Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bandstands of Britain - a book starring Nairn's Wallace Bandstand

A recently published book features an image by local photographer Richard Gerring. The Book by Paul Rabbits is described by the author himself thus: 

"Bandstands of Britain is a historical celebration of one of the best-loved features still found in many of our parks, open spaces, squares and seaside towns. They are a reminder of a forgotten age of outdoor music and theatre, and act as a lingering memory of the class and sophistication that prevailed in the Victorian era. This book venerates the bandstands in Britain, showcasing the elaborate and iconic pieces of Victorian architecture with beautiful full-colour images, accompanied by a potted history of the evolution and decline of the British bandstand."  

Richard tells us that the foreward is particularly interesting and highlights the important role of manufacturers from Scotland in the fabrication and design  of bandstands that were sold across the world. Richard's image captures two moments in one, Nairn Cricket Club are playing at home and in the background inside the bandstand, local wedding photographer Ian Macrae is creating images with a bride and groom. 

Richard's image of Nairn Bandstand that features in the book Bandstands of Britain
Fans of Nairn Bandstand may wish to visit this flickr group page where several photographers have displayed their images of this iconic structure.  

Viking theme - Nairn Sailing Club Open Day - Saturday 6th June

Another day of diversions

There's a bit of work going on up the High Street this morning (27/05/15) that means you can't continue into Leopold Street when coming up from the Brae or in via Gordon Street. 

Meanwhile the ongoing work on the gas mains in Harbour Street means diversions in the Fishertown this morning with warnings of more to come in the image below that was taken at the top of Harbour Street. One of our regular readers reports some drivers looking lost despite the sprinkling of diversion signs. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Contraceptives for seagulls not recommended

Matters turned once again to seagulls at the meetings of the West and Suburban Community Councils earlier tonight in Nairn Academy. Liz announced that she had an update on seagulls, she said to Graham Kerr of the westies:

“You know that you were suggesting at a previous meeting giving them contraceptives. The RSPB don’t recommend that because the wider bird population could access it. In Aberdeenshire they have been doing hawks to try and get rid of their seagulls although the RSPB said they had done that at the wrong time of the year. In 2010 we had a report from Dumfriesshire on removing eggs and that’s still ongoing [...] we haven’t had an update on that yet.” 

Liz went onto see that she thought there was a big responsibility on people to take responsibility and deliver pigeon proofing and seagull proofing on their own individual properties. Liz also had some Council seagull advice leaflets she added: “It’s just about following the advice and not feeding the seagulls.”

On Seagull proofing Liz also added: “One lady who is on a very low income has just spent £40 seagull proofing her council house in Queenspark.”

Michael then said: “The most effective management of the seagull problem is here in the Academy because they have a concerted enforcement action. That involves hawks; that’s monthly visits; it involves the removal of nests, it involves the popping of eggs and over the years we have almost eradicated seagulls from here. [...] What we need to do for the seagulls with the “town team”, which we are forming – come together, we will then have a policy and a plan and, yes, a lot of the individual building holders will have to step up to the mark including the Council. Unless we do it, a concerted overall town plan. It’s a range of actions, as Liz says, it’s stop feeding them; that’s not one’s the use of a hawk; it’s protective measures; it’s the removal of eggs. And if we do displace them somewhere than that is the best, we won’t eradicate them totally, we’ll displace them.”

Liz added: “We’re a seaside town, we are going to have seagulls.”

Monday, May 25, 2015

Nairn Academy Dress code review published but opposition is expressed via online petition

Nairn Academy's Dress Review findings have been published on the School's website.

Nairn Academy states: "Our dress code was in need of review following feedback from the school community (pupils, parents and staff). We have not formally revised the dress code in the last 6/7 years so the timing was right to consider what is going well and what needs to improve? The focus was still very much on having a dress code/uniform which provides a strong identity with the school, promotes a positive work ethic and encourages equality rather than brands/labels." 

The school then goes on to state how the review was carried out. The outcome of the review is given thus:
"S1-S3 blue sweatshirt and poloshirt th black trousers /skirt (or tartan skirt)

S4-S6 shirt/blouse and tartan tie with black trousers/skirt ( or tartan skirt). Plain black jumper,cardigan plus a school black zip top will be available. Some seniors have asked about a blazer. This is optional.

