Leader comment: Nicola Sturgeon’s talk of M9 tragedy ill advised

First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon . Picture: Getty

First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon . Picture: Getty

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Nicola Sturgeon has come under fire for speaking out about the fatal crash on the M9 that claimed the lives of Lamara Bell and her partner John Yuill last summer.

Despite the First Minister’s obvious regrets over the incident, which saw the couple lying undiscovered in the wreckage of their car for three days after police were informed of the crash, the family of one of the victims has hit out at her for speaking about the tragedy while an investigation into the circumstances is still being carried out. They say her comments have come “too soon”.

And they are probably right – even though the First Minister has been quite clear that she believes the family has been let down. Her assessment of what happened was blunt and honest, and describing the event as a “dreadful failure” is not a tack every politician would take. But this family is still grieving and waiting for answers nine months on, so their frustration over the timing of the remarks is perfectly understandable. They say they have been “left hanging”.

The FM’s main mistake was to insist in the same interview that she is “very proud” of her party’s record on policing. This is not what the bereaved want to hear. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the tragedy happened on the SNP’s watch. So it jars to admit on the one hand that a dreadful failure in policing cost two people their lives, then follow that up with an endorsement of the cost-cutting reforms that have been accused of contributing to what happened on the M9.

This uncharacteristic error by Ms Sturgeon serves as a timely reminder that current political debate is more than just talk – it has a big impact on real lives.

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