No innocents! No heroes!

As one of those who have been more sympathetic than perhaps most towards Dr Calderwood I have to say that I was considerably less charitably disposed towards her following the revelation that she had made a previous visit to her holiday home in Fife. That did not advise Police Scotland of this when they spoke to her and may also have failed to inform the Scottish Government puts an entirely different complexion on the affair. The penalty imposed on Dr Calderwood would, I continue to maintain, have been excessive for a single misjudgement. But the impression now is that her behaviour was not only reckless but wilful.

My views on the hounding of individuals by the media and those happy to let the gutter press lead them by the nose remain unaltered. I deplore the inhumanity of it more than I deplore Dr Calderwood’s unforgivable but sadly very human folly.

I also deplore the double-standards by which Dr Calderwood is punished severely for her conduct but the behaviour of the photographer who stalked her and the newspaper which paid him to do so is barely examined.

Surely during a public health crisis such as we are labouring under at the moment the media have a duty, formal or otherwise, to behave responsibly. Yet it appears that The Sun had a freelance photographer stalking Dr Calderwood with a view to undermining the credibility of someone who, it is generally agreed, was playing a major role in the Scottish Government’s efforts to combat Covid-19. Quite apart from their own flouting of a presumption against non-essential travel – the photographer had to get to Fife and back – it might readily be argued that The Sun behaved at least as badly as Dr Calderwood.

The newspaper will doubtless respond with some boilerplate about freedom of the press and ‘the public’s right to know’. But however much weight these arguments might have in normal times, how can it sensibly be claimed that circumstances which are so dire as to override Dr Calderwood’s right to travel aren’t serious enough to affect news values or the priorities of the media.

I am resigned to the fact that pre-pandemic we lived in an environment where the careers and well-being of individuals making a valuable and even a unique contribution to society were as nothing compared to the media’s ‘right’ to trivialise issues and sensationalise events the better to satisfy an audience conditioned to crave titillation and immediate gratification. We are constantly told that Covid-19 will change everything. Not so, apparently.

Dr Calderwood has lost her job and possibly her career on account of her failure to adjust to the fact that she’d lost her right to travel. The public has lost the services of an individual who, by all accounts, was doing important work particularly well. The First Minister has lost the benefit of continuity of advice. But for the gutter press it’s low-life as usual.

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21 thoughts on “No innocents! No heroes!

  1. How do you know that a photographer from the Sun followed her? For two whole weeks? Just in case she did something? Wouldn’t they be breaking the unnecessary travel rules? Isn’t it more likely that her neighbours in Earlsferry took the photo and shopped her to the Sun?

    I read the Sun article that outed her. It referred to the opinion of neighbours. Several. It also said that neighbours were claiming that several high profile figures with second homes in the village had also been seen flouting the rules. That sounded to me like local people were resentful and fizzing. They are in the Highlands where locals have attempted to set up road blocks to prevent tourists and second home owners from coming in.

    It would be unsurprising therefore if locals in Fife where second home ownership has been allowed to proliferate weren’t also angry at rich folk from the cities coming in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We know that the photograph published in The Sun was taken by a freelancer named Alan MacGregor Ewing because the newspaper credited him on the photograph. Duh!


    2. “That sounded to me like local people were resentful and fizzing.”

      Don’t you think maybe it sounded that way because that’s the way it was made to sound? Are you really unaware that this is what journalists do?


      1. I think it is how a lot of journalists get their stories, tip offs. OK, so a local didn’t take the pic. They sent out somebody with a telephoto lens. But I think the locals might have contacted the Sun.

        My guess only, but locals are not happy with people from cities bringing the virus.


      2. I’m just saying that locals elsewhere are fizzing about rich city incomers with second homes invading rural areas bringing the virus. Unlikely locals at Earlsferry feel any differently. This resentment over second home ownership by ‘white settlers’ has been bubbling away since the 1980s. There is some justice in that but also some ugly aspects. It has been a failure of the Scottish Government not to do anything about it. The Guardian reported recently 1 in 4 homes in the Highlands is a second home / airBnBs. Andy Wightman raises this issue but is repeatedly blocked from carrying it into planning legislation, which is a fully a devolved area.

        On 22 March (Sunday) there were 6 reported cases in the Highlands. As of Sunday 5 March there were 99. 16.5 x increase. Go figure.


    3. The population of Elie and Earlsferry is no longer “local” in any meaningful sense. Apart from the old council estate it is predominantly second homes holiday lets and Airbnbs. And if “locals” had been complaining about several high profile visitors, why all the fuss about only one of them?


  2. Since the outbreak began (in the UK and Scotland) the general impression given is that the Scottish FM and her team have been competent and clear in their communication. This contrasts with the British PM and his substitutes where contradiction and incoherence has been the order of the day.

    With this in mind a couple of questions come to mind:

    1. Why were the hacks tailing Dr Calderwood?
    2. Who told them – they had to know surely – that she was going to visit Fife?
    3. Why did the police make their ‘warning’ to an individual (Ms Calderwood) so public?

    I don’t expect any answers but, given all the other dirty trick and shenanigans going on over recent months and years such as the actual proven attempted fit-ups of ‘Frenchgate’ and the Alex Salmond saga it’s difficult not to think that there might be a bit of a pattern here.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I was going to ask how you know that. Having read your further post below saying “I’m sticking by my hunch” you seem to have a hunch about quite a few things. In these days of an increasing number of people dying from covid-19 just shows how irrelevant the media actually are, except to themselves.


