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Letters: The blame for Hillsborough lies higher up than the police and the match commander

EARLY in the second episode of ITV’s excellent drama Anne (January 3), which focuses on the experience of Anne Williams, whose 15-year-old son Kevin died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster, a speaker at an early meeting of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, questioning the inquest verdict of “accidental death”, contends: “If this was an accident, it was a man-made one”.

Since the 1960s the hooliganism of a relatively small number of fans had led to an increasingly stern focus on crowd control at football matches, primarily through “perimeter fences” which, according to John Harrington in his 1968 report on football hooliganism, “could be dangerous in the event of massive crowd disturbances as safety exits to the field would be blocked”. The “gangways and tunnels servicing terraces created bottlenecks, rendering them ‘useless’ for evacuation in an emergency” (Hillsborough Independent Panel Report 2016 paragraph 1.40).

Despite this, government policy from the 1970s required perimeter fencing “not less than 1.8 metres in height” as well as “lateral” fences to restrict sideways movement of groups of fans.

This focus on keeping fans away from the pitch meant that in the event of things going wrong (as they did, and not only at Hillsborough) access to the pitch would be required to remove fans from danger – but the fences prevented that.

Think of being at the theatre or cinema. If something goes wrong, preventing you leaving by the route you entered by, there will be other means of egress. Not for football fans at Hillsborough though. The only way of getting out, more than one at a time, was via the means of access, which by this time were hopelessly crowded.

Having been unable to pin the blame on the fans – drunken, out of control – responsibility now lies primarily with South Yorkshire Police and especially former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield. Incompetent as he has admitted he was, is there not though a question of whether he had to manage a situation which was an accident waiting to happen? Moreover, do we not need to ask how successive UK governments could preside over – and indeed legislate to require – a situation where football fans were placed in the degree of peril that was realised on that dreadful day?

A “man-made” accident indeed, but perhaps even now, we need to look higher up for those responsible?

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

TIME TO HALT EV SUBSIDIES

THE Scottish Liberal Democrats are calling for the loan terms for electric vehicles (EVs) to be extended from six years to nine years to encourage more people to buy EVs. Why?

EV owners are already rich, so why should taxpayers subsidise them? They get substantial grants towards the cost of the car, grants towards home charging points, pay nothing to use the roads, are allowed to use bus lanes and even get free parking and free electricity when they recharge in numerous council areas.

Sorry, I forgot they were saving the planet. There are 1.446 billion vehicles in the world so saving the planet and reaching global net zero may take a lot longer than 2045 for Scotland, 2050 for the UK, maybe 2060 for China, maybe 2070 for India and lots of maybes for the rest of the world.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow.

SHOULD HEADS HAVE ROLLED?

I WAS puzzled at the symbolism of the “Cleopatra” picture in your issue last Thursday (“Royal art heads north”, The Herald, December 30) as I couldn’t think why Cleopatra would be holding a severed head. Gordon Cunningham’s letter (January 3) regarding the gloomy nature of the pictures led me to some exploration.

At first I thought of Salome with the head of John the Baptist, but it turns out the picture you printed is not Cleopatra with the Asp by Guido Reni as stated, but Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Cristofano Allori. The reference is to the Jewish widow, Judith, who entered the tent of Holofernes, the Assyrian general, and cut off his head with his own sword. Perhaps an early example of “girl power?” So, maybe a bit cheerier than a dismal suicide? Although maybe Holofernes wouldn’t agree.

Dr David Syme, Killin, Perthshire.

I DON’T RECALL A SMART ALEX

RECENTLY, your columnist Rebecca McQuillan wrote a feature on the Americanisation of the English language (“Hey guys, could we all please stop talking American?”, The Herald, December 24). Annoying as that may be, personally I find changes relating to Scots pronunciation to be even more irritating.

I have noticed that some young Scots now pronounce H as Haitch and, over the New Year holidays, I regularly heard the usage of Auld Lang Zyne although, on Hogmanay, the young Scottish singer on the BBC sang the song perfectly. Furthermore, during the same period, a Scots newsreader was heard reporting on an incident at Lock Fyne.

However, the biggest bugbear for me is why Alec has transformed into Alex in recent times. Last year, I listened to Willie Miller on the radio talking about his old buddy, Alec McLeish, while the presenter, Richard Gordon, talked of him as Alex before correcting himself halfway through the discussion. Also, the other day I heard the Aberdeen chairman, Dave Cormack, referring to the former Dons manager, Alec Ferguson, as Alex about 10 times. I’m sure that he certainly wasn’t Alex in his shipyard days.

Another correspondent, John Dunlop (Letters, January 4) was at great pains to declare his Britishness in your Letters Pages, but surely we Scots don’t want to lose our identity completely?

Gordon Evans, Glasgow.

MARRIAGE LINES

I SUGGEST Katie Allstaff (“How will I cope without poems?”, Letters, January 5), will find relief from world travails with recourse to the American humourist Ogden Nash (1902-1971).

For example, “To keep your marriage brimming / With love in the loving cup / Whenever you’re wrong, admit it / Whenever you’re right, shut up”, has served me well over 60-odd years – up to a point.

R Russell Smith, Largs.

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