Martin Hannan: Inch club takes massive strides

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There are triumphs in life which are gained in huge steps, but mostly they are won inch by inch. That’s certainly the case with a superb scheme of which Edinburgh and indeed Scotland should be proud.

I’m referring to the Inch Park Community Sports Club (IPCSC) which was formally opened by Justice Secretary Kenny McAskill last week after many years of work. It was a privilege to attend the opening and see so many kids with happy faces – for these new facilities will benefit local youngsters most of all, and if I can borrow a phrase, the Inch is miles better.

With the backing of everybody from the Scottish Rugby Union to national sports agency sportscotland, and with support from charities and trusts like WREN and the Cashback for Communities scheme, and with that much-maligned body Edinburgh City Council eventually playing a huge role, the sparkling new IPCSC clubhouse is open and the pitches are being played on.

Professional advisers were involved, but mostly, it has been a monumental effort by the volunteer officials of Lismore Rugby Club, Edinburgh South FC and Edinburgh South Cricket Club to create the facilities which will take sport on the south side of the city far into the future.

I’ll happily admit I’m biased in my praise of this terrific development, as I’m a former Lismore player and have been associated with the club in one way or another for more than 25 years, though I had to stop playing a long time ago – we had a ceremonial burial of the boots after my last official game and I believe they eluded the archaeologists during the recent excavations.

To see Inch Park transformed in the way that IPCSC has achieved is truly remarkable. And I’m told it’s only going to get better, which is frankly amazing as the new clubhouse alone would be the envy of many Premier One rugby clubs.

I’m sure everyone involved will forgive me for singling out the absolutely monumental contribution from start to present of Malcolm Gillies, my former Lismore front row colleague who is now president of IPCSC, and whose selfless drive and determination led the way throughout.

When Malcolm and his colleagues told other clubs many years ago of what they were planning, at least one club official said “in your dreams”. Well, now IPCSC is living the dream, and have sent out a message to communities in the Lothians and across Scotland that by working together and pooling resources, by bringing ingenuity and above all perseverance to bear, dreams can be made reality.

Carloway in the dock

A FORTNIGHT ago I wrote about the changes I feel are necessary to bring Scottish criminal law into the 21st century. That was in advance of Lord Carloway’s review of the criminal legal system.

I suggested that the law on corroboration being necessary for a conviction should be scrapped, and I did not think Lord Carloway would make such a call. I’m glad to say that I was wrong on that count, but on so many more matters the Carloway Review is hugely disappointing.

There seems to have been some thought that Lord Carloway was only to look at “human rights” aspects of the law. That is nonsense. Lord Carloway’s terms of reference included this: “To make recommendations for further changes to the law and to identify where further guidance is needed, recognising the rights of the suspect, the rights of victims and witnesses and the wider interests of justice while maintaining an efficient and effective system for the investigation and prosecution of crime.” Given that broad remit, I know I am not alone in thinking that the Carloway Review has no more than scratched the surface of a legal system that needs a complete overhaul.

The question of whether dubious 8-7 verdicts in jury trials should continue – you need 10-2 in England – was not in the review. Nor was there any great input on the question of jury selection to eliminate bias – common practice in many countries.

That bad joke of a verdict “not proven” will continue, while the issues of the human rights of victims – such as why they are subjected to the ordeal of appeal processes that can take many years – got nary a mention. Since the review was published, once again the legal establishment has closed ranks, as proven by that fact that even Lord Carloway’s call to scrap corroboration was attacked by the usual “we are perfect” suspects.

Scots law is absolutely not perfect, and as an SNP member I want the Government to realise this and tackle the subject full on – it’s time for the elected representatives to tell the unelected judges and lawyers what we, the people, want from a modern criminal justice system.

As for the civil law, don’t get me started. Our civil courts have been in turmoil for years, with long delays in getting even major cases into court, and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money wasted on piddling cases that could be solved by a single arbiter without the need for court action.

Scots law needs fixed – many more aspects of it are flawed, and lawyers know it. But I suspect that, thanks to Lord Carloway’s review, members of the Edinburgh legal establishment have won the battle to maintain Scots law in their own conservative “wha’s like us” manner.