  3. And I haven’t been impressed with her advice in office either, particularly her reluctance to advise on mass testing to locate the spread of the virus. Or testing even for front line staff. Or her failure to institute stringent public health measures against flights arriving from Italy and Spain in the weeks before and after lockdown. Passengers disembarking from these countries were just allowed to disembark normally without even as much as a temperature check or advice to self isolate for 14 days on arrival and just filter through Edinburgh and Glasgow airports and on to buses, trains, trams, taxis, spreading the virus as they went. This is a virus that has spread from airports. In Norway at that time passengers were met by the police and told to self-isolate and the government closed all the airports and ports to all but domestic flights. Second home visits were banned if they were in a different municipality than where you lived and this was enforced by the civil guard and heavy fines or even a custodial sentence. Draconian? Yes, but effective. The Norwegian health directorate is now saying they have control over the virus. Meanwhile Calderwood reported that recorded cases on Scotland were likely under reported. And significantly, never advised on a ban on second home visits. Well, duh! The only recorded cases are those sick enough to visit a hospital. The rest we don’t know. Calderwood thought there might be as many as 64,000 infected in Scotland. I think it is more like 100,000. Most will be mild or asymptomatic. But they are out there, all because in the early days Calderwood did not advise stringent measures.

    What did Calderwood advise? She just seems to have followed the same advice being handed out by UK ministers. There was no difference that I could see, particularly on the matter of testing, tracking, containing, as the WHO advised.

    Calderwood is from Northern Ireland. Her husband Angus Loudoun, a former soldier, spent 34 years working for the Ministry of Defence. They have a second home in an attractive Fife village where locals are fed up with rich incomers buying holiday homes and pricing out locals and turning their once vibrant villages into ghost towns lying empty most of the year.

    So, no, not getting a picture here that we are all in this together or that she has that much attachment to Scotland.

    I’m sticking by my hunch that she was shopped by the locals to the Sun after they saw her and her family strolling about with their dogs over the gold course.


    1. Some of things you mention and complain about, such as testing at airports, etc, are out of the hands of the Scottish Govt.That is a matter for the UK Govt.
      Tho having said that, perhaps Scottish Govt should have just gone ahead with a testing regime of its own at the airports.
      At the end o the day, tho, a Medical Officer gives advise, it is the politicians who make the rules.
      Regards Calderwood, even if some local person was in a huff, it wasn’t for tabloid to break the rules either. sending a photographer to stalk her. He too, and his tabloid rag should be warned off by Police as well.
      They could simply have broke the story, or even more spectacularly, hit with those concerns at the First Minister’s briefing. But no, they send some wretched snapper after her.
      It’s not as if the tabloid, is also not telling everyone to stay at home, etc. Except of course, when it get as the chance to embarrass the Scottish Government.
      They wouldn’t get away with that at Balmoral, however. We can be sue of that!


      1. Health is a devolved area. The Scottish Government could not close down airports (reserved area) but it could test for temperature those disembarking from Italy. It could require them to quarantine in an airport hotel.


  4. No, I don’t believe everything I read. Including blogs I like. I think about them and consider them fairly and read them critically. I just find it highly implausible that a newspaper would trail somebody for two weeks on the off chance they would breach the social isolation rules. They don’t have the resources. I think they were acting on a tip off.

    I think we will see a lot of score settling during this lock down. People with axes to grind won’t miss an opportunity to grind their axe. Some of it will be fair, others of it will be unfair. In Calderwood’s case it was unfortunately fair.


  5. “Calderwood is from Northern Ireland. Her husband Angus Loudoun, a former soldier, spent 34 years working for the Ministry of Defence.”

    I didn’t know that.

    I do know that Leslie Evans is also from Northern Ireland. As you are no doubt aware she is the top British civil servant in Scotland and the person who ultimately presided over the investigation into Alex Salmond which was found to be ‘tainted by apparent bias’ in the Court of Session in January 2019 and which (so far) has cost the Scottish government (i.e. you, I and the rest of the population) in the region of £500k-£600k.

    I also know that Judith Mackinnon, who was appointed by Leslie Evans to Head of People Advice in the British civil service in Scotland and tasked specifically with carrying out the botched and found to be biased investigation into Alex Salmond, is married to a former Rangers FC football captain and hails from Kilwinning a town with a fairly significant Orange tradition.

    That’s 3 civil servants within the Scottish Administration.

    Worth pondering on I would have thought.


    1. Well that was rather my point. I agree that what she did did not pose a risk of spreading the virus. But those are the current rules. If she thinks that travelling by car to a beauty spot with your family household to have a walk whilst observing social distancing is not dangerous, why doesn’t she say so? Because people are being asked to make such sacrifices, so why not her? The car park for the Pentlands is also closed. Whilst you are still allowed to walk there, you may not go there by private car. You must get on a bus where you risk getting the infection. It makes no sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Peter, the restrictions on freedom of movement don’t apply to the press, for very good reasons. You are an amateur internet ranter.


    1. So, internet ranting only counts if you’re getting paid for it? Funny that! Because I always thought that the whole point of alternative media was to open things up and provide everyone with a platform for communication.


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