We were all shocked by a major fire in one of our large secondary schools on Sunday night. We were even more shocked to learn on Monday morning that a 14 year old boy had been arrested and charged with fire-raising.
The school, Woodmill High School in Dunfermline, was so badly damaged that it has been closed till further notice. The authorities are struggling to find alternative accommodation for its 1400 pupils since all neighbouring schools are already full.
As the week wore on, questions began to fill the acrid air. How did a fire, which began in an annex, spread so rapidly to parts of the main building? Was there no fire alarm or sprinkler system In operation? The 80 fire-fighters who fought the blaze said it was a particularly complex fire because of the nature of the building. Why so? And why can’t the parts of the building that were saved not be used again almost immediately? And, if indeed it was that 14 year old boy who started the fire, what possessed him to do it ?
No doubt many of these questions will get their awkward answers in the weeks ahead. And I wonder what effect such a devastating fire will have on the pupils and teachers of the school and the council and town of Dunfermline. And, indeed, on those of us who watched it from a distance.
Woodmill school wasn’t the only thing on fire this week. The British constitution seems to be going up in flames. The prime suspect is Boris Johnston of “Clowning Street” as one placard has it. Nicola Sturgeon described his decision to suspend parliament for five weeks, just as the Brexit affair reaches crisis point, as “the act of a tin-pot dictator.”
“If MPs don’t unite to stop him, this will be the day that parliamentary democracy died in the United Kingdom.” She went on the say that it makes Scottish independence “inevitable.”
The SNP have joined forces with Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and a handful of Tory rebels in an attempt to use the few days of parliamentary time available before the Brexit deadline of 31st October to pass a law forbidding the government leaving the EU without a deal. The experts are all saying that will be a tough challenge.
The whole Brexit business has caused the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to resign. The news leaked out just as the Boris bombshell burst on Wednesday and was confirmed on Thursday morning when Ms Davidson announced she was leaving for political and personal reasons. “Much has changed,” she said. Her new baby is clearly taking up her time and energy, but she’s no fan of Boris Johnston and is strongly opposed to a no-deal Brexit.
Her departure is a major blow for the Tories in Scotland since she is credited with rebuilding the party over the last eight years, giving it a new and more modern image and making it the main opposition to the SNP, winning 31 seats in the Scottish Parliament and 13 at Westminster. So if indeed the Conservatives are planning a general election later this year – and it looks increasingly like it with all the spending announcements they are making – then they may not fare so well in Scotland without the Davidson “oomph”.
Meanwhile a legal attempt to prevent the Westminster parliament being prorogued is making its way through the Scottish, Northern Irish and English courts. The Court of Session is expected to hand down a decision in the interim interdict action which was heard only on Thursday morning. And demonstrations and marches are taking place across the country.
I came across a “People’s Vote “ rally in the Meadows in Edinburgh last week where, in addition to the usual politicians speaking, we were treated to a few stand-up comics from the Festival Fringe and Alistair Campbell playing the bagpipes. (We like Alistair – he retweeted one of our tweets during the Fringe! Ed.)
The cracks in the constitution were not the only cracks to worry about this week. Reactor number four at the Hunterston nuclear power station has been allowed to start up again, despite hundreds of cracks in its graphic core. The reactor has been shut down for the past 18 months while the core underwent extensive examination. The reactor is 13 years past its normal life-span but the Office for Nuclear Regulation has allowed it to resume operations for a further four months to see how things develop. However, a group of energy experts and anti-nuclear campaigners say the decision puts the population of central Scotland at risk unnecessarily.
The operators of Hunterston, the French energy firm EDF, took advantage of the shutdown to carry out the most extensive investigation of the reactor core that has ever been undertaken. It cost £125m and included the possible effects of an earthquake. Strangely enough there was an earthquake last weekend not far away, across the border at Cuadrilla’s fracking site in Lancashire. The firm has been ordered to cease fracking until further notice. Where ever our energy is coming from seems to be causing problems. The sooner we move to solar and tidal power the better. But as is the way of things for our strangely stupid species, these are the very technologies where we invest the least.
Finally, this week’s heroes’ award goes to two teenagers, Eilidh and Isla Noble, who saved a man and his young son from drowning at a beach near Fraserburgh. They used an air-bed to bring the two ashore and helped revive them on the beach while the rescue services were called. The local lifeboat crew said the girls’ actions were simply “brilliant…they deserve medals.” And indeed they do.