The First Minister will have seen the front page of the Daily Record yesterday, with the heartfelt plea of Mrs Midgley, who lost her son Simon in the devastating fire at the Cameron House hotel. She has written to the First Minister because it has been almost 1,000 days since the fire and the families of those who lost loved ones still do not have answers from the Crown Office about what happened. I am sure that the First Minister will sympathise with Mrs Midgley, who has been caused severe and on-going distress by the lack of progress. Will she therefore seek an urgent update from the Crown Office and agree to meet Mrs Midgley when she comes to Scotland?
Actually, I sent a reply to Mrs Midgley last night. She will receive that letter today or in the next couple of days. I sympathise deeply with Mrs Midgley for her loss, the loss that her family has suffered and the frustration caused by the delays in any process around the investigation of what happened at Cameron House, which will be contributing to her grief.
What I tried to do in my letter—I will not go into all the details, because it was a letter to Mrs Midgley—was explain the reasons. Jackie Baillie already understands those reasons. No matter what my personal feelings are or the anguish that I feel on Mrs Midgley’s behalf, I cannot seek to intervene in any decisions about criminal investigations or potential criminal prosecutions—it simply would not be right for me to do that. I know that that is always hard for victims or people who have suffered loss to understand, but I do not serve them well unless I set that out clearly.
I am sure that the Crown Office would give Jackie Baillie an update. It is simply not appropriate for me to seek to direct it in these matters in any way.
I am, of course, willing to meet Mrs Midgley if she wants me to do that when she comes to Scotland. However, I do not want to raise her expectations—nor do I want Jackie Baillie to do so on my behalf—about what I can reasonably do in the context of criminal investigations. That would not be fair to her or her family, although I absolutely understand her anguish.
Again, I convey my deep condolences and sympathy to Mrs Midgley and her loved ones for what they are suffering.