Helen Martin: Cruelty allegations need SRU response

Vern Cotter. Picture; Ian Rutherford
Vern Cotter. Picture; Ian Rutherford
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THIS time last week many people were wondering what would happen to Scottish rugby coach Vern Cotter following disturbing allegations featured in almost every Sunday newspaper, about a team training exercise in France prior to the 2015 World Cup.

One week on and the answer is – nothing. No news of investigation, internal or otherwise, no comment (let alone denial) from Scottish Rugby, other than an unnamed ‘Murrayfield source’ confirming it did happen but saying it wasn’t as bad as it sounded.

For those who somehow missed the story, it was initially revealed in a podcast interview with former squad member Jim Hamilton. He claimed that after a flight to Barcelona and a long road trip, the team - including their doctor, all dressed for airline travel and not outdoor challenges, were made to climb a Pyrenean mountain.

Arriving at a clearing, exhausted and hungry, they were faced with what appeared to be pet rabbits in crates. Cotter asked who was NOT prepared to kill the rabbits and four players raised their hands. . . . only to find by doing so they were going to be forced to do the deed.

It involved lifting the defenceless bunnies from their cage, cracking the animals’ skulls until their eyes popped out and in some cases, leaving them writhing on the ground in agony while Cotter yelled and swore at them to get on with it. Then they ate them.

Animal charities were outraged, as were members of the public, hardened journalists and other protesters on social media. But unless there’s an independent investigation, and with the SRU having taken an apparent vow of silence, this tale of barbarity remains a so-far undenied ‘allegation’.

But let’s suppose for a moment, it was true. Imagine the outcome if the alleged perpetrators were not Cotter and the Scotland squad in France, but a bunch of thugs in Edinburgh. They’d be arrested and in court before you could say Beatrix Potter.

And it doesn’t stop at animal abuse. Forcing a young man who doesn’t want to kill an animal with his bare hands to do so and watch it die in extreme pain, is abuse of another human being.

If this did happen, what on earth was the point of the exercise? It’s not the SAS. How could violently killing a rabbit make someone a better rugby player or a braver, stronger, man?

In fact if bravery, strength of character and masculinity was the aim, it would appear the squad was made up of pathetic wimps too concerned about their team place and lacking the guts or cojones to tell Cotter to go forth and multiply.

It may not be true. Hamilton could be making it all up, although so far he has only been accused of exaggeration . . . whether about the length of the mountain hike or the extent of rabbit torture is unclear.

If he was fabricating, why hasn’t any action been taken against him?

One way or another, the reputation of the Scotland team and particularly Cotter, is damaged beyond repair.

And until this allegation is admitted and Cotter sacked or else denied, Scottish Rugby remains under a bloody cloud of suspicion and disgust.

Tesco should look after elderly

IT doesn’t surprise me at all that Tesco has had to suspend home deliveries in the city centre during the Fringe because of road closures, road works and congestion.

But home deliveries are not just for lazy or busy folk who would rather order online. They have now become a vital service for the elderly, the frail and the disabled.

If deliveries have to be limited, by all means suspend the service to the able-bodied, who might even enjoy bumping into celebs at their local supermarket.

But something has to be put in place for those who cannot physically fetch their own shopping and who rely on home delivery to eat.

Summer work for the active retired with their own cars, pizza type scooters with carrier boxes, temporary staff prepared to deliver locally on foot . . . whatever; surely Tesco, with its claimed ‘community support’ ethos can come up with something.

Just pulling the rug out from under the vulnerable who depend on the system is not ‘customer service’.