Tragic results when social work departments lose their way

Awful. I wonder if this is why the leadership of another council is completely hell-bent on keeping one of its own recent case reviews secret? It’s only a matter of time though.

‘Heads could roll’ over tragic Mikaeel Kular’s death

By CHARLENE WILSON26 July 2014 8.48am.

“Heads could roll” within Fife Council’s social work department for failing to monitor tragic Mikaeel Kular in the weeks before he was killed, it has been claimed.

 Little Mikaeel’s mother Rosdeep Adekoya pleaded guilty to the culpable homicide of her three-year-old son after prosecutors accepted the assault fell short of the wicked recklessness required for murder in law.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard Adekoya drove Mikaeel’s twin sister to nursery after stowing his body inside a suitcase in her car boot, before hiding it in woodland in Kirkcaldy.

Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC said Mikaeel had been returned to Adekoya in August 2013 following a period in foster care in Fife.

However, Fife Council social work involvement had “ceased” in December 2013, just weeks before the tot’s tragic death.

Investigations by The Courier confirmed that, prior to being returned to his mother and his elder siblings, Mikaeel lived in the village of Strathkinness with a foster family for much of 2013.

The reasons behind the decision to return him to his mother’s care have never been revealed by Fife Council.

A source confirmed Mikaeel and his siblings had definitely “been involved” with the Children’s Panel in Kirkcaldy and when a family moved from one local authority area to another it was normal protocol for a hearing to take place to formally transfer the case.

“This hasn’t happened for whatever reason, meaning heads could roll,” she said.

Fife Council confirmed a review into the case is under way.

Posted in council, death | 1 Comment

To paraphrase Sir Walter Scott, oh what a tangled web we weave on yon silver screen

Teaboy is what I am. While I do occasionally sip coffee, it is the old stewed leaf juice that I need first thing to get my thingummybobs working. Unlike some, I have to be up and about for hours before I can bear coffee.

People ask me if I wake up grumpy in the morning. I reply no. I just bring her some coffee. Mrs X is wired differently. She once went into a Glasgow coffee shop and asked for a big cup of Americano. Two pounds, she was told. Then she asked how much for a refill. Told they were free, she immediately asked for two refills.

Even if we are now allowed back in that shop, I am worried at news the cups you get in Scotland are mostly stronger than those you buy in Spain or Italy. We Scots brew it, stew it and particularly percolate it so it’s stronger than they have it in the home of the Espresso. Gosh.

I will cut down but there is still nothing like endless coffee and shortbread to watch a film on TV. Sometimes an old film comes on the box and you get unexpectedly caught up in it. With so many channels where you can catch up on some of the older flicks for flick all. No charge.

At the weekend, Mrs X settled on the sofa with a glass of something else that was wet as the film Ivanhoe was starting. It’s Sir Walter Scott’s highly-imaginative yarn, of course, of derring-do in the 12-century as lionhearted Richard I returned from the crusades. Ivanhoe_(1952_movie_poster)

This was the 1982 made-for-TV version with Anthony Andrews and the master of cool, James Mason. She’s a sucker for these old films because they have all these awfully violent battles as they swing battleaxes and swords at each other’s heads and throats but not a drop of claret is actually seen being spilt.

Special effects had no need of ketchup. Although run through with swords and daggers, soldiers’ bodies lay prostrate. No seeping of crimson from severely injured horses and cattle. A bloodless coo.

In the book, the writer’s mastery of the language was evident.  “Gurth, the son of Beowulph, is the born thrall of Cedric of Rotherwood,” he wrote. I know what thrall means. It is from the Gaelic word tràill. No, look it up yourself. About time, readers of this column did some work instead of leaving it all for me to do.

To the ladies: “I tell thee, proud Templar, that not in thy fiercest battles hast thou displayed more of thy vaunted courage than has been shown by woman when called upon to suffer by affection or duty.”  Wonderful language by Sir Wally just to say all blones always get what they want. His words are so bright, they make your heart sing.

Herself was engrossed when I barged into the living room and I was ordered to pipe down. However, I quickly found got into that fancy lingo that was dreamed up by him wot wrote it. So when my Vino de Blossom Hill ran low I thought I would let loose some carefully-chosen mediaeval phraseology on yon goggle-eyed dame on the sofa gobbling up the last of the Maltesers.

“If you please, madam, I would address you. With thy beauteous look upon thy face, you with thy endless look at yon box of pictures in the corner of my chamber, wilt thou listen unto me?” Yes, it worked alright. The look on her mush. As her jaw slowly fell open at my eloquence, I followed that up with the direct command: “Recharge my goblet, wench.”

Straightaway I knew I shouldn’t have said that. The look on her face. I was gobsmacked. That was because, as she pushed past me in a supreme huff, her goblet smacked me right in the gob. It was an accident. I won’t sue. Just forgive me, please.

Now here’s a thing. The screenplay of the best-known Ivanhoe film with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Taylor was written by a Hollywood scriptwriter called Aeneas Mackenzie. Aye? Such a very northern Scottish name, I thought. Then I found out he also wrote Buffalo Bill from 1944 and Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. with Gregory Peck and James Robertson Justice, which was released in 1951. What’s my point?

He also wrote The Ten Commandments, which starred Charlton Heston and came out in 1956. It was no surprise he went for a film with such a Presbyterian title. That is because the Hollywood scriptwriter is officially listed on the international movies database as being from, yes, Stornoway. It’s true. Never having heard of him in my puff, I wonder if any dear readers will know anything of this fellow. He should be remembered. The boy done good.

After all, am I perchance related? Although he passed away in 1962, maybe a connection with Aeneas, however tenuous, would still get me onto the latest version of Ivanhoe which is about to start filming. Maybe they are looking for a producer, director, teaboy …

Posted in P&J column | 1 Comment

Updated – Coastguards admit there was no quicksand in Scarista incident but still refuse to publish correction

Now filled in, this is the hole, by the dunes at the top of Scarista beach, which HM Coastguard says is "quicksands".

Now almost filled in, this is the dry hole by the dunes at the top of Scarista beach which the Maritime and Coastguard Agency wrongly claimed is “quicksands”.  I took this a few hours after Wednesday’s incident.

Now with MCA comment - Despite what you may have heard and seen, there was no boy in trouble in quicksands in Scarista on Wednesday.  That was an error. The kid dug a large hole and it fell in on him. He was trapped and crushed. He has recovered and is out of hospital.

bbc quick

BBC quicksands claim still online

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency press release claimed the lad was stuck in quicksand. So scores of newspapers, broadcasters and websites carried that false story- and still do. Mistakes can and do happen. The problem now is that the Coastguard won’t correct it.

Now everyone is left thinking Scarista is a dangerous place because of dangerous quicksands.  They will holiday somewhere else. No wonder those involved in Harris tourism are fizzing. Quicksands can occur on any beach but Scarista is as safe as you can get although the comhairle should put up warning signs.

STV too

STV has it too

Asked to comment on Thursday, coastguard bosses at Southampton said nothing. On Friday, after hearing of the considerable unhappiness, they said: “As a rescue gets under way, the information we have to hand comes from the initial caller. On this occasion it subsequently came to light, after the press release was issued, that the rescue did not involve quicksand, and that it was actually a young person buried in sand.
“The Coastguard priority is always to help the person in trouble and rescue them as quickly as possible. The MCA press office often responds to significant media enquiries by promptly issuing a release, removing media pressure from the coastguard operations centre.”

Despite admitting their press release was wrong, the errors are still on the website of this great government agency – complete with advice on getting of quicksand – and no correction has been issued. So the BBC, STV and countless others are loathe to make amend their websites without the agency’s say-so.  I hope the MP and the MSP hear of this. Surely they too won’t put their heads in the sand?

Declaration of interest: I am part-owner of a holiday letting cottage and therefore involved in tourism 
Posted in Harris, rescue | 1 Comment

How many councillors should we have?

4 weeks left to have your say on the number of councillors in your council area


People have just 4 weeks left to have their say on proposals for the number of councillors on each council.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland began a 12-week period of public consultation on its proposals for councillor numbers on 29 May 2014.

The Commission has drawn up recommendations for the number of councillors on each council based on a methodology that, for the first time, takes into account levels of deprivation as well as population distribution. Using these factors, similar councils are grouped together for the purpose of determining councillor numbers.

In 2015 the Commission will consult with councils and the public on its proposals for the number and boundaries of wards.

The Commission expects to make its recommendations to Scottish Ministers in 2016, and that the resulting wards will be available for the local government elections in May 2017.

All comments must be submitted to the Commission by Thursday 21 August 2014.

Ronnie Hinds, Chair of the Commission, said: “There have been many changes in Scotland since our last reviews, and it is important that electoral arrangements for Scottish councils take account of those changes as part of ensuring effective local democracy. We have been encouraged by the discussions we have held with councils on these proposals and by the responses we have received to date from the public. We look forward to receiving further comments on our proposals in the remaining four weeks of the consultation period.”

More information can be found on the Commission’s website:

Posted in council, Western Isles | 3 Comments

Doctors accept timeline of what happens when you quit smoking

Posted in health | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Gap opening up again in local fuel prices


It’s back to Back then

For the last while, the Stornoway area fuel prices came down and for a while were cheaper than some mainland outlets. Yippee. Now some local ones are creeping up again.