Shirt/tie option is also available to any S1-S3 pupil if they wish. We will also support a period of transition where pupils can wear current dress code items."

The background to the review can be read on this Academy page here. 

There seems to be a degree of opposition to the results and the methodology used however which has led to a petition being created entitled "Ask every pupil how they want the dress code changed" on the site which has attracted over sixty signatures since its launch four days ago. The petition page is here. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Subbies and Westies merger – the omens are good but will River CC ever come to the party?

Last Tuesday night saw a meeting organised by Highland Council to canvass public feeling on the proposed merger between Suburban and West Community Councils. The meeting took place in Nairn Academy. It all went very well with Dick Youngson of Suburban and Rosemary Young of West explaining  how they have effectively worked together so far and how a merger would benefit their respective communities. Those members of the public present also echoed those positive views. 

Rosemary Young mentioned how five years ago Nairn West had been a defunct community council and was resurrected by the current crop of councillors. She said: 

“Nairn West was formed, from the outset it was always my wish and also the wish of my colleagues on the community council that we should form one community council for the town. We did in fact have some early meetings with the three community councils which William Gillfillan chaired very expertly and we came to the conclusion at that point that we weren’t ready for that sort of action. This would in fact still be my ultimate goal but at the present time it seems well in the distance.”

A little later Dick Youngson outlined how local community councils have to work together to deal with some of the issues facing the town and how there was no way that a community council could now work in isolation to what was happening with their neighbours. Dick also would like to see a single council for the town one day, he said:

“We’d dearly love to get Nairn River to work with us but that is not going to happen at the moment, they want to remain as they are but time might change things. In the meantime we will work well and we’ll liaise with Nairn River on everything that happens.”

David Hass, of Highland Council, in the chair, said at the end of the meeting:
“We respect the work that is done here and the efforts that are made. So the message we will be taking back to our report is a very positive message about the request and we will be setting that message out in a report that will go to Council.”

Fergus to seek re-election to Holyrood next year

Fergus with a quick response on twitter to a P&J reporter

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Calling all anglers - Fly Fishing Competition on Saturday 6th June 2015

Press release from the Findhorn, Nairn and Lossie Fisheries Trust:

Catch the biggest fish and catch a fantastic angling prize at the Achagour Fly Fishing Competition on Saturday 6th June 2015. Prizes include fishing for a day on the spectacular waters of the River Findhorn at Glenferness and Logie. Or if you feel you still have room for improvement in your casting technique- win a day’s expert tuition with Ian Gordon- a Speycasting Champion.

The competition is being organised by the Findhorn Nairn and Lossie Fisheries Trust, kindly hosted at the Achagour Trout Fishery. Proceeds from the event will fund the work of the Findhorn Nairn and Lossie Fisheries Trust in conserving and improving river habitats for salmon and sea trout populations, benefiting all native wildlife and plants.

Registration is now open for adult and junior competitors (age 9 to 16), and costs £25 for adults and £5 for juniors. The competition will run between 10am and 4pm with prizes for the biggest fish and biggest bag caught on the day.

Excellent prizes are on offer for the adult competition including a day’s fishing for 2 rods on the River Findhorn at Glenferness and Logie, and on the River Nairn at Nairnside. A day’s casting lessons under Ian Gordon’s expert tuition. The junior competition prize is a gift voucher for £50 for fishing at Achagour Trout fishery and a junior rod donated by the Forres Tackle Shop. We have great raffle prizes ranging from a tour of Benromach Distillery to Highland Military Tattoo tickets.

For those who are new to fly fishing there will be expert coaches on hand to introduce you to the sport and a demonstration of casting techniques.

Places are limited so register early to secure a chance to win an amazing day’s fishing on the Findhorn and the Nairn. 
Bob Laughton, Director of the Findhorn Nairn & Lossie Fisheries Trust said:

“Anglers had a great day out last year- with good catches gaining great rewards. The funds raised from this year’s event will be used for researching the numbers of juvenile fish in the River Nairn. This information will help to assess the health of the fish stocks in the river and thus the health of the river itself.”

To register sign up at the Achagour Trout Fishery or contact the Findhorn Nairn and Lossie Fisheries Trust on 01309 611220. For more information visit the website.

