Jim Clark Rally deaths to prompt tighter control

Three spectators died after a car came off the road at last year's event. Picture: Kimberley Powell
Three spectators died after a car came off the road at last year's event. Picture: Kimberley Powell
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TIGHTER control of spectators and training for marshals was recommended by a Scottish Government review today following the deaths of three fans at last year’s Jim Clark Rally in the Borders.

The Review Group on Motor Sport Event Safety said “robust action” should be taken against spectators who failed to comply with marshalls, who in turn might be given powers to control them.

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It also called for better communication with spectators, including highlighting high-risk areas.

The group said there should be rules for spectators helping to push rally cars back onto the road, better supervision of the media and a greater police role in safety planning.

The safety review was launched after the three deaths at Swinton, near Coldstream, last May in what was one of the worst incidents in Scottish rallying history.

A rally car came off the road and ploughed into spectators like a “bowling ball hitting skittles”, according to an eyewitness.

Iain Provan, 64, and Elizabeth Allan, 63, a couple from Barrhead in East Renfrewshire died along with Len Stern, 71, from Bearsden in East Dunbartonshire.

Witnesses said spectators where the car crashed had moved forward again despite being told to move back from the road by marshals.

This year’s rally was cancelled last November because of the ongoing police investigation.

The review also followed the death of a spectator at the Highland Snowman Rally near Loch Ness in 2013.

Today’s final recommendations followed the group’s interim report last October which called for an independent safety delegate for staff, volunteers and spectators at rallies, a spectator safety officer and a safety car.

The final report said there should be “improved communication with spectators to ensure the risks are clear and, if necessary, more robust steps may have to be taken to ensure spectators comply with sensible safety advice.

“Event organisers need to make clear that uncooperative spectators, photographers and press are a threat to public safety, and on that basis continued failure to comply will result in a delay or cancellation of a stage. “Robust action must be taken to ensure spectators understand the consequences of their actions.

“The Scottish Government is prepared to further explore the issue of conferring some limited powers on specified marshals.”

Health minister Jamie Hepburn, who announced the recommendations to MSPs, said: “Rallying has a long and proud history in Scotland, but the tragic events at the 2014 Jim Clark Rally and 2013’s Highland Snowman event demonstrated that action had to be taken.

“There will always be an element of risk connected to motor sport, but Scotland must take the lead in ensuring we live up to our history of world-class input to the sport and have the best spectator safety controls in place.

“I believe the review group has brought us a package of measures that will bring about a considerable improvement in spectator safety.”

Group members included former World Rally champion Robert Reid, Sir Jackie Stewart as an advisor, along with motor sport officials, Police Scotland and the Health and Safety Commission.

Sir Jackie said of the report: “I believe what has been achieved in Scotland will be an example that will be taken up on a global basis by the sport of rallying. It is a great step forward in making the sport safer than ever.”

However, Borders Conservative MSP John Lamont, who has called for the cancellation of this year’s rally to be re-considered, said too much red tape could deter people volunteering as marshals, and put further pressure on events’ tight budgets.

Mr Lamont, who represents Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, said: “We need to strike a balance, and I am concerned the report hints at creating too much red tape.

“If we put off crucial volunteers – without whom these events could not operate – and saddle organisers with larger bills, there would be a threat to rally events across Scotland.

The Scottish Government said it agreed with the report’s recommendation that it covered the cost of extra police to deal with unco-operative spectators.

Its spokesman said: “We agree that requests from the organisers to Police Scotland for additional resources should be in accordance with Police Scotland policy, including full cost recovery.

“We have agreed to provide time-limited financial support, if required, to organisers to help meet those costs to support effective implementation of the safety plan, with a review in two years.

“This will give time for the more fundamental and important changes proposed, with marshalling for example, to take effect.”

SEE ALSO

Jim Clark Rally deaths: Calls for accident inquiry

Why did Jim Clark Rally continue, police ask

Tributes to victims of Jim Clark Rally crash

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