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Condemnation for government's Storm Arwen response in the north-east

By David Porter

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Questions were asked at Holyrood.
Questions were asked at Holyrood.

Scottish Conservative MSPs have told John Swinney that the Scottish Government’s response to helping Aberdeenshire residents during Storm Arwen has been “shambolic”.

At Holyrood yesterday Liam Kerr, Alexander Burnett and Douglas Lumsden all quizzed the Deputy First Minister on the lack of assistance being made available to those affected by the devastating storm.

Liam Kerr demanded answers on why a contingency plan wasn’t put in place, describing the Scottish Government’s lack of planning and subsequent help as “appalling”.

He asked what financial help will be made available to underfunded local authorities such as Aberdeenshire for the clean-up operation.

Mr Kerr, in his statement to Mr Swinney, said: “Given what we saw during Storm Frank and then the Beast from the East, and given weather reports were warning people of the impending catastrophe days before this one hit, why was there such a monumental failure of disaster planning by this government?

“What steps is the Scottish Government taking now to proactively and productively co-ordinate the response and swift resolution?

“And finally, the cost of clear-up and presumably implementing lessons-learned will be astronomical.

“Deputy First Minister, what financial help will be made available to our underfunded local authorities to help, and will the Scottish Government be taking the UK Government up on the offer of assistance?”

In his response, Mr Swinney said “the Scottish Government doesn’t run the power companies’ and invited local authorities to come forward for help”.

Mr Kerr later said: “John Swinney should be ashamed for talking down the clock during such a horrific incident.

“Residents across the north-east have been completely abandoned by the Scottish Government yet he seems totally oblivious to their pleas for help.”

Liberal Democrat Communities Spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP said: “It is simply unacceptable that communities across Scotland are left for days without electricity.

“Both the UK Government and Scottish Government should be doing all they can to support those left without power. Alternative power supplies should be provided to communities who may have to wait for engineers to find and fix the problems in order to get the power back on.”

Aberdeenshire councillor Rosemary Bruce said: “Storm Arwen has impacted communities in the north-east particularly harshly.

"Staff are working hard but there is also a lack of communication, community spirit is out in force but letting people know what is available to them is a real challenge.

The SNP's Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin called for a resilience review to be undertaken as thousands of homes continue to be left without power as a result of Storm Arwen.

Ms Martin said she had “never before” seen such damage from high winds in her constituency.

The MSP called for reassurance that vulnerable people in outlying areas were being checked on to ensure they were safe.

Calling on the Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Ms Martin said: “I have never before seen such damage from high winds in my area.

"We are all aware of the volumes of people who are still without power.

"How is the Government ensuring that there are sufficient resources to ensure that those in outlying areas are being checked on?

“I am not talking only about those who are on lists of people with vulnerabilities.

" I am hearing from families with newborn babies, and I am very concerned about older people who live alone who might be missed, many of whom cannot get information.

"As the Deputy First Minister mentioned, in the digital world that we live in, gaps in communications have been exposed.

“What resilience review work will be undertaken as a result of what has happened to us this week, which has exposed some of those gaps?”

Responding, the Deputy First Minister said the north-east had had to wrestle with a storm of the “greatest ferocity” since last week.

He said: “The damage has been significant.

"We must identify whether there are other steps that we need to take to make networks, as well as individuals and households, more resilient.

“That discussion will start once we have got to the point where we have secured resolution of the issues and we can properly and fully learn the lessons, in consort with our resilience partnerships and the power companies, which have a critical role to play in it.”

He has in turn confirmed that the Belwin Scheme has been initiated today to offer financial aid to councils for recovery.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said: “I welcome the Deputy First Minister’s response that lessons will be learned from what has happened over the past few days.

“The north-east has been severely impacted by Storm Arwen and my team and I have been dealing with many constituents who have been left without water and electricity.

“I would like to thank the many hard-working people on the ground and all the local businesses who have been offering hot showers and hot food for those in need.

“Once again the people of the north-east have shown their generosity and resilient spirit despite challenging circumstances.

“In future it is important lessons are learned from what has happened following this storm.

“In the short-term, it is essential that we get people reconnected and back to normality after almost a week without power.”

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