Brian Monteith: Even a Marine Canute do it all

This will be an interesting weekend. For many, myself included, our eyes will be on the snow and the impact it has on us as we try go about our business.

As I look out my window I see it falling persistently and lying like a carpet of icing sugar over the rooftops, gardens, and streets. It is picture postcard stuff but I'm not feeling too enchanted just at this moment.

My new, fourth-hand car, bought cheaply on e-bay to replace the one that conspired to slide off a dual carriageway and into a ditch, is just a white, shapeless lump. It might yet have a rendezvous with a ditch too if the snow keeps falling. Like so many people, I shall, over the next few days, have no alternative but to use my car. Such is the distance I need to go, walking is not an option, unless I want to meet up with Captain Oates.

There are no trains where I live and they probably would not venture near me if there were. If the roads are open to buses then they will be open to cars, but if buses choose to stay in their garages I shall still have to make the effort. I've a wedding to attend and as I'm the groom I'll have to be there come hail, sleet or snow.

So the weather is of great interest to me - will I be able to travel? Will the guests be able to travel, many of whom are coming from points far and wide and most of whom are flying?

Will the band make it - now that's a real worry as I'm a rubbish singer, would make an excellent dancing partner for Anne Widdecombe and have no magician's tricks up my ample sleeves. The band must make it!

I know I'm not alone. From making my own arrangements I know there are other weddings tomorrow and the weather will be having the many Bridezillas reaching for the Nurofen. Forgive my self-absorption, I know there will be other events, larger and smaller, of greater and lesser significance, and all will be important to the individuals who have much at stake, be it financial or social.

So the appointment of Keith Brown, an MSP of military experience - in the Marines, no less - has my full backing. I'm sure he has had Arctic training and knows his red buttons from green ones (unless they have been recruiting colour-blind chaps in the interest of ocular equality).

The fact that he's a Hibby also suggests that he knows adversity and having run Scotland's smallest council in Clackmannanshire gives me hope that he understands the plight of the little platoons in Scotland and is not beholden to big bullying government.

The times I have met him he has always presented a well-mannered, self-deprecating and grounded figure. By comparison to his predecessor, the hapless Mr Stevenson, his humility shines through and he lets you laugh at his jokes rather than do it for you. Smug he is not.

So I am hopeful, but that's all. I am not wearing a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops. The shovel is still in the car. The foot mats ready to be used for extra traction under the wheels. The roads may be yet passable, the airports open and the rail tracks clear. Even so I do not, and never have believed, that it is the sole responsibility of politicians, and certainly not just the titular head, to be responsible for everything that has to move about in Scotland, or anywhere else for that matter.

The reason Stevenson had to go was because he revealed in his ineptness that he did not have a grip on his brief, did not know what was happening around him and had not acted on the report that he had commissioned following January's record-breaking freeze. Stevenson deserves respect and the possibility of political redemption because he knew he had let people down and wished to take the responsibility by resigning.

What is inexplicable is that Alex Salmond tried to talk Stevenson out of it - believing his performance did not warrant such sacrifice. I can only surmise that the First Minister is losing his touch. His political antennae have clearly frozen to the point of being numb to the public's sense of outrage at the complete and utter failure of government being ready to cope with weather that had been forecast accurately by the Meteorological Office.

As if that is not disappointing enough, the Government spin machine has been put on to full revs - now that the First Minister has chosen Brown as Transport Minister he is being paraded as the man for all seasons as if he can, Canute-like, command the snows away.

This is surely wrong. Stevenson had to go but I shall not be calling for Brown's resignation even if the roads do freeze-up and I am forced to ski to my nuptials. The appointment of a new man at the helm should instead have been used as an opportunity to remind people how to prepare for journeys, how to check the various sources of weather and travel information - and how it is their responsibility to be prepared for the worst. Wish me luck . . .

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