The Scottish Government has been accused of “taking its eye off the ball again”, after thousands across the north-east endured a fifth day without power in the aftermath of Storm Arwen.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership was criticised after those in hard-hit areas were left with no electricity for days while communities stepped in to assist.
It comes as Deputy First Minister John Swinney delivered a statement to the Scottish Parliament in which he said Storm Arwen was “more significant than the Beast from the East”.
The SNP politician said “most” customers without power will see their service restored on Tuesday but “regrets for some of the more complex cases, supply is unlikely to be restored until later in the week”.
Mr Swinney confirmed there will be a review of the “preparations and response to Storm Arwen to ensure we take all the learning from this exceptional storm”.
North-east MSP Liam Kerr accused the Scottish Government of a “monumental failure of contingency planning” after days of weather warnings.
He highlighted the efforts of businesses such as the Fife Arms in Braemar, which was set up as a community hub, serving hot drinks and food as well as providing a place to help locals stay warm.
The Conservative MSP said the cost of the clear-up operation and implementing lessons learned will be “astronomical”.
He asked whether financial help will be made available to “underfunded local authorities” and if the prime minister will be taken up on his “offer to assist”.
Boris Johnson had commented on social media on Monday.
Mr Johnson added: “The situation in the north-east of Scotland is among the most concerning and while forecasts are improving, we are on standby to provide further assistance to the Scottish Government.”
‘Bellwin Scheme’ offers emergency help
In response to Mr Kerr, the deputy first minister said “the government does not run the power companies” and praised the work of teams onsite.
He added that the Bellwin Scheme had been activated in Scotland which offers emergency financial assistance to local authorities with the aftermath of emergency incidents.
Mr Swinney said he would “look with care” at what the UK Government would provide but admitted he had “some scepticism” over what would actually be put on the table.
While many folks across the NE are still without power, we haven't heard a peep from the FM. Yet, she's had plenty time to announce another referendum that won't happen.
— Douglas Lumsden MSP (@dlumsden) November 30, 2021
North-east MSP Douglas Lumsden said communities had faced a “wall of silence” from Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government, as he accused them of “taking their eye of the ball again”.
Aberdeenshire West MSP Alexander Burnett said some care homes in his constituency were “left scrambling for generators” over the weekend with “major concerns about the most vulnerable residents”.
Asked what resilience planning had been done to protect care homes, Mr Swinney said there were “strategic faults in the electricity network” affecting “a number of cases” in Mr Burnett’s constituency.
Where are houses without power?
Around 8,500 homes across Aberdeenshire and Moray still have no power and 3,500 have no water, after Storm Arwen battered the region on Friday.
And just under 3,000 homes across Tayside also have no electricity following the weather devastation.
Operator Scottish and Southern Energy Networks (SSEN) has warned it could be Wednesday until some rural homes have electricity restored.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have called on the Scottish Government to provide more assistance for communities in the north-east and South of Scotland who have been left without power for days.
The party is among those calling on the army to be brought in to provide emergency electricity generators to communities until power is restored.
Beatrice Wishart, Liberal Democrat communities spokeswoman, said it is “simply unacceptable” that thousands have been left for days without electricity.
She added: “Both the UK Government and Scottish Government should be doing all they can to support those left without power.”
Aberdeenshire councillor Leigh Wilson, who represents Mearns, described the situation as “totally unacceptable in a modern society”.
‘Contempt and neglect for rural Scotland’
The Alba councillor added: “No-one doubts the severity of storm Arwen or the efforts of the power engineers to re-connect but the official response at national and company level lacks the required urgency.
“Cut-offs for this time or this scale are a national emergency and should be treated as such.
“The response from the Scottish Government, who have even failed to convene their Resilience Committee, is totally inadequate.
“It shows contempt and neglect for rural Scotland.”