So farewell Stewart Stephenson, a man few people had heard of until it snowed and he found himself, as transport minister in Scotland, at the sharp end. He mainly resigned not for the fact that Scotland came to a standstill last week, but rather because he made injudicious remarks about how the response had been first class.
While we are, indeed, the laughing stock in places like Finland and Switzerland over our response to the weather, I do think it is hardly the hapless Stephenson’s fault. There is a great reluctance to pay for the necessary preparation, both equipment and manpower, that would be required to ensure that all systems remained ‘go’ in the event of such weather. Moreover, it was really, as the politicians kept on saying, the perfect storm
OK, he may have been a bit daft to say that the response was ‘first class’ but very little is within his control. On the railways, for example, Scotrail and Network Rail were too busy blaming each other for the complete cancellation of trains north of the central belt, to bother sending out the snowploughs. The separation of the railways claims yet another debacle.
I don’t think that Stephenson’s resignation increases in any way the chances that the same thing might not happen again next year.Quite the opposite; far better that he commissioned and acted on an investigation into what exactly went wrong. Resignations are just a sop to the ever voracious media.