Glasgow Custom House: Clayton Hotel Glasgow City opens

A HISTORIC Grade-A-listed building which has stood on the banks of the River Clyde for more than 180 years has opened as a four-star hotel.

The 303-bedroom Clayton Hotel Glasgow City, on Clyde Street, has breathed new life into the historic sandstone Custom House building.

The refurbished listed building serves as the entrance to the hotel with the reception, public area, ballroom and event spaces all located there. Adjacent to the historic building and connected, in part by a glazed ceiling, the hotel also houses the Custom House Bar & Restaurant.

Climbing to 16 storeys high, the hotel provides a “striking juxtaposition of old and new architecture”, operator and Clayton Hotels owner Dalata Hotel Group said.

A terrace on the seventh floor provides an entertainment space and panoramic views of the city.

Dalata Hotel Group said: “Located in a Conservation Area, this building has been a focal point for hundreds of years for people moving between the quayside and the city centre.”

Clayton Hotel Glasgow City General Manager Hazel Galloway said: “We are so thrilled to bring the first Clayton Hotel to Scotland and we are looking forward to adding to Glasgow’s world-class offering as we prepare to welcome guests from around the globe.

“On arrival, guests will be struck by the grandeur of the building with its historic architecture and striking interiors before moving through to the contemporary heart of the hotel. This is a building which seamlessly combines classic design with modern luxuries.”

The property is the first Clayton Hotel to open in Scotland as Ireland’s largest hotel group continues to expand its presence throughout the UK and Ireland.

‘NHS pay is a political choice’: Scotland’s Nurses vote to strike



NURSES across Scotland have voted to strike for the first time in history in a dispute over pay.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said pay was a “political choice” and accused the Scottish Government of failing to “properly value those working in health and social care over the last decade”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has insisted the Scottish Government does not have “any more money.”

He said a contingency plan was in place to deal with the industrial action but warned that a strike in the health service over winter could be “catastrophic.” 

The first walk-outs could happen in the run-up to Christmas and could go on until next May.

Nurses in most parts of the rest of UK have also voted to take industrial action. 

It is the first time in the RCN’s 106-year history that it has balloted members across the UK.

Last month, NHS staff in Scotland were offered a flat rate uplift in their salaries of £2,205 each – equivalent to an average pay rise of 7%, or 11% for the lowest paid. 

The previous NHS pay offer was 5%. 

The RCN said that despite the increased officer it would still represent a real terms pay cut for registered nurses.

The union had pushed for an offer of at least 5% above inflation.

They said the Scottish Government offer “represented yet another real-terms pay cut after a 16% real-terms cut over the last decade.”

Julie Lamberth, RCN Scotland Board Chair, said: “NHS pay is a political choice and for Scottish Government ministers to suggest to nursing staff that fair pay should come at the expense of key services is insulting both to our members and the people of Scotland, who recognise that these services are already understaffed and rely on the goodwill of nursing staff to keep going. 

“The Scottish Government needs to face up to the reality that their failure to focus on workforce planning and to properly value those working in health and social care over the last decade is the root cause of the staffing crisis we face.

“The result of our strike ballot is a wake-up call that must not be ignored.” 

Speaking before the strike was confirmed, Mr Yousaf said he was “naturally disappointed that a record pay deal” had been rejected. 

During a visit to Wishaw General Hospital on Wednesday morning, the minister said: “I’m naturally disappointed that a record pay deal seems like it has been rejected by the RCN. But I respect the mandate of trade unions and membership organisations when they consult with their members. 

“So the government will listen, we’ll keep dialogue open. I’ve always thought the route out of this, the way to avert strike, is through dialogue. 

“But I also have to be absolutely clear, we don’t have any more money beyond what we’ve already put on the table. 

“So the plea really is to the UK government, whose economic mismanagement has made us have such high inflationary pressures on the health service, to put their hand in their pocket, and give us more money.”

The minister said there were “contingency plans” in place. 

