brief.  On Newsnight last week it was fairly obvious he had no realistic understanding of the situation.  Mind you, the behaviour of the interviewer was also quite pathetic is his calls for an apology.  This latest trend in Scottish politics of the media expecting our representatives to prostrate themselves on a BBC studio floor is distasteful.  Like many, I prefer an apology to be sincere and listening to a BBC interviewer repeatedly saying, 'Will you apologise to the public?' was wearisome.  During the 24 hours of chaos on the M8 last week I never heard one member of the public blame the Government.  The police were criticised over and over again but the First Minister has strongly defended their actions or lack of them.

Who will succeed him?  I would rather leave that to more informed SNP bloggers.  Joan MacAlpine has the suggestion it could be time for a female to hold the post - Roseanne Cunningham would be my choice - while Brian Taylor gives us his pennyworth of really nothing. Scotland's satirical blogger mentions Mr Stevenson in his latest post as does Patrick Harvie, the Green MSP, who concentrates more on the climate change aspect of the job rather than Mr Stevenson's resignation. I would tend to agree with one of his commenters that this was a stitch up among the unionist parties and the Scottish media.  Once Mr Stevenson's absence at Friday's meeting became public, the writing was on the wall I suspect.

Will Patterson contributes a thoughtful insight into possible successors and I hope he has no objection to me quoting his last sentence: 'By the end of the week, Scotland will have either a new Transport Minister or an early election on its hands.  Fasten your seatbelts...'

Alex Salmond has a wide choice of experienced colleagues who would be very capable of handling the portfolio.  Labour and the other unionist parties may just regret their decision to put so much pressure upon Mr Stevenson this past week.

25 comments:

Dubbieside said...

Subrosa

Scottish politics have now reached the level of the X Factor. How do they look, how is this presented.

It would appear that our politicians will now be judged, not on their actions or their competence to do their job but on how they perform on TV.

The silver lining out of all this for the SNP is the fact that the worst TV operator of all time in Scottish politics is Iain Gray.

Once his TV presentation skills are exposed to the public in the run up to the election, I can just hear the Labour MSPs saying do not judge him on his TV appearances. Alex Salmond never one to miss an open goal can point out Labours childish behavior over S Stevenson.

Hoisted by their own petard.

Joe Public said...

As an apolitical observer, I wonder why the Scots (or anybody) needs "Minister for Transport, Infrastructure AND Climate Change"?

IMHO it's a bloody stupid & pointless portfolio.

The first two responsibilities are tangible and an individual can have an influence.

Thousands of world-renowned scientists of many disciplines cannot agree that the third is even happening. Consequently, how can a Minister's success be judged?

Perhaps poor Mr Stevenson had been wrongly advised that Global Warming would prevent snow causing chaos? Perhaps it is those advisors who should be forced to resign?

Hamish said...

I see a lot of the rest of the media have now picked up on winter tyres. I read about them here first. Well done.

subrosa said...

That's it Dubbie. Trial by TV. The mystery, why doesn't it work for Gray?

subrosa said...

It is I suppose a complex portfolio Joe, but then weather/climate is associated with the other two departments aren't they?

subrosa said...

Thanks Hamish. I know I've maybe banged on a bit too much about them, but I do believe they'll make many drivers lives less stressful in poor road conditions.

Dubbieside said...

Subrosa

It does not work for Gray at present as he is protected to a great degree by the media.

In the run up to the election he will have to go on TV and defend his policies and he will have to defend the council tax increase that he says he will introduce.

Will he come over ok on TV? No blinking chance. Should I have said that? Well Labour have made TV appearances a resigning matter.

Joe Public said...

SR @ 11:49

"..... weather/climate is associated with the other two departments aren't they?"

1. No more so than it affects Defence, Education, Health etc.

2. His ministerial title presupposes the climate is actually changing.

3. It is weather, not climate, that affects Transport & Infrastructure.

Munguin said...

I can’t help thinking that this was a foolish capitulation to the unioistas. I’m assuming that Stewart was told to resign by Alex. I can only assume that this is part of the SNP’s so called strategy to lose the election in May. In case they haven’t noticed there are only six months now to a GE how can we expect a new transport minister to bed in and be competent in such a short time? And in case they have not noticed the winter is far from over so our new transport minister may have to face a similar situation in a matter of days without Stewart’s three and a half years of experience. If they make a cack-handed mess of it will they have to resign as well?

Bugger said...

SubR

e-mail sent re Newsnet Scotland. Hope it doesn't go into your spam bin?

subrosa said...

Aye you've said it Dubbie. TV appearances are now a resigning issue. But as you say Gray's protected.

I'll be watching him very closely when he's decorating the corner of my living room on the odd occasion I view the news.

subrosa said...

OK Joe, I sit corrected.:)

subrosa said...

Munguin, I don't think Alex told him to resign - in fact quite the contrary. As I understand it S Stevenson wasn't a popular MSP with his colleagues and they offered little support.

There are a few would could very easily take over the portfolio Munguin and slip into the job speedily. The problems have become very apparent in the past week so it's getting to grips with those that is priority. I'd give it a good try myself if someone sent me a 4 x 4. :)

subrosa said...

