On Monday, there were various events to mark 100 days to go to the referendum on Scottish independence. At the main Better Together event in Glasgow, Clare Lally, a Scottish Mum of the Year winner and advocate for carers who also happens to be a member of the Labour Party, spoke about why she wanted Scotland to stay in the UK. Clare has met politicians from all parties in the last few years and, in fact, Willie Rennie has been a friend of hers since he stayed at her house and mentioned her in his first Conference speech:
But the experience that will stay with me is my 24 hours with Clare Lally and her wonderful family in Duntocher.
Clare and Derek have two very bright and charming four year old twin daughters Holly and Katie. Katie was starved of oxygen at birth and as a result cannot walk, talk or swallow. Through tenacity and strong human spirit she has survived numerous life threatening episodes.That is remarkable. But what is even more remarkable is the sheer intensity of the care provided by Derek and Clare.“24-7” is insufficient – it does not do justice to their focus over years.
To me this is a real test for all liberals.Clare and Derek, their family and friends do it themselves. They do not want the state to take over their lives.They do want a little bit of flexible help to make life possible.They want an enabling state. But we seem incapable of providing it. They wanted to stay in their own, private home; But the council refused to make alterations to their house unless they moved into a council house.They reluctantly made the move. Not unreasonably, they asked the council for a ramp to push Katie’s buggy down to the car“Oh no”, said the council. “That house isn’t suitable for a ramp”.
This kind of bureaucracy and blinkered thinking must change. Clare is prepared to be awkward because she’s standing up for her family. Now I’m working with Clare to take the lessons of my experience directly to councils and government.
Predictably, the cybernats turned out in force to do her over on social media after her speech telling her story of why she wants to stay in the UK. That’s not news. sadly. It happens all the time.
What’s different, though, is that one of Alex Salmond’s Special Advisers, Campbell Gunn, a former political editor of the Sunday Post, emailed the press a whopping great lie about her, as the Telegraph reports today:
Mr Gunn sent an email to this newspaper yesterday morning that stated: “You are no doubt aware that the “mother-of-two”, who described herself as ‘just a normal person’ in the Telegraph today is actually a member of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet and daughter-in-law of former Labour Lord Provost of Glasgow Pat Lally …”
The email was signed off with his signature, “Campbell Gunn – Senior Special Adviser and Political Spokesperson”, and the address of his office in the Scottish Government’s St Andrew’s House headquarters in Edinburgh.
The only consequence faced by Gunn is that he has been ordered to apologise to Clare, as the BBC reports. I’m not sure how that fits in with the Government’s Code for Special Advisers which states at Point 6:
Any special adviser ever found to be disseminating inappropriate material will automatically be dismissed by their appointing Minister.
Note the lack of wiggle room here by use of words “ever” and “will.” When someone in the office of the First Minister of Scotland deems it necessary to spread lies to the press about a remarkable woman who had the temerity to express her opinion, there is something very, very wrong with the culture of the Government.
Yes, this is another process story but we should be very worried about the way in which a taxpayer funded government official is spending his time trying to personally undermine a political opponent. There’s no question in my mind. He should go to set an example that this sort of misbehaviour will not be tolerated. People might think twice about speaking out if they fear that the powerful elite is standing by to do the dirty on them.
Since I wrote this, I see that Willie Rennie agrees with me:
Although the First Minister has instructed his adviser to apologise, his casual dismissal of the issue reveals that neither he, nor his adviser, understand the severity of the matter. This was no misunderstanding, it was a crude and unwarranted attempt to silence those who disagree. Since he clearly does not understand what he has done Campbell Gunn should resign or be dismissed.
The unwarranted actions of his advisor have inflicted unnecessary distress upon a family in a very public way. Seeking to shout down or silence those who disagree with the nationalists is not only tolerated by the SNP leadership but is now encouraged. This must end.
I couldn’t get to the event in Glasgow on Monday where Clare spoke as I was on my way to London for the Federal Executive meeting. However, it would have been nice to have been able to find details of what she actually said. Jackie Baillie, her MSP, described her words as moving and emotional. It would be good to see them on Better Together’s website.