“We’re obviously discussing that and have been discussing that for many, many weeks and months now with health board colleagues, but the one message I can tell you from every single chair and chief executive up and down the country is they want to avoid strike action because there’s simply no doubt whatsoever, that a strike, even however much we plan, whatever contingency we put in place, a strike in our health service in the midst of winter will be catastrophic.

“So everybody wants to avoid it.”

News of the strike comes as pressure mounts on the beleaguered Health Secretary.

Last week performance times in Scotland’s A&Es fell to a new record low, with almost two in five  patients waiting too long for treatment.

Figures from Public Health Scotland show just 63.1% of people attending A&E last week were seen within the official four-hour target, down from 65% the previous week.

It is the lowest figure since comparable records began in February 2015.

The previous record low was 63.6% of patients seen on time in the week to September 11.

Scottish Labour Health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said the strike was the “result of incompetence on a historic scale from the SNP.”

She added: “For 15 years, the SNP government has failed to tackle the staffing crisis and now patient safety is being compromised and lives are being lost as a result.

“The blame for this industrial action rests squarely with the SNP government who have failed our hardworking health workers, our patients and our NHS for a decade and a half.

“Humza Yousaf has been deaf to the concerns of nurses and has failed to act to prevent this crisis. His incompetence is plumbing new depths.

“Nicola Sturgeon must do the right thing and sack this sorry excuse of a health secretary now.”

Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Dr Sandesh Gulhane said he was “deeply concerned for the health and welfare of patients over these strike days.”

He said: “The Scottish public will be dismayed and deeply worried to hear that our vital NHS nurses feel they have no option but to go on strike.  

“People across the UK are struggling with the global cost-of-living crisis, but it’s clear that nurses in Scotland feel disrespected and ignored by Humza Yousaf – not surprising after the Health Secretary shockingly dismissed a nurse who challenged him last month as ‘patronising’.

“Years of failed SNP workforce planning have piled the pressure on our heroic nursing staff and, with more than 6,000 nursing vacancies in Scotland right now, they are understandably at breaking point.

“With our NHS already on the brink of collapse and winter looming, I am deeply concerned for the health and welfare of patients over these strike days.

“It’s clear that lives could be on the line as a result of this action and the fault lies squarely at the feet of Humza Yousaf and the SNP.

“If the Health Secretary can’t get a grip of this situation, then Nicola Sturgeon must urgently intervene and ensure our nurses get the support they deserve in time to avert these dangerous strikes.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader accused the “pig-headed” Scottish Government of turning a “blind eye” to conditions in the NHS.

“These strikes will be hugely disruptive for patients, but nurses can only be pushed so far. Rather than distract themselves with a billion-pound bureaucratic takeover of social care, the government must overhaul pay and conditions to put an end to this sorry mess,” he said.

 

South of the border, RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen called on the Chancellor to use next week’s budget to bump up NHS staff pay in the rest of the UK.

He said: “Anger has become action – our members are saying enough is enough. The voice of nursing in the UK is strong and I will make sure it is heard.

“Our members will no longer tolerate a financial knife-edge at home and a raw deal at work.  

“Ministers must look in the mirror and ask how long they will put nursing staff through this.

“While we plan our strike action, next week’s Budget is the UK government’s opportunity to signal a new direction with serious investment. Across the country, politicians have the power to stop this now and at any point.   

“This action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses. Standards are falling too low and we have strong public backing for our campaign to raise them.

“This winter, we are asking the public to show nursing staff you are with us.” 

UK Government health secretary Steve Barclay said it was “disappointing some RCN members voted for industrial action.”





Source link

We must stop neglecting the emotional needs of stroke survivors



WITHOUT first-hand experience it’s hard to appreciate how it feels to have a stroke. If someone can walk and talk after their stroke, then they might be judged to have made a good recovery. But the hidden impacts can be huge. A stroke causes damage in the brain, the control centre for who we are and what we can do. As a result, our emotions, personality and behaviour can all be affected, with devastating consequences.

Overnight, a partner becomes a carer. A breadwinner is at risk of losing their job. Basic life skills, like making a sandwich or using a phone, have to be re-learnt. People’s lives are turned upside down. Imagine how it feels to cope with such sudden and dramatic change.

