Alex Massie

The Health & Safety Culture Claims Another Victim

Text settings

Curlers on the Lake of Menteith, Perthshire earlier this week. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

See, this is the sort of depressing development that makes one lose faith in modern Britain. Hopes had been hight that, for the first time since 1979, conditions would be right for the Grand Match between 2,000 curlers representing the North and South of Scotland to take place on the Lake of Menteith. (It's not simply a matter of the ice being thick enough; there musn't be any snow on the lake either.) And indeed the weather has played its part and in a better, saner world the bonspiel would be going ahead.

But that reckons without our health and safety culture. So the Grand Match is off:

The sport's governing body, the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, said in a statement it was greatly disappointed the match could not go ahead.

The club said the decision had been made after "extensive discussions" with the emergency services.

The statement added: "It has not proved possible to address all health and safety concerns and receive the full backing of the emergency services within the timescales involved.

"Without achieving this it would be impossible to gain the necessary insurance to hold the event. Every possible effort has been made to facilitate this unique event but it has been acknowledged that public safety must remain the primary concern."

[...]Central Scotland Police, who were involved in the negotiations, said they had a number of "serious concerns" about the proposed bonspiel.

Supt Davie Flynn said: "We understand the attraction of such an event and recognise this is an unique opportunity for people passionate about their sport to participate in. However, there are clear and obvious risks and the safety of the public could not be guaranteed."



It is hard to imagine what might make this bonspiel more dangerous than the last two Grand Matches held in 1979 and 1963. The only thing that has changed is the culture and it is hard, in this instance, to see how it has changed for the better.

Might holding the bonspiel take quite some organisation? Sure. Might this be a complication the police would rather live without? Undoubtedly. But so what?

This is a feeble, dispiriting decision that reflects poorly on both the police and our risk and common-sense averse culture. Changing that will be one of the next government's greatest challenges.

UPDATE: Good to see my old boss Kevin McKenna call out this nonsense in the Observer today. Many commenters make plenty of sense in the thread below but I particularly commend tommyt's reminder that the police have taken to calling off football matches on the grounds that "spectator safety" cannot be guaranteed because there's some ice on the pavement. This too is ridiculous and, as far as I'm aware, a new development. As Tommy says, you might as well tell the shops to close since folk might slip and fall while on their way to the supermarket. Pathetic.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietyscotland