Monday, 31 August 2015

Rewriting History

A kind reader has sent me this completely ridiculous statement about the fight for equal pay in South Lanarkshire.

But who is responsible for writing this load of old tosh?

I promise to let you know tomorrow once I've managed to stop laughing at the notion that the author is trying to give a factual account of the trade unions role in relation to equal pay.

So far from being misquoted it seems to me that Unison is trying to rewrite history over its advice to members on pursuing what were, of course, perfectly valid equal pay claims against South Lanarkshire Council.

"Margaret, if you attended any of the meetings over the years or read any of our briefings you will know the history. We are often misquoted. It was not a case of "never" or "not entitled". Originally UNISON took claims in every other Council except SLC because SLC had the defence of a job evaluation scheme that in those days other Councils didn't have. That position was kept under review as equal pay issues and legal arguments evolved. In 2010 we wrote to all members inviting them to apply for a merit assessment & took cases against SLC thereafter, but not everyone who applied had a case that would win."

Now this really is a load of bollix and I'll explain why tomorrow once I've managed to compose myself. 

SLC Update (30/08/15)

I've received another rash of enquiries from readers in South Lanarkshire who are understandably very angry at the spineless behaviour of their trade unions on the subject of equal pay. 

Here's what I wrote on the blog site about the situation in South Lanarkshire following the success of A4ES in challenging the Council's pay arrangements in a long-running case at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal:

"In the meantime don’t be taken in by the ridiculous propaganda of the trade unions.

"For years the unions told council workers that they had no equal pay claims and they actively discouraged people from raising claims in South Lanarkshire. In effect the unions supported the council instead of standing up for their members.

"The concerns that the trade unions are voicing now are crocodile tears because if they were serious about protecting their members’ interests they would have lodged protective equal pay claims years ago. The unions did this in other councils, up to a point, but neglected the interests of members in South Lanarkshire. 

"So what they say now simply can’t be trusted." 

I've been told that the union members in South Lanarkshire are now gearing up to sue their own trade unions over the terrible advice they've received on equal pay until Action 4 Equality Scotland started to win the argument at the Employment Tribunals and with a landmark FOI judgement at the UK Supreme Court.

But we achieved this success by committing lots of time, effort and huge resources to the fight for equal pay in South Lanarkshire while the trade unions did not lift a finger to help.

Apparently trade union members are being supported by DM Legal Claims, a local Lanarkshire-based firm, in their fight for justice and if there's anything I can to do help, I'm more than happy to lend a hand.

Because the union reps in South Lanarkshire today are the same people, broadly speaking, who were 'in-charge' when the Council's equal pay scandal was unfolding and if you ask me, they should all hang their heads in shame.   

North Lanarkshire Update

Calling all GMB members in North Lanarkshire - remember to get to the GMB members tomorrow at the Kirkshaws Social Club in Coatbridge.

I've re-arranged my diary so I can get along.

So be there or be square!

NLC Update (27/08/15)

GMB members in North Lanarkshire have organised another meeting to discuss their ongoing campaign for equal pay, but this time some senior officials of the union have agreed to attend which is a big step forward, if you ask me.   

The details of the meeting are as follows:

Date - Tuesday 1st September 2015

Time - 3.30pm to 5.00pm

Venue - Kirkshaws Social Club, Coatbridge, ML5 5DN

I've been invited along as well and if I can juggle commitments in my diary, I certainly hope to drop by next Tuesday afternoon.

NLC Update (26/08/15)

Well the GMB members meeting in North Lanarkshire yesterday was certainly a lively affair with well over 40 people turning up, at only a few days notice.

The discussion focused on three main areas:
  • How did GMB members get into the mess they find themselves in today?
  • What is the current position in relation to North Lanarkshire Council and the Employment Tribunals?
  • What can members do if things drag on and the GMB fails to successfully amend their members claims, so that they can be settled on the same basis as the other claimants from Action 4 Equality Scotland, Fox and Partners Solicitors, Unison and Unite? 
In response to the invitation I issued on the blog site, two GMB representatives came along tot he Kirkshaws Social Club: Paul Grieve, a local union organiser and Douglas Japp, a solicitor with Digby Brown.