Psychological care after a stroke is just as important as physical recovery, and can hugely influence how well someone recovers, the extent to which they regain their independence and the need they have for ongoing care and support. Yet there is an unacceptable lack of support for those struggling to come to terms with the effects of their stroke. That’s what stroke survivors keep telling us. It’s what those working in stroke services tell us too.

We work closely with NHS staff, and applaud the tireless shift they put in to support people recovering from stroke. But the system they have to operate in does not give psychological care its due space.

Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a practical, cost-effective way to improve psychological care after a stroke, that has strong backing across the stroke community.

The Scottish Stroke Psychology Forum has developed a national model of psychological care in stroke services. It focuses on awareness raising and training so that all the staff engaging with a stroke patient can look out for emotional well-being, backed up by referral processes for when escalation to specialists is needed. It’s about involving stroke teams at every level to identify and support people with psychological issues after a stroke.

This model was endorsed by the National Advisory Committee for Stroke, which brings together the leading clinicians, academics and charities in the field. It was included in the new vision document for stroke published by the Scottish Government. A commitment to delivering on it must now be included in the forthcoming Stroke Improvement Plan, and implemented by every health board in Scotland.

Getting the right support to people affected by stroke is a good thing in itself. But better outcomes for stroke survivors also reduces the need for ongoing support, and delivers the savings our health and social care services so badly need.

At a time of financial crisis, and growing demand for services, we have to prioritise changes that will make the system work better, and reduce ongoing costs. So this is exactly the time when every health board in Scotland should commit to giving psychological care after stroke the attention it deserves.





Source link

Blackpool ‘good for health’ says Glasgow-led study


It was the childhood holiday for generations of Scots, thanks to good travel links from the central belt and affordability.

The Scottish love affair with Blackpool goes back to the early days of the trades fair fortnight in the Victorian era, specifically the Glasgow Fair Fortnight, which saw workers in factories and shipyards hanging up their tools en masse for a short period and heading off for a well-earned break.

Now, a new study might prompt more adults to revisit the Paris of the North, which is famous for ballroom dancing, the illuminations and vintage rollercoasters.

HeraldScotland:

Research has concluded that trips to Blackpool and other traditional English seaside resorts are good for your health.

Academics from Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Central Lancashire surveyed holidaymakers, day visitors, residents and leisure workers across six coastal promenades to investigate links between wellbeing and the seaside.

READ MORE: Author Lisa Gray on her love for Blackpool 

Around 85% strongly agreed or agreed that the seaside has a positive effect on health and wellbeing, with the greater impact being felt by those who live further away from the coast.

The study used a Seaside Wellbeing Index to summarise well-being-related positive feelings about six resorts in Lancashire – Blackpool, Lytham, St Annes, Cleveleys, Fleetwood and Morecambe.

HeraldScotland:

Overnight visitors scored higher than day trippers and holidaymakers reported higher feelings of wellbeing than leisure workers or tourism staff.

The data showed many associate the seaside with slowing down and being in a leisure mindset.

Others associated the resorts with happy memories and had a nostalgic connection with the sea.

Being in a leisure state of mind accentuates feelings of wellbeing associated with exposure to the coast, the study concludes.

Dr Nick Davies, lecturer in Tourism and Events at Glasgow Caledonian University, and one of the authors, said: “Our research clearly indicates how these resorts are seen today and reveals a particular relationship between these coastal resorts and society.

READ MORE: Glasgow to Largs bus route named most scenic in UK

“These resorts are still valued as places of leisure and wellbeing, as they were when they were initially developed.”

Around 330 people across the six locations took part in the study, published in the academic journal Coastal Studies & Society.

It was co-written with Dr David Jarratt, Dr Sean Gammon and Jason Ward, of the University of Central Lancashire.

Rachel McQueen, Chief Executive Marketing Lancashire, said: “We instinctively know that being beside the sea makes us feel good, but it’s great to have that backed up by research.

