THE Leveson inquiry into the phone hacking scandal and the ethics of certain newspapers has been fascinating, especially as during its processes it’s been revealed that Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator working for the defunct News of the World, did not delete voice messages on murder victim Milly Dowler’s mobile phone.
Such was the outrage when it was discovered that the Dowlers had been given false hope while the search was on for their daughter because they believed she had deleted her own voicemail, that it increased calls for a public inquiry into the workings of the press.
Who knows whether or not the News of the World would still be with us if it hadn’t been widely accepted that it had approved such a heinous act by Mulcaire. What we do know though is that in a search for truth, public inquiries can lead to conclusions which those with an axe to grind might not expect.
There is, quite rightly, a demand for an inquiry into the Edinburgh trams fiasco. Impatience for it to begin is building as those who were involved in the project from the beginning have dispersed with the winding up of TIE and there’s continued doubt over whether or not vital papers and information have been kept by the council.
And now there’s the news that Transport Scotland had a man working with the project all the time, even after the Scottish Government had removed if from the board overseeing the project.
John Ramsay, a project manager with the government quango, apparently wrote the cheques to the council for payment to the contractors as work was completed. Someone had to do it, but you might imagine that paying out millions of taxpayers’ money might have come with some caveats – like the work actually being done.
However, Mr Ramsay should not become a scapegoat. He was, no doubt, just following orders. But questions will need to be asked about whether or not he flagged up problems with the project as it went along. After all there must have been specific targets which had to be hit before money would be released.
And he may well be just another unwitting victim of the whole botched job. If he received reports telling him all was fine and dandy and the trams would be running by 2012 why should he question them? But perhaps he did. Perhaps, especially during the time when the council was in dispute with the contractors, he flagged up the problems with his superiors. Perhaps not.
If he did, what happened? Did his bosses report his concerns to the Finance Minister John Swinney? Did he fail to act because it was an opportunity for the SNP to prove its point about the tram being a waste of time and money. To say na-na-na-na-na ya boo sucks to the Labour, Lib Dem and Green MSPs who voted for the tram in the first place? Perhaps not. It is unfortunately entirely feasible that Mr Swinney didn’t know just how bad things really were.
The point though is that it’s time to stop the foot-dragging and get an inquiry started and see where it leads us. It could well recommend that local authorities never again get involved in public engineering works of this scale. It may discover that a career in social work is actually vital to understanding the legal processes of tenders and contracts.
Most likely it will discover that complacency, poor checks and balances and a lack of financial controls – as well as sheer bloody mindedness on all parts – has resulted in Edinburgh’s good name being dragged through the mud.
But let’s find out once and for all where the blame lies and then we won’t need to look for scapegoats. They will be out in the open.
IN another life I used to work in television.
It was a time when Edinburgh’s streets were being dug up as people had cable TV fed into their homes in an attempt to break free of the stranglehold of the satellite dish.
It was also the first time the city would have its own television station, courtesy of the News Bunny and Kelvin McKenzie.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds were sunk into state-of-the-art television studios in the south stand of Easter Road, and Edinburgh L!VE was born. For 30 minutes of every hour Monday to Friday we had an opt-out from London broadcasting to give viewers Edinburgh news. It was a real shame when, due to poor revenue streams, the station had to close.
But now, Edinburgh could have its own TV station once again as Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt wants the Capital to pioneer a “commercially viable” station as part of a “fundamental” change in broadcasting.
It’s not of course, because it’s been tried here and elsewhere like Liverpool, Birmingham and Newcastle before. All the stations found out the hard way that making TV is expensive (just ask the BBC) even when it’s done on the cheap (just ask STV). Local television is a good idea, but without the backing of local businesses it won’t work.