Christine Jardine: Community spirit triumphs but deserves support

It seems a very long time since that moment, at the end of December, when all of our communities were planning for Hogmanay, free of the stress of widespread and unprecedented flooding.

Now it seems that each of our daily lives is dominated by thoughts of whether the floods are finally past and how quickly homes and businesses can recover.

I have been lucky. Although my own community has been hit hard more than once, the worst I have had to cope with is being cut off by road closures and fallen trees.

But as I went door to door last weekend to talk to those hit hardest by the flooding the thought that struck me was how quickly authorities need to get help to those who need it most.

In Inverurie, Ellon and elsewhere across Aberdeenshire the response from the communities themselves has been tremendous.

From helping to fill sandbags, to donations of household goods, to dropping off food for pensioners who might be stranded at home, people have pulled together for their neighbours.

Then at a public meeting in Rothienorman residents recounted how their neighbours and local farmers had all helped keep the village going when the floods threatened to cut if off completely. They're now working on their own plans to help in the future. 

There are, however, some things even the strongest community spirit cannot deal with.

At many of the houses I visited the residents were already pulling up carpets, throwing out ruined electrical goods and planning to spend the rest of the winter elsewhere.

Most will be catered for by their insurance company or relatives, but some will need the local authority to find them temporary accommodation.

It will be up to the council too to find a way to repair vital rural roads whose surfaces have disintegrated, council property that’s been damaged and with the possibility of harsh weather still to come, flood defences to be repaired or even upgraded.

Aberdeenshire council needs help and it needs it fast.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that the Bellwin scheme, which provides financial support to councils has been triggered, but experience has show us that it does provide it as quickly or effectively as authorities need.

Perth and Kinross council had to wait a year before receiving the benefits of the scheme following the devastating floods there in 2012.

With councils already stretched to provide existing services and looming cuts it is not enough to expect them to take on this extra, unavoidable and vital role without immediate help.

We need the Scottish Government to look at how this scheme operates and come up with a better approach for the future, and we need them to do it now.

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