Paul had virtually nothing to say, of substance anyway, and although Douglas made a better fist of trying to answer people's questions and comments, it's still not clear why the GMB did not act much sooner to abandon the restriction on their members' claims to only 3 years.

So while Douglass was able to explain that the original '3 year' decision was down to a national policy of the GMB, there was no information about when this decision was made, who made the decision (within the GMB) and why the decision wasn't quickly reversed when the GMB realised that all the other claimant groups were challenging the very basis of North Lanarkshire's pay arrangements and the Council's job evaluation scheme.

As you would expect, many of those present had very strong opinions about the handling of their equal pay claims and made their views known to Douglas and Paul who agreed to take people's concerns back to GMB headquarters in Glasgow.

For me there are three key points to emerge from the meeting:
  • What is a realistic timescale for bringing this whole business to a conclusion?
  • Will the GMB give union members in North Lanarkshire a guarantee to compensate them for their financial loss, if the GMB fails to amend their claims from 3 years - to 8 years and 3 months?
  • If GMB members are left 'holding the baby' for the GMB's mistakes, can they sue their own union and its advisers over the handling of their equal pay claims?
I don't know the answer to the first two points, but if the GMB does not step up to the plate and accept responsibility for what's happened, then I would say union members need to consider other ways of holding their own union to account.  

Three final points.

The first is that senior GMB officials have finally agreed (after all this time) to attend a GMB members meeting in North Lanarkshire - I'll post the details on the blog site and an happy to go along as well, if I'm invited.

The second is that the timing (5pm) of yesterday's meeting did not suit the backshift GMB members, so if people want to arrange a meeting a little later in the evening I'm happy to attend.

Thirdly, there was some confusion surrounding the venue of yesterday's meeting at the Kirkshaws Social Club and quite a few GMB members who wanted to be present were told that there was no meeting taking place, apparently. So my apologies for that but there will be a 'next time', I suspect. 

Jezbollah Corbyn

Image result for conspiracy theorists + images

Jeremy Corbyn's 'jezbollah' tendencies have been laid bare with the revelation that the London Labour MP described Osama bin Laden's death as a "tragedy" in an interview with Iranian state television back in 2011. 

Apparently while speaking to the Iranian government's Press TV channel in 2011, Jezza said:

"This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy. The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy."

Now if you ask me, the attack on 9/11 was a terrible crime not a tragedy, cold-blooded murder on an industrial scale involving innocent civilians, people of all religious faiths and other with no religious convictions at all.  

Jeremy went on to portray himself a fully paid up member of the Conspiracy Party with comments suggesting that the US may have faked bin Laden's death:

"We can only guess that there is something fishy here. Either Bin Laden wasn’t there, therefore there has to be a story. Or, the pictures ... show something else​." 

Yet in less than two weeks time Jezbollah Corbyn will be unveiled as the next leader of the Labour Party and while that's funny in some ways it's also a very sad reflection on the scale of Labour's decline.

Murderer Brought to Justice (02/05/11)

The news that Osama Bin Laden has finally paid for his crimes will bring a sense of grim satisfaction to all - except the extreme religious warriors or 'jihadists' - who seek to follow in his footsteps.

The murder of thousands of innocent civilians - including many Muslims it should be recalled - in New York on 9/11 is the most obvious example of Bin Laden's casual disregard for human life.

Contrast that with the behaviour of US special forces earlier today - who spared the lives of Bin Laden's wives and children - as they stormed the 'safe' compound in which he was hiding in North Parkistan.

On a smaller scale and much nearer to home - a young British woman, a young Muslim - is facing the same poisonous cocktail of religious extremism, hatred and intolerence.

Shanna Bukhari is a young Muslim woman from Manchester - who hopes to be the first British entrant to win the Miss Universe competition.

Now you can say what you like about her ambition - but the point is that she has received death threats from Islamic extremists - for daring to take part in what amounts to a beauty/fashion show.

So what?

So did Kate Middleton when she was a student at St Andrews University - and no one batted an eyelid about the behaviour of the country's possible future queen.

To my mind a young woman like Shanna Bukhari represents the future of Islam - a future where young women have the right to be educated, hopeful and ambitious.

And that's the best answer of all - to vile murderers like Bin Laden.   

