SNP delayed hurricane aid ...while saying UK response was too slow!
WHEN a hurricane struck the British Virgin Islands last year, the SNP condemned the UK’s response to the disaster as ‘too little, too late’.
But the SNP administration delayed its own offers of help by two months, it can be revealed today.
The Scottish Mail on Sunday has discovered that the Scottish Government demanded assurances it would not be left out of pocket before allowing prison officers to go to the disaster-hit Caribbean islands.
That led to a two-month delay in the team reaching the disaster zone, where around 120 inmates had been able to escape from the islands’ only
‘Picking a fight with UK Government’
prison. Last night, Scottish Labour accused SNP Ministers of putting the island population at even greater risk, so it could ‘pick a fight with the UK Government’.
In September last year, Hurricane Irma killed four people in the British Virgin Islands and 134 in total, leaving a trail of destruction.
It damaged Balsam Ghut prison in Tortola, allowing inmates to flee. Within days, Scottish Prison Service (SPS) chief executive Colin McConnell had offered to send two managers and ten officers to assist.
At the time, although most of the 120 escapees had been recaptured, documents seen by The Scottish Mail on Sunday show that island prison authorities ‘faced large scale indiscipline and had lost control’.
Under a memorandum of understanding drawn up by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, officers were due to go out at the start of February, with the cost split between Westminster and Holyrood.
But a week before the Scottish team was due to fly out, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson called in lawyers to insist Westminster must indemnify the Scottish Government against all claims, losses, damages, costs and expenses – delaying departure of the Scottish team until April 2.
Last night, Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said: ‘Instead of providing that vital support swiftly, the SNP Government appears to have chosen to pick a fight with the UK Government, potentially putting the safety of the general population, as well as prisoners, at risk.’
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘As SPS staff were being deployed to a difficult and potentially dangerous environment, it was essential that everything possible was done ahead of deployment to ensure their safety.’
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