Stewart Stevenson has gone – he may be gone some time


Like Captain Oates before him, the freezing weather has done for Stewart Stevenson.

”|300|200|0/youtube/p%20%20span%20id=more-1531/span%20%20p″ /]

So – Ice a problem across Scotland and Northern Ireland in particular, later on in the night there will be more snow perhaps getting towards Glasgow by dawn.  Fresh warnings about ice and snow across the northern half of Scotland as a new weather feature brings fresh snowfall into the central belt just in time for the rush hour.

Mr Stevenson, in the live interview, not surprisingly took the presenters claims at face value and conceded that he would have to look at why the forecasts the authorities had been working to were different.

The truth is of course that these clips, far from undermining the decisions taken by local authorities and other organisations, proved that the forecasts were NOT accurate: “more snow” … “perhaps” … “fresh snowfall” – not remotely close to what was experienced, in fact the thrust of the warnings was ICE!!

If Stewart Stevenson had decreed that this was sufficient reason for closing off the roads on Monday morning then guess who would have been calling for him to resign?

The interview had all the hallmarks of a set-up and the use of two interviewers gave the impression of an attempt at intimidating the Transport Minister who appeared reluctant to challenge their view of BBC forecasts.

As can be heard, the forecasts do not contain any references to the very heavy snowfall that eventually took place.  So, far from exonerating the BBC the broadcasts actually seem to prove the case that the severity of snowfall was not predicted.  The way the BBC presented the broadcasts however gives the impression that they were indeed accurate.

We saw the same tactic adopted with the UK wide TV forecast that has now become legend and from which one of the clips above was taken.  An image of this forecast was brandished by Tory MSP David McLetchie as some sort of ‘evidence’ that accurate forecasts had been given prior to Monday morning.

The map of the UK shows a graphic over central Scotland and the forecaster announcing a severe weather warning of ice together with a new weather feature that will bring fresh snowfall in time for the rush hour, you can see it here:

This recording has been played over and over by BBC Scotland and featured on Reporting Scotland last Wednesday night.  One repeat carried a dramatic voice over by the aforementioned Raymond Buchanan where the camera dramatically closed in on the central belt area showing the white graphic.

However listening to the words of the broadcast and it is clear that it did not claim anything other than an ice warning and a forecast of “fresh snowfall”.  Again the viewer has been misled by the dramatic presentation and the melodramatic voice over.

The circle was complete when BBC Scotland started to replay the clip of a frustrated and angry motorist who demanded that heads should roll and suggested the Transport Minister.

The rest is now history as opposition politicians picked up the BBC Scotland baton and started to hammer Stewart Stevenson with it.  On Wednesday the forecast angle had changed and the usual newspaper headlines duly appeared.  A ‘beleaguered’ Stevenson was under pressure and BBC Scotland reported that there were ‘calls’ for his resignation. 

But what exactly did the BBC broadcast on Sunday evening/Monday morning and did the broadcasts, (any of them) give any indication of what was about to hit the central belt?

Well, we have gone through as much of BBC Scotland’s programmes as we can and we have put together a chronological list of clips and recordings from Sunday evening and Monday morning.  There may be others but we have no reason to believe that they will be any different from the ones we publish here.

You have already seen the weather map recording showing the graphic over the central belt and warning of ice and a forecast of “fresh snowfall”.

Next is a broadcast from BBC Radio Scotland at 10:00pm on Sunday evening:

Here is the first forecast from BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland at 06:10

Here is a Met forecast that appeared on Radio Scotland at 07:15am.  This forecast is the most crucial as it ties both the Met’s forecasts and BBC Scotland’s forecasts together and suggests that the Met were providing the same information to the Scottish government as was being broadcast on Radio Scotland.

There is no need to go beyond 07:15am, by then plans have already been put in place and road treatment has already been carried out.  It is abundantly clear that by 07:15am the authorities had no reason to expect snowfall greater than 5 cm(2 inches) in most parts of the central belt and that even on hills a maximum of four inches was expected.

Of course we now know that the levels of snowfall that some parts of the central belt experienced was up to three times greater than the upper limit of four inches.  Quite how BBC Scotland can say that their weather forecasts were accurate is baffling.  Even the Met office conceded on Monday morning that the amount of snow that fell was greater than they had forecast and that the areas affected went further east than they had anticipated.

However it isn’t enough to suggest that the forecasts were accurate, Stewart Stevenson’s claims needed to be shown to have been wrong.

This is where the BBC were very clever, for the news items that were broadcast were constructed in such a fashion as to make it appear that Stevenson had claimed, not that the level of snow had not been forecast, but that NO snow had been forecast.

Here is a clip from Good Morning Scotland the morning after the chaos:

At the start BBC Scotland play a clip of Mr Stevenson saying: “The snowfall happened at the worst time of day, unforecast” and Gary Robertson claiming the Minister said “had they known the snow was coming things would have been different”.

“Unforecast” – Pretty damning eh?  But this is at the end of Stevenson’s Newsnight Scotland interview, he is summarising.  Here is what Stevenson actually said of the forecast at the beginning of the interview:

Stewart Stevenson did not say that the snow had NOT been forecast, he very clearly said that the levels were unexpectedly high and that the areas affected were greater.  This is exactly what the met office said at around 10am on Monday.

Stewart Stevenson and every local authority in the central belt KNEW that snow was coming.  What they weren’t prepared for was the AMOUNT of snow that eventually arrived.  To suggest that Stewart Stevenson claimed that he did not know that snow was coming is absolutely outrageous.

To listen to BBC Radio or watch BBC TV one could be forgiven for thinking that it was only Stewart Stevenson who claimed that the weather forecasts were wrong.  Well, here is a clip of an interview carried out on Tuesday morning with Labour councillor Pat Watters who is also head of Cosla, the local authority umbrella group.

Here’s the deal, everyone was caught out by the storm that hit the central belt last Monday and nobody is to blame for the chaos that resulted; not the Met, not the BBC, not the local authorities not even Stewart Stevenson – nobody.  However mature reflection and an acknowledgement that the system was found wanting is required.

One man and one political party have admitted failings, and failings there were – enough for a resignation? apparently so.  However it is simply absurd to suggest that Stewart Stevenson could have prevented Monday’s chaos and equally idiotic to think that his resignation will ensure it does not happen again.

We leave you with the same question we posed at the start of this article:
If BBC Scotland forecasts 5cm of snow this Sunday evening then should the Scottish government insist we all stay at home, we do not travel, we do not get in our car ……. we do not venture out?

Stewart Stevenson has gone, it’s time for everyone else to have a good look at themselves.