Labour in Wonderland

Image result for mad hatter's tea party + images

Tony Blair took careful aim at the politics of the Jeremy Corbyn the other day, with an opinion piece in The Observer, in which he characterised Labour's next leader as living in the political equivalent of Alice in Wonderland. 

At the heart of Tony Blair's case is the compelling argument that a majority of the electorate supported the Conservatives because they regarded Labour as hostile to business and because they believed Ed Miliband was not really up to the task of bringing the public finances under control.

In other words the voters rejected Labour not because Ed Miliband was an 'austerity-lite' version of David Cameron, but because Labour were not regarded as credible or tough enough on the big economic issues of the day.

And as Tony Blair points out the only left-wing government in Europe, led by Alexis Tsipras in Greece, has been forced to accept a bail-out package and programme of economic reforms which are significantly tougher than the policies of the previous Greek government that Syriza helped to eject in January 2015.   

Syriza, of course, has since split and has called new election in September with Prime Minister calling for a 'stronger mandate' to implement the reforms agreed in the bail-out package with the European Union.

Now that really is mad, about as mad as a Mad Hatter's tea party, if you ask me and you can read Tony Blair's article in full by following this link to The Observer.       

Only a Game!

Image result for mourinho and team doctor + images

I enjoyed this article from Private Eye, the UK's best and only fortnightly satirical magazine, in which a doctor writers about the the beautiful game and the fuss surrounding Jose Mourinho's spectacular falling with Team Chelsea's physician, Eva Corneiro. 

A Doctor Writes

As a doctor, I'm often asked, What the fuck you doing, you crazy woman?! Don't you know the rules of football?!

To which the simple answer is - "Calm down, Mr Mourinho, I'm just doing my job, and it's only a stupid game."

This situation arises when a player is injured on the pitch , requiring urgent medical attention, but the manager is more concerned about the flak he's going to get for dropping two points at home to Swansea.

What the manager is showing are symptoms of megalomaniacal neurosis or Oligarch Syndrome, which can end in the termination of one's contract, or if Polonium* is involved, something worse.

Side effects can include extreme misogyny, sulking in press conferences, and the refusal to admit you've down anything wrong.

So at the end of the day, if you wish to avoid being sick as a parrot, and want to feel over the moon again, simply take one game at a time, and before you know it, the boy's done good.   

@ Doctor

Polonium is, of course, the new centre back recently signed from Dynamo Moscow.

Laugh? I was in stitches though thankfully not of the medical kind.

Wheels of Justice

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My heart sank when I heard that the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the Glasgow bin lorry crash "hopes" to reports its findings before January 2016.

Now it beats the Chilcot Inquiry by some way, but so what?

And although the judge has a big job in assessing all the witness evidence and documents presented at the FAI, four months seems an extraordinary length of time to take to complete such a task, if you ask me. 

There's an old saying about the way that courts and lawyers operate which is that:  "The wheels of justice grind slowly, but grind exceedingly fine".

I have my doubts, I have to say, and while this FAI has proceeded more quickly than most I am far from optimistic about the end product. 

State of Mind

I came across this intriguing report from BBC Sussex which tells the terrible tale of a 'reckless driver', Minesh Parbat, who has been jailed for seven years for causing the death of his passenger, Lisa Watling, while the two were engaged in a 'sex act'. 

Now there are big differences between the 'Crawley case' and the Glasgow bin lorry crash, not least that Mr Parbat had committed a crime by being over the drink/drive limit.  

But people don't get sent to jail for being 'over the limit', so it's fair to say I think that Mr Parbat was sent to prison because he was in charge of the vehicle and he had a particular responsibility for the safety of others while driving his car.

I am sure Mr Parbat had no intent to harm his passenger on the day of the crash, quite the opposite in fact, and clearly his girlfriend was acting recklessly as well, yet nonetheless the driver was held to be responsible for causing Lisa Watling's death.

Whereas in the case of the Glasgow bin lorry crash the allegation of 'recklessness' in the events leading up to the fatal accident have never been tested in court. 

Minesh Parbat gets seven years for Crawley 'sex act' death crash

BBC Sussex

Image caption - Parbat claimed in court he dropped his trousers as part of a dare with mother-of-two Ms Watling

A motorist who became intimate with his girlfriend moments before he crashed his car has been sentenced to seven years for causing her death.

