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Just and Fair...


Police Scotland finally found John Yuill and Lamara Bell in the their crashed Renault Clio just off the M9 near Stirling on Wednesday 8th July, nearly four days after the accident took place and three days after they'd been told about it. John Yuill had died at the scene, Miss Bell lay in the wreckage all that time and passed away in hospital on 12th July.

Viewed in isolation, it could be argued this was no more than a tragic accident and a one-off case of human error, but I feel in my bones this may well be, not a one-off, but the regular consequence of creating yet another bloated Scottish public sector organization which quickly becomes monolithic, rabidly defensive, spawns layers of management like a demented rabbit, bullies its employees and drives morale onto the rocks while sticking its service ethos firmly in the back seat.

Police Scotland was produced in 2013 by merging eight Scottish police forces, and while an inquiry into the Yuill and Bell tragedy has yet to be held, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie has already said (as reported by the BBC) that, "with reports of police officers backfilling civilian posts, huge workload pressures and morale at rock bottom there is a strong case for a wider independent review."

The thing is, I've seen this happen before, and I've seen it happen in Scotland.

Strathclyde Regional Council became the largest local authority in 1970s Britain and turned into just such a layered, poisonous, cannibalistic horror. As explained in an earlier blog, Faith, my father fought to keep his job there for thirteen bitter years.

An old letter of my mother's ably explains the vile underpinnings of the council, known locally as Strathclyde Region:

"A senior official at Division has had it in for the Centre since its very inception & publicly called it a 'white elephant' on more than one occasion. He thinks it should have been built in Glasgow & that everything we make should be binned."

And the management never stopped trying to get us binned, too. Amongst many other things, they tried to force us out of our tied house and drove my own mother to a near-nervous breakdown and early retirement.

I have simply never forgotten it. Unless you've experienced it yourself, it is almost impossible to believe the sheer depths of vindictive malice those people plumbed. But I was there and I saw it.

The case of Strathclyde Region could also be called a historical one-off, albeit a very lengthy one, but as an adult I spent seven hideous years in the Scottish NHS, which has just received this well-deserved report from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties:

"It is clear that serious failings in team working between clinical staff and NHS management played a significant role in the failings of care identified. These failings are deep-rooted and systemic. They must not be ignored if we are to learn from them and prevent repetition. It is also clear that a combination of factors led to some appalling failings in care, a loss of basic compassion and the prioritisation of inappropriate targets over patient care. In addition, leadership and accountability were all too often sadly lacking and bullying endemic. While there have been responses to the individual reports of inquiries and reviews into failings in care, there is little evidence to suggest that we are tackling the underlying systemic failures which exist."

This report is accurate. I saw and experienced this between 2006-2013, and it was just as bad as the treatment my parents received before me. Nothing had changed or improved. It really was Strathclyde Region Mark III. I was nearly pushed into a nervous breakdown and unemployment/retirement myself, and towards the end realized I was repeating my own father's words regarding officials at the Region thirty years before:

"All they're interested in is their pay and their perks."

When the Scottish Parliament got going in 1997, I did wonder if it might be no more than Strathclyde Region Mark II but felt we should at least take responsibility for our own affairs rather than blame anyone else. However, I left the NHS just as the 2015 referendum was gearing up after candidly telling them that I'd have been willing to help them as an 'autism ambassador,' but that after the way they'd treated me, they could whistle for it. There was simply no way I was going to trust the type of people more interested in pursuing vendettas than serving the public, bullies who hid behind layers of inefficient management and whose incompetence could and did get people killed.

And it had nothing whatsoever to do with Westminster.

There are times over the last two years I've been left aghast at the utter naïvety of campaigners who thought that yelling about justice and fairness, painting their faces blue and dancing around with flags would make one iota's worth of difference to the deeply-rooted public sector-style culture of systemic malice and incompetence we have (to be fair, Scotland is no worse than other parts of our Isle - Rotherham's child exploitation scandal was a disgrace and the London Ambulance Service has just received an equally caustic shelling - but no better either) and after what I'd just seen there was no way I was going to vote for such people to have any more power over me.

That's not the only reason I voted No, but it was a major factor.

During my time in the NHS, I'd also worked out that such incompetent behaviour inevitably leads to fatal mistakes, which are regularly covered up.

Now there have been two more deaths, and I'll bet the inquiry into Police Scotland (Strathclyde Region Mark IV) will come to much the same conclusions the inquiry into NHS Scotland did.

We don't need 'independence.' We never did. We need to take a long hard look in the mirror at our systemic, deep-rooted failings and change our behaviour.

We need to.

But I'm not holding my breath.

James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.

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