08 Dec 2010

Clearly the big news and the big problem over the last couple of weeks has been the weather. I myself have used either the bus or the train to the city centre on most days in the last couple of weeks. And every time I have needed them, one of them has been running. Clearly it has not been an easy task for the drivers, yet they almost always seem to handle the difficulties with good humour. On more than one occasion I have heard a driver telling their boss on the phone they will work a bit longer and drive a bit further in order to get people home. Many of these folk have been outstanding examples of what public service is all about.

So could more have been done? There have been endless arguments about the Council and the Government not being better prepared. Was the weather forecast accurate enough? Was the grit good enough? But the reality is that, even if we had known how much snow there would be, how cold it would be, and how long it would go on for, there is probably little that could have been done differently. Such weather has not been common in recent years and if Glasgow City Council had spent millions more on gritters and snowploughs only to have had them sit idle for most of the last twenty years, most council tax payers would have been complaining bitterly at the waste of money.

And don’t other countries handle things better? A couple of years ago I visited Budapest in Hungary where they are used to cold winters. The pavements there were in a much worse state than Glasgow’s. And Canada? There they seem to have more equipment for dealing with snow because they need it every winter and use it every winter. Are our taxpayers willing to pay extra tax for equipment being on stand-by even if it is only used for four weeks in every twenty years?

I was discussing all of this with a Canadian who lives in Scotland. He made the point that in Canada the drivers too take on more responsibility, including having different tyres for the winter, and carrying grit, a shovel, food, and a candle (for warmth) in the car.

So, yes, let’s have a debate about how we handle weather like this. But let’s be grateful to all the people who have really gone out of their way to help others.