Families deserve earliest possible report on Clutha

FAMILIES of the victims of the Clutha Bar tragedy this week called for a public inquiry.

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Ten people died after the helicopter crashed on to the Clutha Bar
Ten people died after the helicopter crashed on to the Clutha Bar

They cite some 20 previous helicopter accidents in the UK since 2009, with 40 deaths, as being a matter of public interest.

I agree. It is however, more likely to be dealt with through the process of a fatal accident inquiry, one which will bog itself down in bureaucracy and judicial delays.

It should be possible to initiate such an inquiry before the end of this year, to establish the facts, learn lessons and potentially prevent further accidents.

In my experience however, it will be five or six years before it convenes.

We shouldn't have to wait until 2020 to learn the lessons of Clutha.

In the interim, we should be asking, whose interests are being served by such long and unnecessary delays?

It is not the families and it is most certainly not the public that the system is supposed to be designed to protect.

BETTER OFF APART OR BETTER TOGETHER?

THE release, earlier this week, of the latest UK growth figures, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), made welcome reading, for most.

The figures show that in 2013, the UK economy grew by 1.9%.

The figures put the UK's growth, above all other major European economies and it is now second only to the US. Evidence of a sustained, economic recovery is now consistent and we are seeing its side effects.

Unemployment is falling, interest rates are low and mortgages more affordable.

In addition, inflation remains low and Chancellor George Osborne is entitled to point to his economic policies and conclude that they are working.

He is also right to urge caution and to remind us that there is much more to do.

So, with the UK's fastest annual growth since 2007, wouldn't you think that such news would be warmly welcomed ?

It would appear not.

Opponents have argued that it's not a balanced recovery or that it is the wrong kind of recovery.

I think most of us will just be pleased to be in recovery, rather than recession. Yet the news that the country is returning to sustained growth, is unlikely to prove politically palatable, for either the Labour Party or the SNP.

In Westminster, Labour and, in particular, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls are playing second fiddle to the Conservatives on the economic question.

"It's hurting but it isn't working" now seems to have been an opportunistic and rather misplaced quotation, which I am sure will, at an appropriate time, return to haunt them.

Ed Balls' promise to restore the 50p top rate of tax proved popular with voters, yet he remains less trusted on the economy than Osborne.

Opinion polls put Labour ahead of the Conservatives, however, the gap is narrowing.

An improving economy, allied to a lack of confidence in Labour's economic credibility could well pave the way for a Conservative victory in next year's General Election.

In Scotland, the UK growth figures are hardly likely to have made good political reading for the Yes campaign.

It is now accepted, by all sides, that the economy and economic considerations are likely to prove pivotal on the "Yes or No" question.

An improving UK economy, with all of the benefits it brings, will fuel the argument that we would be wise not to change horses, particularly when we already seem to be winning the race.

The Scottish Government argues that with full fiscal autonomy, Scotland would be even better placed to secure future economic growth.

So, whether we would be "Better Off Apart" or "Better Together" is likely to prove a crucial judgment for all of us in the coming months, as we prepare to take the biggest political decision of our lifetime.

SURRENDER YOUR SOVEREIGNTY?

THIS week's visit of the Bank of England's Governor Mark Carney, inset, to Edinburgh, achieved that rarest of distinctions - a welcome from both sides of the referendum debate.

Alex Salmond welcomed the technical clarification that it brought, while Better Together's Alistair Darling told us that it reinforced the need for fiscal and political union.

Mr Carney's assertion that a successful currency union would require some ceding of national sovereignty is unlikely to be music to the ears of the Yes campaign.

Yet he was careful not to distance himself from the requirement for such a union, lending some credibility to the Yes campaign's assertion, that the Sterling debate is a non issue, in real terms.

The Better Together campaign will argue that it makes the "leap of faith" Scots are being asked to take, even wider.

I think there will be an attempt by the Better Together campaign in the next few months to woo voters with a new, more powerful, devolution proposal.

That proposal, and the version of independence now being offered by the Yes campaign, will look very similar.

So, whether we vote for independence light or devolution max, what exactly will we get from either side, after the referendum on September 18, in what is fast becoming a race for the middle?

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