Despite the claimed freedom of all retailers to go to whichever distributor they wish for their fuel, there is again a marked difference in prices if you take the time to shop around. Certain outlets seem to be always at the high end of the scale while others are on the low end.

A Stornoway businessman said today he had spoken to several pump bosses in the last while. He said: “They are just glad the focus is off them. They get badly hit when people like you show what they are actually charging. One of them has been taking just three foreign holidays instead of the usual four.”

So, just for fun and to save us all a few bob, let’s see how the prices stack up this week:


130.9p Gordon Diesel,
Back Shop and Station, Back
Unbranded, last updated on 23 July

133.9p Engebret – (now shown as Highland Fuels)
Sandwick Road, Stornoway, Isle Of Lewis, HS1 2SL
Unbranded, last updated on 23 July

135.9p Campbells Service Station
Cannery Road, Stornoway, Isle Of Lewis, HS1 2SE
Gulf brand, last updated on 23 July

135.9p  Manor Service Station
Bayhead, Stornoway, Isle Of Lewis, HS1 2SE
Unbranded, last updated on 23 July



131.9p Gordon Diesel,
Back Shop and Station, Back
Unbranded, last updated on 23 July

135.9p Engebret (shown as Highland Fuels)
Sandwick Road, Stornoway, Isle Of Lewis, HS1 2SL
Unbranded, last updated on 23 July

135.9p Campbells Service Station
Cannery Road, Stornoway, Isle Of Lewis, HS1 2SE
Gulf brand, last updated on 23 July

137.9p  Manor Service Station
Bayhead, Stornoway, Isle Of Lewis, HS1 2SE
Unbranded, last updated on 23 July

With diesel now 6p lower at Back than a Stornoway outlet, some motorists in diesel vehicles would save money by travelling to Back rather than using their local town pump.

Posted in fuel, prices | Tagged , | 3 Comments

About 3,000 islanders without broadband

About 3,000 Western Isles customers are without broadband since Tuesday after a fault at the Gairloch exchange.  Engineers are on the case. For the unaffected customers, speeds have never been faster.

How has the outage affected you? Drop me a note to internet @

PS – Some people seem to think their phone service is also affected. Not sure how widespread that is. No confirmation of that from BT.

Posted in Stornoway, Western Isles | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Ethos of ‘blame’ in serious case reviews

Serious case reviews are supposed to be how authorities learn lessons. But do they?  A government report suggests some simply do not because they can’t stop blaming others.

Ethos of ‘blame’ in serious case reviews acts as a barrier to learning, report finds

Government report calls for a re-think on how serious case reviews are conducted, and more training to embed learning and practice

Credit: Image Source/Rex Features

Credit: Image Source/Rex Features

Inaccessible language, an ethos of ‘blame’ and a lack of local attention are all hampering social work learning from serious case reviews, a government report has found.

The report, commissioned by the Department for Education and carried out by Kingston University, examined the roadblocks that social workers face when trying to learn from serious case reviews (SCRs).

It recommended that SCR models should “reset the process to promote learning rather than blame” and have more focus on reflection and analysis, rather than primarily description and judgments based on hindsight.

Researchers found policy and procedure development and implementation is “not proportionate or sensitive to the scale, locality and context of the case” when analysing SCRs, while this is exacerbated by the selectivity of media coverage.

Similarly, it found rapid policy change in the wake of SCRs impacts significantly on frontline staff and creates confusion.

“Recently serious case reviews seem to have become more of a process of allocating accountability and blame,” said Professor Ray Jones, who worked on the report.

“What the government needs to do is make the process more practical and less onerous.”

The level of regular and appropriate training across disciplines is insufficient, the report also found, while frontline staff have limited involvement in the generation of learning, and ensuring its relevance and applicability.

Communication systems were also criticised for being ineffectual in ensuring learning informs practitioners across disciplines.

The findings were informed by social care professionals across England with “considerable consistency of views across all four geographical areas of England”, the report stated.

There was also agreement about the barriers from frontline practitioners and managers, senior and strategic managers and across all agencies working in safeguarding.

The report also called for a continuing programme of training to embed learning and practice change, and for changes in policy to be discussed and tested with frontline practitioners.

The findings are, “[in the rest of the UK] a job for the new education secretary [Nicky Morgan MP] if serious case reviews are going to have a positive rather than a negative impact”, Jones said.

10 recommendations

The report recommended key changes to the SCR process.

1: To review the appropriateness of SCRs as a process for embedding learning across disciplines.

2: To develop an ongoing and accessible database of national and regional learning – to identify emerging key themes.