Minesh Parbat, 36, of Gregory Close, in Maidenbower, Crawley, was driving his BMW at 60mph when he crashed on the A2011 in West Sussex, on 9 March 2014.

His girlfriend, Lisa Watling, 28, was thrown from the car and died later in hospital from her injuries.

Parbat denied causing her death but was found guilty after a trial in July.

He had claimed in court he dropped his trousers as part of a dare with mother-of-two Ms Watling.

He told jurors she said she was feeling "horny" and invited him to pull down his trousers as he drove.

He claimed she sat on the dashboard, then moved in front of him and obscured his view.

But he denied anything sexual had taken place and said he struggled to get Ms Watling off him before the crash.

'Lives ripped apart'

Jurors heard Parbat veered into the central reservation, then over-steered before crashing into a fence.

In the aftermath of the collision, Parbat was discovered with his trousers and underwear around his ankles. Ms Watling was found seriously injured in just a T-shirt and bra.

Parbat gave a positive blood test showing 102 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The drink-drive limit is 80 milligrams.

Jailing him, Recorder Peter Griffiths QC said Parbat was "entirely" responsible for causing the crash "while engaged in some form of sexual activity".

In a statement, Ms Watling's family said: "Our lives have been ripped apart, leaving a wound that will never fully heal.

"However the two real victims are Lisa's children.

"They will never have that soft comforting voice they know and love whisper goodnight, safe in the knowledge that when they wake up in the morning she'll be there to greet them.

"As a family we feel relief that some kind of justice has been seen. It feels like a very small step towards gaining a degree of closure."

State of Mind (04/08/15)

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The BBC reports on latest developments in the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the Glasgow bin lorry crash which saw 6 people lose their lives.

Yet again, Glasgow City Council comes across poorly and Scotland's largest council seems to have had no proper process in place for thoroughly vetting people who drive disabled schoolchildren around and take charge of giant lorries in our streets.

The evidence presented to the FAI suggest that Harry Clarke was an accident waiting to happen and I can't see any way that this chap will not now be sacked for gross misconduct after lying repeatedly to his prospective new employer.

The 'excuse' given by Glasgow City Council that applicants for jobs would need to give consent before releasing their medical records is truly pathetic because all that's needed is a requirement within the process that no one will be appointed if they withhold information that is needed to check they are capable of doing their jobs. 

And as for the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service), as I said the other day a drink driver does not normally possess an intent to do other people harm.

But the point is that they has created a situation where fellow citizens could be killed and maimed by a drunk driver taking a decision to get behind the wheel when they are clearly unfit to drive.  

Glasgow bin lorry crash: Driver recruitment 'not adequate'
BBC - Glasgow & West Scotland

The bin lorry driven by Harry Clarke crashed after going out of control

The inquiry into a bin lorry crash which killed six people in Glasgow has heard of "significant shortcomings" in the council recruitment processes.

Driver Harry Clarke, 58, was unconscious when the vehicle veered out of control on 22 December 2014.

The inquiry has previously heard that Mr Clarke had a history of fainting and dizziness going back 40 years.

Glasgow City Council said he would not have been employed if it had known about his background.

Mr Clarke was taken on by the council in January 2011 to drive a minibus transporting disabled schoolchildren. At the time of his recruitment he had been suspended by his previous employer First Bus over a dispute about his timekeeping while driving buses, but the council was not aware of this.

On the ninth day of the fatal accident inquiry into the crash, Glasgow Sheriff Court also heard that Mr Clarke failed to disclose his medical history on a Bupa form for the council when he was promoted to driving heavier vehicles.

Dorothy Bain QC, representing the bereaved Morton family, questioned Geraldine Ham, a human resources manager at the council, over the authority's recruitment processes.

Talking the witness through various employment documents, the lawyer put it to her: "At the stage that Mr Clarke was employed by the council to transport children with special needs, we can see significant shortcomings in the council process for recruitment."

Ms Ham said the local authority tried to ensure that the necessary employment processes were in place.

Ms Bain said the inquiry had seen that where Mr Clarke "doesn't tell the council the truth, the recruitment process was not adequate in order to prevent his employment". The witness agreed.