“We very much welcome this study and the news that visitors to Lancashire love our coastal resorts as much as we do. Lancashire is blessed with 137 miles of coastline, offering multiple reasons to visit whatever the time of year.”

Five interesting facts about Blackpool 

1. A horse once opened the illuminations.

In September 1977, the famous racehorse Red Rum did the honours, and also opened The Steeplechase rollercoaster.

2. Blackpool is the only British beach resort to boast three piers

3. The Big One rollercoaster was the tallest and fastest in the world when it opened at the Pleasure Beach in 1994.

4. The tramway is one of the oldest electric lines in the world, dating back to 1885.

Before it was modernised in 2012, it was the last surviving first-generation tramway in the UK.

5. Built in 1894 and inspired by the Eiffel Tower, Blackpool Tower is 518 feet and 9 inches tall. On a clear day the tower can be seen from as far away as Wales and the Lake District.

 





Source link

Mum and 6-year-old with cancer to take part in Glasgow Santa Dash


A six-year-old with an aggressive brain tumour will take part this year’s Santa Dash in Glasgow to raise funds for the Beatson Cancer Charity.

Doctors discovered Cole Park had a brain tumour in March of this year, after which he underwent major brain surgery and intensive courses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

He spent several months in the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre with his mum, Michelle Barrie, who says the staff became like family as visiting was restricted due to Covid.

Now she and Cole’s aunt, Lisa Park, will run the Glasgow Santa Dash to raise money for the Beatson – and they plan to push the six-year-old in his wheelchair if he’s well enough.

Michelle, who shaved off her hair in sympathy with her son, said: “Lisa and I want to run the Santa Dash to raise sponsorship for Beatson Cancer Charity in recognition of everything the hospital has done for Cole.

“I can’t praise the surgeons and staff at the Beatson highly enough. Everyone is amazing. They kept me going when I was struggling on a bad day and became like family.

HeraldScotland: Cole shows off the design of the new reusable Santa Dash T-shirts ahead of the charity fun runCole shows off the design of the new reusable Santa Dash T-shirts ahead of the charity fun run (Image: Supplied)

“Every Friday, Cole got to drive a wee police car into his radiotherapy sessions and he loved that. And they gave me vouchers for the café while I waited for him to finish his treatment. When he was discharged from hospital, the staff threw him a wee party. He misses them all so much.”

Cole, who is now continuing his treatment at home, visited Glasgow Green along with his mum and aunt to inspect the course and meet the charity’s mascot Bella the Bee.

The family fun run will take place for the first time in three years on Sunday December 11th with a route around Glasgow Green and reusable T-shirts for runners.

Cole showed off the t-shirts, which are more environmentally-friendly than the previous single-use Santa suits.

They feature a belt and button design on the front and are included in the run’s registration fee of £15 for adults and £5 for young people under the age of 16 years.

Glasgow’s Lord Provost, Jacqueline McLaren, said: “The Santa Dash is such a happy uplifting event which raises funds for good causes in the run up to Christmas. Everyone, like Cole’s mum, will want to raise funds for a charity which is close to their own heart. And for the first time in three years, everyone can physically get together to take part in the festive run while showing their support for charities doing amazing work.

“I’m really looking forward to the big day and encourage anyone who is interested in taking part to register as soon as possible as places are filling up fast!”

Anyone keen to raise sponsorship for Beatson Cancer Charity can do so via their JustGiving page





Source link

Meet the Englishman visiting every beach in the Highlands and Islands

Scotland may be known the world over for its breathtaking lochs, dramatic mountains and stunning glens, but its also home to an abundance of magical sandy beaches scattered around its coastline that could rival those to be found in the Caribbean on a clear sunny day.

And with the Highlands and Islands home to a large quantity of these spectacular secluded sands, one man has undertaken a quest to visit – and walk on – every single one of them. 

Rather than see himself as an adventurer, a travel writer, a professional photographer or a “off-grid hipster in a camper van”, Cheshire native David Oliver says he is just a “middle-aged bloke who loves walking, the great outdoors…and lists”. 

