Martin Hannan: Shared grief is our family tie

Rescue workers at The Clutha in Glasgow. Picture: Robert Perry

Rescue workers at The Clutha in Glasgow. Picture: Robert Perry

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I was going to write about the council’s draft budget this week, but the events in Glasgow on Friday night rendered even such important considerations almost trivial.

There are many people in Edinburgh who, like myself, hail from the west coast, and when a tragedy of such magnitude occurs in a location that you know well, you take it almost personally. As someone who was born in Glasgow and started his working life there, and who has friends living in the city, my first response was disbelief that such horrendous carnage could be visited on a place I know.

I have not been in The Clutha Vaults for a couple of years, but I drank there on numerous occasions in the past, not least because it was one of the first pubs that you encountered travelling into the city centre from the East End and South Side.

I am haunted by imagining the scene, the helicopter plunging in to a bar which, from personal experience, I know would have been packed with people.

The only saving grace is that the helicopter did not explode, and why that did not happen will no doubt be explained in time, but reporters who visited the scene spoke of the smell of kerosene hanging around the north bank of the Clyde. Had the helicopter exploded, I fear we would now be talking about dozens of deaths.

The Clutha had been in existence a long time before Friday night. I actually prefer the nearby Scotia Bar, haunt of writers and folk musicians, but The Clutha was always somewhere you could go if the Scotia was full, and The Clutha itself was always packed to the gunwales at weekends.

It had different names back then, such as The Merchant, as I recall, but it is as The Clutha Vaults, scene of horror, that it will now always be remembered, which is deeply sad. The memories of good times there which so many shared will now be overwhelmed by the mental picture of the helicopter protruding from the roof.

All the tributes that have been paid to the emergency services and the citizens of Glasgow who went to the aid of the injured have been eloquent and fitting. It almost beggars belief that ordinary people out for a night on the town should have risked their lives in trying to extract their fellow citizens from a crash scene which could have gone up in flames at any second. I like to think that would have been the response of most of us, but it was still a remarkably courageous thing to do and efforts must be made to identify the ordinary heroes and make sure they get some kind of bravery award.

I would never presume to speak for the people of Edinburgh, but everyone I have spoken to has been affected by this tragedy. Our hearts go out to Glasgow, for we are no mean city either.

Most people picked out the fact that the incident was so unforeseen, so random, as the truly shocking element. It could have been any pub, anywhere, with any of us sitting there. It is a reminder yet again that life is to be lived to the full every day.

IT’S A FAIR COP

The Evening News campaign to keep police stations open looks to be working with reprieves for Linlithgow and South Queensferry. We’ll keep up the pressure until our stations are saved.

We need to see things down in black and white

A friend of mine could not lay his hands on an immediately-available copy of the White Paper, but had the bright idea of popping into his local library to check the copy that they would surely have.

Oops, no, it did not actually have a copy, and one of the assistants checked with the central computer and found that there were only five ordered for all the libraries across the city.

I’m sure that cannot be right, but perhaps one of our SNP councillors might like to check on this situation. After all, not everyone has the internet.

Negative bias is not what the public deserves

After the weekend’s tragic events in Glasgow, I am not really feeling political, but I have to record my disgust at the English-based media’s negative response to the publication of the Scottish Government’s White Paper.

As an SNP member, I have come to expect Unionist bias on the part of the London-controlled media, but last week they made no attempt to disguise their extreme negativity towards independence.

There were very few attempts to dispassionately analyse what was in the White Paper, and no attempt at all by some newspapers to point out that the SNP government could not answer certain questions because the UK Government will not discuss matters officially. That is morally wrong, and doing their readers a disservice.

I’ve got the hump with road menace

The ubiquitous sleeping policemen that disfigure our roads are an abomination, but we tolerate them because they supposedly make life safer.

What chance do motorists have, however, when there’s no warning signs and markings on speed bumps have faded away, as was the case in Rankeillor Street recently. To whom do I send the bill for a broken exhaust?