View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Tuesday 7 December

Today, it's 69 years ago since the Japanese Imperial Forces attacked the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack was unprovoked, but served to bring the United States into the Second World War, as Germany declared war on the USA alongside Japan. It was a fatal mistake on the part of Japan. Although the Japanese forces managed to occupy large swathes of territory in the Pacific and southeast Asia, they were in the end thrown back on their homeland. It took the detonation of two nuclear bombs, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to force the surrender of Emperor Hirohito, three months after Nazi Germany was defeated.

Another battle royal has been going on here in Scotland today, and here the adversary is way more powerful than any military force on earth: the weather. After some people were stuck in their cars on the country's motorway system for 18 hours, the M8 motorway west of Edinburgh is still closed, and 200 vehicles remain abandoned elsewhere. The Scottish Transport Secretary initially said his administration had coped splendidly with the situation, and blamed the chaos on the Met Office. He was quickly put right by both the Met Office and BBC Scotland, and by lunchime, Mr Stevenson was eating humble pie. Tomorrow, he will be in the Scottish Parliament to account for the disastrous performance of the government. It is not entirely fair to heap the blame on the government or any other individual agency. Snow began to fall in central Scotland at the height of the morning rush hour, leaving 5 or 6 inches of the white stuff. Because of the heavy traffic, gritting lorries were unable to grit and snow ploughs could not get through. However, it is breathtaking that a mere 10 to 15 cm of snow can bring the country to a complete halt, and there should be mechanisms in place, coordinated by the government to deal with that eventuality. The mechanisms were there, alright. The Scottish Government talked about it in their Resilience Committee on Sunday night. But action was required. Not talk.