A YEAR ago, Glasgow and the whole country were stunned by the tragedy of a police helicopter crashing on to the roof of the Clutha bar, killing 11 people.
Now, again just before Christmas, the city has been shocked by another dreadful accident – a refuse lorry careering out of control, killing six people and injuring more.
Because it has occurred at this time of year, when people are finishing work and preparing for a few days of festivities with family and friends, the horror seems all the greater. One moment, people were doing no more than busying themselves with shopping, the next, death and destruction was amongst them.
It doesn’t help to know that all available evidence says this was just an accident and not the terrorist incident aimed at passengers in Queen Street station that many people first feared it was. It appears that the lorry driver was suddenly taken ill, so ill that he was unable to bring his vehicle to a stop. His relatives will be as devastated as those family members of the pedestrians who were killed. They should not be; if the driver had had the slightest ability to stop the lorry, there can be no doubt that he would have done so.
Those close to the people who have been so tragically killed will, initially at least, be gripped by disbelief that so innocent an act as walking in the city centre could end in death. Deep grief will rapidly set in. For them, this Christmas will in effect have been cancelled and no Christmas will ever be the same.
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Out of all tragedies, however, come stories which are a counterweight to the sorrow and despair. The emergency services – police, fire, ambulance and medical teams – responded as they did to the Clutha tragedy, getting quickly to the scene, attending to the injured and saving lives that might otherwise have been lost.
The people of Glasgow responded too. It inspires faith in humanity’s decency that so many passers-by and people safe and warm in a nearby restaurant, instead of fleeing in search of self-protection as they might have done amid the fears of a terrorist incident, rushed to give what help they could.
There is no doubt too, that those helping hands will also be extended to the relatives of the victims. No-one should be subject to this kind of grief, particularly at what should be a time of joy, but the rallying of neighbours and friends to give support will help them through a dreadful time.
That too will help Glasgow. It seems grotesque that, having rightly enjoyed the attention and praise of the world for the immense success of the Commonwealth Games, attention should be drawn again to the city by this tragedy. How people come together to help those who have suffered should be the bigger story.
Unity needed on a divisive issue
Time and time again during the independence referendum, the SNP’s political opponents and non-aligned economic commentators warned of the dangers of basing a country’s prosperity on highly volatile oil revenues. Time and again, these warnings were dismissed by Yes campaign supporters as scare-mongering.
Now, as the price of oil has tumbled to $60 per barrel, No-vote supporters and others who made the warnings are entitled to claim that they were in fact reality-mongers. The implications of this price fall – oil revenues shrunk to a fraction of what was expected and the need for much deeper austerity in Scotland than is the case now inside the UK – have been leapt on by opposition politicians as a cue to accuse the SNP of deceit.
Although understandable, the political sniping going on over this, however, risks distracting attention from a more pressing concern – the effect the price slump will have on the North Sea industry, the companies that supply it, and on jobs.
Political attention should be focused on what can be done to mitigate the serious harm the industry and the Scottish economy will suffer, particularly if current prices are maintained for any period.
The leader of Aberdeen Council, Jenny Laing, has called for industry and political leaders, including David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon, to get round the table as soon as possible to agree on an action plan to help the industry.
There is not much that anyone can do about the oil price, but action can be taken on taxes and regulation, and the sooner that happens the better.
While oil was a highly divisive issue in the referendum, the crisis the North Sea now faces should be politically unifying.
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