‘The picture is of a deeply flawed culture’

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Over the last five months, the Evening News has brought its readers a series of stories that have attempted to get to the heart of the statutory notice scandal. There have been suspensions, sacking and criminal charges as well as an independent report that has yet to be made public.

Today’s exclusive interview with the former head of the property conservation department sheds further significant light on the endemic problems that beset this council service. Brian Sibbald, who retired on grounds of ill-health, has chosen to speak out and paint a picture of the deeply flawed culture which flourished amid growing funding cuts and lack of strong management.

One could argue that Mr Sibbald is simply telling a version of the story to suit himself. But he candidly admits the department under his control “lost the plot”.

He tells how staff shortages led to surveys routinely being carried out from the pavement and how a culture of accepting gifts from contractors developed.

Worryingly, he also fears that the aftermath of the scandal has left a black hole in the area of property conservation and warns of another Ryans Bar-style tragedy.

As a senior employee during this time, Brian Sibbald must take a share of the blame for what went on. But by speaking out now, he is ensuring that much of what went wrong is not swept under the carpet.

Take off the anoraks

the independence debate is 
becoming so dull that it is in danger of switching off most of the Scottish public. If it is to engage anyone apart from the political “anoraks” among us then it could really do with livening up.

Trainspotting publisher Kevin Williamson and Lothians MSP Neil Findlay have the right idea in trying to lend the debate popular appeal.

But is discussing the pros and cons of independence in ancient 
poetry really going to do the job?

Perhaps we need a more radical approach – maybe a little role playing by the participants.

George Galloway could argue for the Union while performing as a cat a la Big Brother, while Nicola Sturgeon in a curly ginger wig could put the case for independence as Princess Merida from Brave.

At least it would grab the attention of the great Scottish public . . .

This should be the most exciting and fascinating discussion to grip the country for decades, but at the moment it is instead getting bogged down in dreary questions of process.