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The Butterstone Witch Trials (Scotland, 2018)

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Between February 1692 and May 1693, 200 people living in the area around Salem in Massachusetts (USA) were accused of witchcraft and 20 put to death.

The case against them was built on falsified information, poor legal argument, and a corruption of the judicial process.

Salem has become a watchword for weak judgement, corruption, and a failure in those with responsibility for doing so to exercise intelligence, circumspection, and a capacity to differentiate between fact and fiction.

The Butterstone Witch Trials began in February 2017 and came to a head in October 2018 when a member of staff reaching the end of a disciplinary process, and who confessed openly to, “wanting to bring the school down and especially the Head of Care”, submitted a letter of concern about the working practice of others to distract from her own poor judgements.

From that, a school with 24 vulnerable pupils was closed down and 50 members of staff lost their jobs. Senior managers were wrongly accused of, “failing to report a child protection concern” and had their careers destroyed.

The ‘professionals’ concerned have since embarked on a strategy to distance themselves from the decisions they made and the huge damage they caused. Staff and parents are not allowed to see what the Care Inspectorate told the Registrar of Independent Schools just hours after the school had been cleared of wrongdoing by the only sane and reliable player in this whole charade, Police Scotland. Respected staff falsely accused of wrongdoing are not permitted to know what was said about them, and rumours now known to be completely untrue are left unchallenged because, “it would not be in the public interest to do so”.

No evidence has emerged of the, “serious child protection concerns” that caused the Education Minister to impose conditions on the school and the Care Inspectorate to issue an improvement notice. He now seeks to pin the blame on the Board of Governors and the financial pressures they were under at the time in the hope that his own actions will be ignored by those seeking to uncover the truth about what happened, and The Care Inspectorate claim that they begged the Board of Governors to keep the school open while the Board state that they came under “intolerable pressure” from the same people to close it down.

There was no system of justice. Lies were accepted as facts and rumour regarded as evidence. The whole period between October and November 2018 became a hysterical frenzy in which the proud heritage of Scottish learning, of the great philosophers and our legal system, were betrayed by ‘professionals’ hell-bent on destroying the school to reduce budgetary pressures, and to distract from their own culpability in the deaths of two young men.

School managers were convicted without trial. No opportunity was provided for their cases to be presented in court before the execution of the school took place.

Most powerful of all in this modern enactment of what also occurred at Salem, was the betrayal of honest and loyal people by those whose prime function was to defend them; a shamefully weak Board of Governors, and the be-suited directors of the Witherslack Group who had been so positive and enthusiastic about taking over the school, until they witnessed with their own eyes the full horror of the public service corruption now prevalent in Scotland.

In both Salem and Butterstone, innocent people were tortured and destroyed by weak thinking, poor judgement, and malice. Not from ordinary people caught out-of-their depth by a clearly orchestrated campaign against the school, but by the Minister for Education, a chair of governors knighted for his services to education, and the regulatory authorities.

Salem is now an historical footnote.

Butterstone is a living tragedy.

But this is Scotland and it is 2019, not 1692. Has nothing been learnt over those 327 years?

Bill Colley