After completing a project to climb all the 214 Wainwrights (peaks) in the Lake District over a decade between 2009 and 2019, he was on the hunt for a new walking challenge that was less physically demanding than hills and mountains, and with that the “simple” idea of the ‘Scottish Beach Project’ was born. 

READ MORE: Scottish beach named in Tripadvisor’s best in Europe list- See which one

He told The Herald: “When I did all the Wainwrights it was almost like I felt a bit bereft. I felt like I needed a new project. I was thinking what it was I could do when I saw a photo of a beach in the Western Isles or something and I said to myself, “That’s fantastic I’d love to do more of Scotland”. So I thought, “Well, I’m going to go and visit 10 beaches in Scotland”. 

“I made a little list of beaches, some on the islands, some on the mainland and the big ones that you’d expect like Sandwood Bay. I thought that was a great way to explore Scotland. But once I started I got hooked by it. My first trip was to Wester Ross a few years ago just before covid and I absolutely adored it, I went to places like Redpoint and Gairloch and I fell in love with the beaches and the walking routes to take me to the beaches and I thought, “Oh I can definitely do this”.

Since starting his Scottish Beach Project in October 2020, the 58-year old now has over 4,000 followers on his Twitter page, plenty of whom he says are nostalgic “expats living in Australia or America”. 

An initial challenge to visit 10 beaches quickly snowballed to become 100 beaches, then 200 and then 300, with Mr Oliver admitting that the project has become “a bit of an obsession” that will keep him “fulfilled for a good 10 years” at least.  

He said: “I’m not looking to beat any records and I’m not going to walk the whole coast of Scotland in one go, I’m not going to try and visit 200 beaches in three months. I just don’t care how long it takes. 

“After I really got hooked in Wester Ross I went to Islay and Colonsay. This year I’ve had an amazing year. I went to Mull, Iona, Kintyre, Gigha and then I went over to Barra and Berneray and South Uist and I just came back last week from the north coast from Sutherland. 

“Being an Englishman that’s not mad on England at the moment like a lot of us, I love going to Scotland. I feel like I’ve got a lifetime of travelling to catch up with, with Scotland. The beaches don’t just give me a destination they give me a reason to be able to explore other parts of the outdoors of Scotland which I love.”

With over 80 beaches under his belt since he started the ‘Scottish Beach Project’, Mr Oliver admits it is the serenity to be found at them which is the main attraction for him. 

He said: “I’ve always liked the idea of having the sea on one side and the land on the other and I like the colours, the smells and the sounds. I think there’s that with any beach really, it’s the fact that they are always active, they are always ‘live’. The waves are always crashing. So whatever time of day, 24 hours a day, when you are not there they are still working if you like. They are still ‘turning over’.

“It’s not the same if you walk onto a tourist beach and you’ve just got kids and dogs and deck chairs. But when they are empty there’s something about it really and I like all that. I just get something from it and it clears your head. It’s relaxing and it’s serene.”

 

Affluent Scots most likely to exceed ‘safe’ alcohol limit


People living in the most deprived parts of Scotland are still most likely to report being teetotal, according to a report giving a snapshot of the nation’s health.

Almost a quarter of those from the poorest areas (24%) said they didn’t drink alcohol, compared to 12% in the most affluent areas.

Men and women living in the least deprived parts of the country were also more likely to report drinking more than 14 units per week in 2021 – 29% compared with 20% in the poorest areas.

However, of those who reported ‘hazardous’ drinking, levels were highest in the most deprived areas.

HeraldScotland:

Overall, the prevalence of harmful drinking was highest among those aged between 45 and 74 and was around twice as high among men, while women aged 55-64 reported the heaviest consumption.

The Scottish Government’s annual health survey notes that existing inequalities mean that the burden of alcohol-related mortality is greatest among those living in the most deprived areas.

In 2021 1,245 people died from alcohol-specific causes in Scotland, the highest number of deaths since 2008.

READ MORE: Average Scot still consuming equivalent of two bottles of wine each week as intake stalls 

Covid restrictions continued to affect alcohol sales in pubs, clubs and restaurants with 85% sold in supermarkets and off-licenses.

