Who’s to blame?

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Frank Urquhart’s excellent article (6 July) brought some bitter memories to my mind, as, like him, I lost a good friend and workmate, Freddie McGurk, in the Piper Alpha disaster.

And, like the late, lamented Gavin Clelland, I was disgusted that the Scottish justice system concluded that the owner/operator of the platform, Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd, had done nothing that warranted criminal proceedings against it.

Thus, despite the Cullen Inquiry finding overwhelming evidence of Occidental’s systemic, bad working practices and conditions and defective safety procedures, no corporate culpability was established.

Instead, as Mr Urquhart’s article points out, Lord Caplan, some years later, concluded that most blame was attributable (without any firm evidence to support this view), to the supposed – and highly speculative – failures of a dead workman who could not defend himself.

Having spent a lifetime in the engineering industry I viewed this finding as absolutely incredible. I also see a stark contrast between Scotland’s fawning, subservient treatment of multinational companies working in our waters to the US government’s strident and critical reaction to those same companies’ shortcomings in US waters.

For instance, I cannot see the many US inquiries and prosecutions arising out of the Deepwater Horizon disaster (11 dead), coming up with conclusions similar to those of the Piper Alpha disaster (167 dead), namely that it was all down to a dead roustabout, lying, with a spanner in his hand, at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

In the United States of America, the buck may not stop till it reaches the top.

Tom Minogue

Victoria Terrace