(Clockwise from top left) Jack Sweeney, Lorraine Sweeney, Erin McQuade, Jacqueline Morton, Stephenie Tait and Gillian Ewing were killed in the crash

The QC went on: "For that reason you would agree, I presume, that the recruitment process wasn't adequate?"

Ms Ham responded: "There's room for improvement, yes."

She also agreed that Mr Clarke would not have been given the job if the council had received full disclosure of his medical history.

And Ms Ham said he would have been suspended from driving and removed from duties had his medical history come to light.

'Fantasists and fabulists'

The inquiry heard last week that Mr Clarke had suffered bouts of dizziness in 1976, fainted at work while a lorry driver in 1989 and suffered dizziness for months in 1994.

He is also reported to have fainted while at the wheel of a bus in 2010.

Solicitor advocate Ronald Conway, representing the Tait family, said: "I suspect at the end of this inquiry were are going to find out that Mr Clarke is not a monster, a monster of depravity, he's not a criminal mastermind, but he's a person who has lied repeatedly to find a job and get a job.

"There are lots of Harry Clarkes out there. Lots of fantasists and fabulists who lie to get what they want.

"How does the council deal with job applicants who may not tell the truth?"

He asked if there was anything to prevent the council from asking successful applicants for driving jobs to produce their medical records.

Ms Ham replied: "No, but they would have to give consent."

Six people were killed and 15 others injured when the council bin lorry crashed in the centre of Glasgow

The HR manager was also cross-examined by Peter Gray QC on behalf of Glasgow City Council.

Mr Gray highlighted the issue of Mr Clarke's "exit form" from First Bus, which had no reference to absence issues or to his suspension, and judged him "suitable for re-engagement".

The inquiry was previously told that Mr Clarke's records showed he had been off work for almost a month after reportedly passing out at the wheel of a bus in April 2010.

Mr Gray put it to Ms Ham that any reference for Mr Clarke based on the First Bus exit form would have been "utterly misleading, inaccurate and untrue".

Ms Ham agreed that an inaccurate form "fundamentally undermines the recruitment process".

The Crown Office has already concluded that there will be no criminal prosecution over the crash, with senior lawyers deeming it a "tragic accident".

State of mind

In a statement on Friday, the prosecution service said Mr Clarke was unconscious when the bin lorry veered out of control in Glasgow city centre "and therefore not in control of his actions".

The Crown Office statement said Mr Clarke did not "have the necessary criminal state of mind required for a criminal prosecution".

It also said that all the relevant evidence was known to the Crown counsel at the time the decision to take no proceedings was made.

Erin McQuade, 18, her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and his 69-year-old wife Lorraine, all from Dumbarton, died in the incident in the city's Queen Street and George Square.

Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, were also killed when the truck mounted the pavement before crashing into the side of the Millennium Hotel.

A further 15 people were injured.

Waiting to Happen (10/08/15)

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The BBC reports that one of the families involved in the Glasgow bin lorry crash has called for the driver of the vehicle to be prosecuted.

Now this doesn't surprise me in the least because Harry Clarke, who was behind the wheel when this terrible accident happened, has been exposed for lying persistently about his medical history and fitness to drive.

So despite the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided that there would be no criminal charges before the Fatal Accident Inquiry got underway, the CPS decision seems wrong to me and a complete a travesty of justice.

Because while the driver did not set out to cause the accident, his behaviour in deliberately concealing his medical history was both reckless and dangerous which passes the test of criminal culpability, if you ask me. 

Glasgow bin lorry crash: Call for driver Harry Clarke to be prosecuted

BBC Scotland

Harry Clarke has been told he will not face criminal charges

Relatives of one of the Glasgow bin lorry crash victims have called for the driver involved to be prosecuted.

A fatal accident inquiry into the tragedy has heard claims that driver Harry Clarke, 58, lied to doctors about his medical history.

The Crown Office said before the inquiry began that no criminal charges would be brought.

In a statement released through their lawyer, the family of victim Jacqueline Morton criticised that decision.

The Crown explained its position in February, saying at the time that there was "no evidence to suggest that the driver's conduct at the time amounted to a breach of the criminal law."

A spokesman for the Crown Office confirmed: "This still remains the case and all the relevant evidence regarding these points was known to Crown Counsel at the time the decision to take no proceedings was made."

'Relevant information'

Mrs Morton's family said they had thought all along that Mr Clarke should face prosecution, and would be making a submission on the matter to Sheriff John Beckett, who is hearing the inquiry at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

They added: "While the evidential position will be determined by Sheriff Beckett, we wish to state that, based on the information given to the families by the Crown to justify their decision not to prosecute at the time, we do not accept that the Crown were in possession of all relevant information when the decision not to prosecute Mr Clarke was announced.

"Submissions to this effect will be made and developed on their behalf in the closing stages of the inquiry.

"We consider that the statement as to the applicable law apparently made by the Crown is simply incorrect. There is no basis in law for the suggestion that a prosecution for causing death by dangerous or careless driving would require to prove that it was foreseeable that the driver would suffer a loss of consciousness on the day of the collision."

(Clockwise from top left) Jack Sweeney, Lorraine Sweeney, Erin McQuade, Jacqueline Morton, Stephenie Tait and Gillian Ewing were killed in the crash

The family statement went on to say that the Crown's decision "makes us consider that their focus in the inquiry is on justifying their own decision not to prosecute rather than a robust and thorough investigation of the circumstances that led to this tragedy".

The inquiry has heard Mr Clarke, 58, previously fainted while working as a bus driver but failed to disclose the incident when he joined the council.

It has also heard a claim Mr Clarke "lied through his teeth" to doctors about his medical history.

The inquiry is due to continue on Monday morning. 

HGV licence

Solicitor General Lesley Thomson, who is acting on behalf of the Crown, is expected to make a statement on whether Mr Clarke could still be charged with offences not directly relating to the crash, such as failing to disclose information about his medical history when renewing his HGV licence.

She had been asked by Sheriff Beckett last week to give a categorical statement on the issue before Mr Clarke begins giving evidence to the inquiry.

Glasgow City Council confirmed last week that it had suspended Mr Clarke on a precautionary basis pending a full disciplinary investigation into his conduct before and at the point where he commenced employment with the council.

Mrs Morton, 51, from Glasgow, was one of six people who died when the bin lorry went out of control in the city centre on 22 December of last year.

The others were Erin McQuade, 18, her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and his 69-year-old wife Lorraine, all from Dumbarton, Stephenie Tait, 29, from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh.

A further 15 people were injured.

Dizzy for Decades (02/08/15)

The BBC reports that the driver of the Glasgow bin lorry which killed six people had been suffering from spells of dizziness and fainting for decades before being behind the wheel on the day of this fatal accident.

Now it's impossible not to feel a degree of sympathy for Harry Clarke because he will have to live with the consequences of what happened for the rest of his life, but nonetheless the fact remains that he lied to his new employer, Glasgow City Council, when applying for the job as a driver.

Not only that Glasgow City Council then failed to check his employment and medical history properly and, arguably, Scotland's largest council failed in its duty of care towards the public.

Yet another Scottish council fails to produce crucial documents which clearly should have been kept on a secure database - a scenario that people fighting for equal pay will be all too familiar with, sadly.

To make matters worse the Crown Prosecution Service (a useless organisation in my view - based on my personal experience) announces that the CPS has already decided that there will be no criminal prosecutions because senior lawyers deem the incident to be a 'tragic accident'. 

Which is true, of course,but only in the sense that Harry Clarke did not deliberately drive his huge bin lorry into the people who lost their lives; in legal parlance he lacked the 'mens rea' or intent necessary to be charged with a crime.

Yet the truth is that he was behind the wheel of a potentially deadly vehicle only by misrepresenting his medical history which means, sadly, that Harry has to be culpable if you ask me. 

Because people who drive while completely drunk, for example, do not set out to cause fatal accidents intentionally although that does not excuse such behaviour under the criminal law in Scotland, or elsewhere.

So as much as it pains me to say so, Glasgow does not come out of the whole sorry business terribly well.

Glasgow bin lorry crash driver had 'dizziness for decades'

BBC - Glasgow & West Scotland

Harry Clarke blacked out at the wheel of the bin lorry which crashed in Glasgow killing six people

The Glasgow bin lorry inquiry into the deaths of six people has heard the driver Harry Clarke suffered episodes of dizziness and fainting for decades.

Mr Clarke, 58, was unconscious when the bin lorry veered out of control and hit pedestrians on 22 December 2014.

The inquiry has now heard he reported bouts of dizziness in 1976, fainted at work while a lorry driver in 1989 and suffered dizziness for months in 1994.

His own GP was unaware he allegedly fainted at the wheel of a bus in 2010.

The Crown Office has already concluded that there will be no criminal prosecution over the crash, with senior lawyers deeming it a "tragic accident".

In a statement on Friday, the prosecution service said Mr Clarke was unconscious when the bin lorry veered out of control in Glasgow city centre "and therefore not in control of his actions".

The Crown Office statement said Mr Clarke did not "have the necessary criminal state of mind required for a criminal prosecution".

It also said that all the relevant evidence was known to the Crown counsel at the time the decision to take no proceedings was made.

The eighth day of the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI), which is being overseen by Sheriff John Beckett QC at Glasgow Sheriff Court, has been hearing more details of Mr Clarke's medical history.

Not disclosed

The inquiry has previously heard that he allegedly suffered a blackout at the wheel of a First Bus vehicle on 7 April 2010 and that this information was not disclosed by Mr Clarke when he joined Glasgow City Council in 2011.

During cross-examination of Glasgow City Council human resources manager Geraldine Ham, it emerged that Mr Clarke's own GP was unaware that he allegedly passed out at the wheel of a bus.

Dorothy Bain QC, who is representing the bereaved Morton family, produced records of Mr Clarke's appointment with Dr Gerard McKaig at Baillieston Health Centre.

These stated that Mr Clarke told his GP he had lost consciousness at the First Bus depot canteen. They make no mention of fainting at the wheel of a bus.

Six people were killed and 15 others injured when the council bin lorry crashed in the centre of Glasgow

Mr Clarke is reported as saying that he was in a hot environment in the canteen and that he felt slightly disorientated for a short period and was then fine. There were no warning signs.

The medical notes said that paramedics attended and Mr Clarke was advised the incident was "vasovagal" - a heart-related condition that can cause fainting.

Ms Bain also brought forward medical information which stated that Mr Clarke reported episodes of dizziness in 1976.

His records show a vasovagal (fainting) attack in 1989 at work, when he was employed by Tennent Caledonian Breweries as a lorry driver.

Recurring dizziness

In 1987, when he was working as a bus driver, he sought a medical note because of a nervous condition.

In 1994 he reported recurring dizziness over an 18-month period to his GP.

The FAI heard that he was told not to drive in 2003 as he was complaining of dizziness. It is understood that he was working as an oil tanker driver at this time.

The medical notes also show that he was off work with stress in November 2009. 

(Clockwise from top left) Jack Sweeney, Lorraine Sweeney, Erin McQuade, Jacqueline Morton, Stephenie Tait and Gillian Ewing were killed in the crash

Ms Ham told the inquiry that the council was unaware of any of this medical history.

Ms Bain put it to Ms Ham: "On analysis, the bond of trust between the council and Mr Clarke is non-existent. He should never have been employed by council."

Ms Ham agrees that Mr Clarke would never have been employed by the council if he had told the truth about his medical history on his application form and medical declarations.

The witness also agreed with Ms Bain's assertion that six people would not have died and no-one would be at the inquiry if Mr Clarke had told the truth. 

References 'satisfactory'

Earlier, the FAI heard that Mr Clarke was suspended from his previous employer, First Bus, in December 2010 and started work with Glasgow City Council on 5 January 2011.

Mr Clarke's First Bus employee exit form stated that there were no issues with his attendance, performance or conduct and he was suitable for re-engagement with the company.

The inquiry was also told that the council could not locate any references from Mr Clarke's previous employers on his personnel file but an email was located stating that the authority was "satisfied" with the references given.

The FAI heard that Mr Clarke had filled out a medical questionnaire as part of his application to the council, but this could not be found either.

In a health assessment for the council in 2010 he declared one period of sickness, totalling seven days, in the previous two years.

The court heard that his First Bus employment record showed a total of 33 days absence in the previous two years.

Ms Ham told the inquiry that withholding relevant information could have led to a job offer being withdrawn.