The number of people reporting harmful drinking has declined steadily since 2003 – from 34 per cent to 23.

A total of 4,557 adults and 1,600 children took part in the survey, which also interviewed Scots about physical activity, diet, weight, general health and Covid vaccine uptake.

HeraldScotland:

This year, interviews were carried out over the phone rather than in person due to the pandemic and experts say this would have had an impact on responses.

Public health expert Professor Linda Bauld, said there was an “implausibly” large drop in smoking reported, from 17% in 2019 to 11% last year.

Dr David Walsh, public health programme manager at Glasgow Centre for Population Health, said self-reported consumption data was notoriously unreliable.

He said there had always been a paradox around alcohol consumption versus harm.

He said: “Consumption has always been recorded as greater among ‘higher’ socioeconomic positions but harm is worse among the poorest.

READ MORE: Class element to Lanarkshire new towns migration says academic

“Various things are at play: partly what epidemiologists refer to as effect modifiers i.e. the effect of the same amount of alcohol on health is made worse by other factors [such as] poverty and associated stressors.

“The way alcohol is consumed and the type of drinks differs across social groups and price matters. Some of the falls in alcohol deaths in recent times have been shown to be associated with declining income following the recession.

“Price is also why Mininum Unit Pricing (MUP) was brought in, because it’s effective.”

Alcohol Focus Scotland called for further restrictions “on the aggressive marketing of alcohol”.

Alison Douglas, chief executive, said: “This should be backed by further investment in support and treatment services to ensure anyone who needs help can the right support when they need it.”

The survey also found that mental wellbeing amongst adults has declined in the past year.

The average Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) score was significantly lower in 2021 than in 2019 (48.6 and 49.8 respectively).

This followed a decade in which levels had remained fairly constant.
Five per cent of adults reported having Long Covid and the most common symptom was tiredness.

Almost one in ten adults (9%) said they were worried that they would run out of food due to lack of money or resources during the previous 12 months.

HeraldScotland:

Rates of smoking continued to be much higher in the most deprived areas (24%) compared to the least deprived areas (5%) and 30% said they were “living with obesity” while 67% was classified as overweight.

Professor Linda Bauld, chair of public health in The Usher Institute at Edinburgh University, said: “The results of the 2021 Scottish Health Survey are important and it’s testament to the team at ScotCen that the survey managed to run in 2021 during the pandemic.

“However, the shift to an entirely telephone-based survey will have had an impact on responses to some questions.

READ MORE: Has minimum pricing failed or been derailed by Covid?

“For example, there is an implausibly large drop in smoking reported (from 17% of adults in 2019 to 11% in 2021) that is unlikely to be real.

“A similar but less dramatic drop was found in England during the pandemic in the Annual Population Survey.

“It will be important to compare these types of changes through time and with other surveys to get a fuller picture.”

A spokeswoman for Public Health Scotland said: “It’s well understood that surveys relying on self-report will tend to underestimate consumption at a population level, for a variety of reasons, including accuracy of recall and under-representation of those drinking at harmful and hazardous levels.

“Surveys provide valuable information on who within the population is drinking at what levels.

“Sales data does provide a more accurate picture of consumption at a population level but can only provide an average figure.”





Source link

What’s the point of a Covid inquiry?



A PREDICTION: the public inquiry into Scotland’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic will prove to be an extremely expensive way of telling us things we already know full well.

When Lady Poole and four lawyers from the inquiry’s team resigned last month, the opportunity should have been taken not to find a new chair, and to pay yet more lawyers their fees, but to cancel the whole project.

The public response to the pandemic was textbook and, if it were ever to recur, we would repeat all over again exactly what we did in 2020-22, making the same mistakes. No inquiry is going to make the slightest difference.

It’s not as if we didn’t already know what the story would be, for the unfolding of the pandemic was identical to every other public emergency to have befallen our country. This time was no different from last time and next time will be no different from this time.