3: Design and develop evidence-based learning ‘tools’, applicable nationally, to facilitate collective, targeted and tiered learning.

4: Develop national database for all practitioners to access SCR executive summaries with on-going key themes identified.

5: Ensure clear guidelines to enable confidence across disciplines in information sharing, thresholds, recording systems and measuring impact.

6: Develop a CPD programme for all practitioners to enable deeper learning to overcome obstacles to good practice.

7: Cross-disciplinary course development from initial training for all practitioners in the future.

8: Develop national learning and auditing tools that can be used to increase local awareness of key themes from SCRs.

9: Capture, within local and national reporting, the recording of how learning and practice changes from SCRs are taken forward.

10: Integrate, within existing and planned inspection processes, the assessment of the impact of the key themes identified by SCRs.

Posted in children, council | 1 Comment

Son welcomes back the Rockall record-breaker

Rockall record-breaker Nick Hancock returned to the Western Isles yesterday (SUN) after 45 days on the rocky outcrop and was immediately hailed a hero – by his son Freddie.


A couple of days after starting as a crewman with Kilda Cruises, David Campbell, 21, (right) from Leverburgh found himself with Nick Hancock on the steep rock 250 miles out in the Atlantic.

The tot, aged two, was waiting at the pier at Leverburgh in the south of the Isle of Harris with his mum Pamela when his adventurer dad arrived on a cruise boat after his stay which has put him in the record books and raised thousands for forces charity Help For Heroes.

Initially, a bit put out that he had to wait so long to spot his dad, the wee boy was ecstatic to see him at last as the boat neared. As Nick stepped ashore, the wee boy ran to him to welcome him back.

My dad rocks

An emotional Nick said: “You have grown since I left. You’re speaking so much better and I love you.”

Freddie and his mum surprised Nick with a special “Welcome home, Daddy” banner draped over the side of their car. But the wee lad seemed unimpressed by his dad’s new thicker beard and demanded to know what he saw on the rock.

Mum Pamela also had an emotional reunion with husband Nick and said: “Although I did not try and stop Nick having this adventure we have really missed him. It is wonderful to have him back. Freddie is really excited.”

Luckily, conditions were calm on Saturday morning when the cruise boat Orca III arrived at Rockall to pick up Nick. The operation to get him, his Rockpod and his many items of gear went smoothly.

Nick said: “I survived a horrendous storm on July 1st and I lost several barrels of supplies. It would have been very difficult if not impossible to continue to 60 days as I originally hoped.”

Several of the crew from the Kilda Cruises boat as well as STV cameraman Michael Skelly and former rescue helicopter winchman Chris Murray also managed to get onto Rockall and now have a tale to tell their grandchildren.

So too did the boat skipper, Captain Angus Smith of Stornoway.  A veteran of yachting and cruising, Capt Smith said: “That was my sixth visit to Rockall and I finally got on. It was very special.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Boeing 777 in sky-high drama near Barra rekindles atrocity fears

A twin-engined Boeing 777 airliner bound for the United States declared an emergency when one of its engines failed south of the Western Isles at the weekend.


After initially continuing on one engine, the Boeing 777 then turned round.   Flightradar24

The Boeing 777 cargo plane, using the callsign Box412 and operated by German carrier AeroLogic, was forced to turn around and scuttle back to Leipzig International Airport after one of its two engines spluttered to a halt just south of Barra on Saturday night.

In the light of the recent atrocity over the Ukraine when exactly the same type of aircraft was brought down by a missile, there was a worldwide response from various civil and military agencies when the captain transmitted the electronic code, or squawk, declaring his aircraft near the Hebrides was in imminent danger.  As it involved a 777, the incident sparked immense interest.

En-route from Frankfurt Airport bound for Chicago’s O’Hare International, it was carrying freight which has not been specified but is thought to be postal and freight items.

An air traffic control source said: “Nobody could understand why an aircraft that had declared a full emergency continued for so long on the same course. That sparked a lot of speculation and I have no doubt that staff on duty would have quickly alerted the American authorities of a potentially serious threat heading their way. Thankfully, it was not serious as these planes can continue on one engine but would not be allowed to cross that much water without the two functioning.”

Enthusiasts and aviation security experts around the world watched the drama unfold until the plane, which was at 31,000 feet, eventually turned round west of Barra and requested clearance from air traffic control at Prestwick to fly directly back to Germany.

Although AeroLogic did not respond to enquiries, local reports in Germany say the aircraft later landed without further incident at Leipzig where AeroLogic, a joint venture of Deutsche Post (DHL) and the airline Lufthansa, has a base.

Posted in Western Isles | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment