In a scathing letter to the Prime Minister, Nicola Sturgeon criticised the amount of time the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) was taking with its investigation and condemned their refusal to pass information and early findings to the Crown Office in Scotland.
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She also accused the AAIB and officials at the Ministry of Transport of “lacking respect and understanding” of the Scottish legal system and the need to keep the members of the bereaved families informed.
But last night, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) said that the AAIB should not be used a “political football”.
Ten people died when police helicopter crashed through the roof of the Clutha bar in Glasgow on 29 November 2013.
Though the inquiry took the unusual step of issuing an update on its investigation on the anniversary of the disaster last year, an interim report has yet to emerge and the full report will not arrive until summer this year.
The AAIB has said that the inquiry was taking time because helicopters are not required to have a black box flight recorder.
In her letter to Mr Cameron, Ms Sturgeon acknowledged that the AAIB was an independent body, but called on him to intervene in the AAIB’s work.
She wrote: “I would ask for your assistance in ensuring they work closely with the procurator-fiscal.”
She added that the fiscal was “unable to move on their investigation into this matter until AAIB publishes its final report”.
Ms Sturgeon then attacked the AAIB’s handling of the inquiry so far, stating the Solicitor General for Scotland had written to the Secretary of State for Transport last year to “express her concern at the dearth of information flow and lack of respect for and understanding of the obligations of the Crown Officer and Prosecutor Fiscal Service (COPFS) and the police in relation to this investigation and in particular to the bereaved families”.
She said that the solicitor general’s invitation to meet and discuss the matter had not received a reply.
The First Minister concluded by urging Mr Cameron “to do all that you can to ensure that AAIB progress their investigation as quickly as possible”.
Responding by letter, Mr Cameron stated that he had raised the matter with both the ministry and the AAIB and had “received their assurances that the AAIB will be open and co-operative in their investigation”.
He added that the AAIB and the Crown Office had held a meeting on 11 December, which “was very productive”.
A Balpa spokesperson said: “The AAIB is not a political football, and both the First Minister and the Prime Minister would both be advised not to make it one.
“We have great sympathy with the families of victims who are looking for answers. But the AAIB’s mission is thoroughly to investigate air accidents and make safety recommendations to prevent them from happening again. That is painstaking and meticulous work which takes time and pilots have huge regard for the work the AAIB do.
“Any politician seeking to rush the AAIB’s work, or seeing the AAIB’s findings primarily as part of a criminal investigation, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how aviation safety works.”