When there is an emergency – or a perceived emergency – the same pattern of behaviour is always followed. Parliament meets in a climate of fear and alarm. Something must be done! Something dramatic! Something capable of meeting the demands of the emergency! Yet Parliament does not know what to do, precisely, so it confers extraordinary, sweeping powers on government ministers, crosses its fingers, and hopes for the best.

Ministers grow quickly accustomed to wielding their new-found powers and learn almost immediately that they can now do more or less anything they want. Parliament will not stand in their way, and neither will the courts. Judges never like reviewing the exercise of emergency powers – emergencies are for ministers to judge, not for the courts.

In peacetime – under normal conditions – our freedom is ensured by the separation of powers. Parliament makes the law, ministers govern, and courts judge when the law has been broken. Power is separated – divided – so that no one has too much of it. But when an emergency strikes, the separation of powers is jettisoned. Parliament confers rule-making powers on ministers, who proceed to govern without anyone being able to hold them to account, the courts preferring to stay out of it until everything cools down again.

This is what happened in the First World War. It’s what happened in the Second World War. And it’s what happened in the so-called war on terror, in the aftermath of 9/11. In both world wars, Parliament conferred such huge powers on ministers that they were able to authorise and require the detention of foreign nationals without so much as a criminal charge, never mind a trial.

When detention was challenged in the courts, the judges looked the other way, refused to engage, and allowed ministers to carry on without even having to show that anyone’s ongoing incarceration was necessary for the national interest. The emergency of war was all the justification ministers needed.

After 9/11 the Blair government conceived of ever more ingenious means of subjecting suspected terrorists to the coercive force of the law. Thus we had control orders, TPIMs (Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures), asset-freezing orders, and closed material procedures. All of it willingly enabled by Parliament, and all of it given the thumbs-up by the judiciary despite the routine, quotidian, indiscriminate interference with basic rights such measures entailed.

The template was followed once again in March 2020, when Covid first lapped at our shores. Parliament legislated in a hurry – I was there; I voted for it – and all of a sudden ministers possessed what would previously have been unthinkable powers. For the first time in British history, a public health emergency led not only to the sick being locked up but to the healthy being locked up, too. Or, at least, it led to the lives of the healthy being firmly locked down.

For months, it was a criminal offence to leave one’s home without lawful excuse. For months, it was an offence to open your business unless it was deemed essential. If, as I did, you lived in Glasgow you could not lawfully walk in the hills; you could not go for a run on the beach. It would have posed no health risk whatever to do such things, but you could not do it anyway. Why? Because ministers said so, Parliament had given them the authority to rule, and the courts refused to get involved.

As I say, to anyone who understands how emergency powers work, none of this was remarkable. It was all absolutely textbook. It’s what we do in emergencies; it’s what we’ve always done, and it’s assuredly what we would do again if we needed to. So why, I ask again, an expensive, overblown, long-winded public inquiry? Do we really think we are going to learn anything useful from it?

Of course, in the rush and fearful heat of the moment, terrible mistakes were made. If we had known then what we know now we would never have cleared out the hospitals and removed the elderly back into care homes. But the error of public policy which led to such tragic loss of life in our care homes was caused by simply not knowing enough about the nature of the virus. It is not the sort of error that can usefully be investigated by – still less, fixed as the result of – a public inquiry conducted with the full benefit of hindsight.

Emergencies impose their own brutal logic, a logic which is as inevitable as it is inescapable. In a public emergency, Parliaments are always going to confer extraordinary and extravagant powers on ministers. Ministers are always going to overreach because the political consequences of not doing enough are always going to be far greater than those of going too far. And the courts are always going to vacate the field for as long as possible, biding their time until a return to normality. We already know all of this. We don’t need a public inquiry to reconfirm it. It’s a colossal waste of time and money, and it should be shelved.

Adam Tomkins was a Conservative MSP for the Glasgow region from 2016 to 20121


Read more by Adam Tomkins:

Is our society really as inclusive as we think?

Even if Sunak is successful the Tories could still be turfed out

The Scottish Tories don’t have a leader who leads. They have one who follows





Source link