Replied to Bugger.

Allan said...

Dubbieside.

Sorry, but Stevenson failed on both counts. He said that the snow was unforcast on his appearance on Newsnicht, which was either wrong or a lie as everyone was forecasting snow across the centeral belt. The Met Office here and down south were forecasting it, with a severe weather warning issued on Sunday evening. Even the pilot taking us back from Tenerife last Sunday warned us about the snow showers due around the time we would be arriving.

So why did Stevenson firstly not see any of these forecasts, and secondly not think on his feet and contact AMEY (who hold the contract for the upkeep of the motorway's) and the local authorities, who have been as culpiable with their lack of flexiabiliy.

tris said...

Smart title though SR... You looking for a job with The Sun?

subrosa said...

Tris, could they afford me? Of course they could. I'd say anything (without an affidavit) to ensure that us older folk were recognised as not being just an encumbrance upon society.

Isn't that what most politicians do?

I must say here that I respect Stewart Stevenson's decision. I won't say more.

subrosa said...

Allan, the sad thing is that not only did Stewart Stevenson miss that weather forecast but also the road services and the police.

Are we in such a centralised situation that one person is in charge in such circumstances?

I actually blame a much of the problem on the police. Our traffic police are supposed to be trained for these circumstances as well as picking off thousands a day in breaking speed limits.

Yet they didn't think. They must have heard the forecast the night before and if they didn't, then that's their failing.

Of course Ian Gray will say the 'motorways should have been closed etc etc' but he said nothing on the day.

Surely. as I've said several times, if schools are opened, there are few reasons for them to be closed within hours of pupils arriving. The traffic created by parents etc collecting their children seriously added to the traffic troubles of last Monday am.

Stop closing schools when there are no reasons. Stop the stupid health and safety nonsense. The children were safer in school than they were without..

Dramfineday said...

Allan and SR - according to the Newsnet website the BBC have been found out re-engineering the Stevenson inyerview by cutting, changing and omitting cetain words, sentences and sequences to make the interview look and sound differntly from when it was first done. They also appear to have presented Mr Stevenson with selective recordings of their own forecasts where the primary information has been removed and then asked him to answer on it. It also appears that they have been tampering with the forecast time line. The view is that they are trying to cover their asses to avoid a repeat of the the Michael Fish incident when the hurricane was mis reported and Southern England got flattened. The minister now looks like he has been professionaly ambushed. I wonder, if that then is the case that the BBC defamed his character as well as costing him his job?

Incidently the same line was peddled in the Sunday post, in it's usual half jocular, our wullie, style. Buy it does appear to be a lie. Mmmmm, could get interesting

subrosa said...

Dram. I watched Newsnicht that night. Even though they 'doctored' it, with Buchanan saying nothing but 'will you apologise', Stevenson said exactly what is played on the media at the moment.

I can't make excuses for the man.

Also I did see the forecast saying there would be a band of snow over the central belt around morning rush hour and remember remarking if it would also hit further north. Which it didn't. But it was clearly marked on the BBC weatherman's graphic over the central belt.

No, sorry Dram, much as I'd love to blame the BBC I can't.

Dramfineday said...

I was off to Edinburgh Airport at 0500 on Monday to drop of a friend for the 0700 shut eye to Luton. A cold fresh breeze was blowing and the last forecast I looked at on the tele (last thing before bed) said snow showers in the north spreading south with a chance of 2 inchs on lower ground and up to 4 inches higher up (Note - showers). I went into work at 0700 and there was rain faling. At 0710 the first few flakes started to come down etc etc. However have a look at this and make your own mind up:

http://newsnetscotland.com/politics/1200-stewart-stevenson-has-gone-he-may-be-gone-some-time

No axe to grind regarding Stewart Stevenson's decision rather the way it appears to have been engineered.

subrosa said...

Buchanan was quite rude on Newsnicht Dram but I don't think it was engineered any more than any other SNP interview is.

A big part of the problem was the schools closing mid-morning. The additional traffic that caused wouldn't have helped. What I don't understand is why they closed.

Jess The Dog said...

Probably an inevitable scalp. The roads problem was quite a big cock up, but all the furore over it obscures something more significant. The rail network has collapsed. Scotrail couldn't even run an emergency timetable. Most trains were halved in length because of the number of breakdowns. Even today, a week after the snow chaos, the Edinburgh to Glasgow peak service isn't running. At this moment in time, if Labour said they would remove the franchise from First Group, then even I'd vote for them. First Scotrail make TIE and the Edinburgh Tram look impressive.

subrosa said...

I don't live in the central belt as you know Jess, but from the outside looking in, the whole transport structure appears to be haphazard to say the least. There seem to be plenty chiefs nodding but doing nothing and the police, who are supposed to take control of roads, aren't shown in a good light either.

Allan said...

Dramfineday.

Stevenson said that the snow was unforecast, which it plainly wasn't. If he hadn't blamed a supposedly wrong forecast he might be still in his job.

Jess The Dog. Am I right in thinking that WorstScotrail kept the franchise despite a conflict of interest at Transport Scotland (one of the big cheeses - I can't remember which one - was alledged to hold shares in First Group)?

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