EUROPE is facing a refugee crisis. Huge numbers are crossing into the continent in what has been described as the largest movement of people since the Second World War.
David Cameron’s response to the recent upsurge has been to say the key to solving the problem is by bringing “peace and stability” to the countries from which they came.
That hope may be inarguably correct as a long-term goal, but it is useless to be touted as the main way of addressing the momentous situation facing both the UK and the rest of the European Union.
The Prime Minister is being disingenuous. He surely knows such a course of action will do nothing to address what’s happening on the ground now.
The developing humanitarian disaster has been starkly underlined by a distressing photograph of the body of a three-year-old Syrian boy lying face down on a Turkish beach. The Scotsman chose not to publish that shocking and distressing picture.
But there can be no doubt that the recent shocking scenes of the plight of refugees illustrates the urgent need to take much more effective action.
From a UK perspective, the Scottish Government has taken a lead on this which should be listened to and acted upon.
Nicola Sturgeon has offered to take at least 1,000 refugees, having already criticised what she described as the Prime Minister’s “walk on by” attitude to the crisis.
Unlike Mr Cameron, the First Minister’s approach is also far more in step with other European leaders.
Germany and France have agreed the EU should impose binding quotas for refugees on member states.
Opponents of increasing the number of refugees allowed into the UK like to play the highly emotive card that it would open the “floodgates” and swamp the country.
The now pejorative nature of the term “migrant” has only further inflamed the situation and hardened some opinion.
But those at the heart of this crisis are not “economic” migrants, or opportunistic drifters, but families fleeing for their lives and willing to risk everything just to survive.
The argument that any weakening will just encourage thousands to leave their countries and come to Europe is signally failing to understand the reality - there are already hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing. The lucky ones are in camps or massed in Hungary and other places. The unlucky ones have dies in the attempt, often abandoned by unscupluous traffickers. Yes we should address the problems in countries at the root where practibale, and tackle criminal gangs. But what we have to deal with right now is the human misery and horror facing those refugees, and it is our moral duty to alleviate that above all else.
Policing the police is key duty of ministers
THE Scottish Government’s decision to start righting the wrongs at Police Scotland comes not before time.
It is good news indeed that the closure of two police control rooms will be put off until extra call handling and other staff have been recruited elsewhere.
The difficulties faced by the force’s call centres have been widely aired.
Thankfully, scrutiny of their future performance will come not least from the public who contact them to report incidents, like the tragic M9 crash which shone the spotlight on the problem in the first place.
Let’s also hope the decision to scrap consensual stop and search means just that this time.
On top of that, the routine deployment of armed officers has generated further bad publicity.
These are symptoms of a wider ill – the need for Police Scotland to rebuild people’s confidence. However, at the heart of the malaise is ministers’ failure to make their new creation properly accountable – and it has taken them far too long to act this time.
That’s because the criticism can be levelled not just at Michael Matheson, the current Justice Secretary, but also his predecessor, Kenny MacAskill, under whose auspices Scotland’s eight police were merged.
Let’s hope Mr Matheson’s intervention will usher in a new era of the Scottish Government playing close attention to the performance of one of the country’s most vital public services.
Arguably, if it had happened sooner, the controversies could have been averted.
Let’s make sure we don’t get into the same mess again.