Travellers on Balmakeith Industrial Estate

Tonight a number of vehicles and caravans are parked up on one of the vacant plots at the eastern end of the Balmakeith Industrial Estate. The Gurn understands that Highland Council are aware of their presence. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Will NHS funding for the Nairn Hydrotherapy Pool continue?

The final question at the patients group meeting, held in the Community and Arts Centre on Tuesday night last week was about the Nairn Hydrotherapy pool. Taking questions from the floor were Deborah Jones (Chief Operating Officer, NHS Highland) and JeanPierre Sieczkarek, Area Manager, Inverness West, Inverness East, Nairn & Ardersier, Badenoch & Strathspey.

A representative had been sent by the Hydrotherapy Pool (a facility approaching its thirtieth birthday this November), she said: “ I was sent here to ask you a question, my bosses set up the Nairn Hydrotherapy Pool and they are wondering whether funding for it will be guaranteed by the NHS basically in light of the spending cuts?”

Deborah Jones said: “NHS Highland finished 2014/15 in balance with a small surplus. I’m not conscious that the board has cut any services. We are looking certainly at all services in a critical way in terms of are they delivering the outcomes that we expect them to deliver and are they consistent with the evidence and the needs of the local population. So that’s globally.” She then asked JeanPierre Sieckarek to continue.

He then added: “I suppose that just continuing on the global theme. I suppose that we are looking at everything at the moment. Nothing’s got a guarantee and I probably would include myself in that. There’s no guarantee that we’ll be doing the same thing tomorrow that we were doing yesterday. We’re still looking at working...I know exactly what you are talking about of course and we are still trying to work with your bosses to try and work out just the value of the Hydro Pool and just where that fits within our future plans. That’s the simplest way I can put it because we just think of what are we trying to do there and I don’t breach any confidence but we’ve had several lengthy discussions about what are we trying to get out of that. It’s actually very like the discussion we had over GP contracts: it’s about making and maintaining and making sure we get full quality out of what our agreements are with all our partners. That’s the best answer I can do.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

Rev Steve leaving Nairn this autumn

The Gurn understands from some of our regular unreliable sources that the Rev Steven Manders will be leaving Nairn for an Edinburgh parish in September. We'll have him for a wee while yet but already the plaudits have started out there in Facebook land. 

Class of 62 reunion - tickets now on sale

Saturday, May 16, 2015

“Make our communities stronger and restore our self pride” - Laurie’s motion calling for options on “participative democracy” in the Highlands.

On Thursday Laurie Fraser put a motion to Highland Council which obtained cross party support across the chamber at Glenurquhart Road. This is what he said:

"Following discussions across the chamber and on behalf of the Independent Group, I propose that we amend our motion to as follows: The report of the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy was supported across the chamber and members agreed strongly with its conclusions that we must develop genuine local decision making closer to the communities in the Highlands. Whilst noting the important role of regional government in many other European countries we recognise that these aspirations cannot be met by the Highland Council alone with its current structures. Therefore we call on the Highland Council to continue its leadership in this debate and propose that Highland Council in partnership with community representatives produce a report that sets out a range of viable options for local decision making through stronger local representation and participative democracy in the Highlands. 

I’ll start by saying a little bit of history. In the beginning we had the Burghs and Counties, they in turn occasionally fed into joint council. They were reasonably well respected and had directly elected local member. At that time we all recognised that reform was required. In 1975 the Regions and Districts were create. These councils worked well in delivering local services and setting their own taxes and charges. In the Highlands we had eight district councils and one regional. However in the nineties, Conservative Government decided to set out and reorganise the councils in Scotland. This would have been fine but the priority was to get rid of the monster council Strathclyde and, of course, save money. The communities were an afterthought along with the councillors who served these councils. I was going to have a go at a certain councillor here but the great multi-coloured bird of the Highland Regional Council, which later turned red, met with the then Secretary of State and convinced him only a giant sized council would fit and work for the Highlands; bigger than Wales or Belgium, one size would fit all. 

Laurie speaking to the Highland Council chamber on Thursday
However twenty years later this Council, I believe, is losing its relevance. Not only is but is disconnecting from its communities. It starts by describing itself as a highland government on all its e-mails – not a council of the communities. After twenty years, we’ve lost the Water Board, and then recently the Police and the Fire Board went off to Edinburgh – although sometimes I suspect it is more Glasgow than Edinburgh. Finally, the care of the elderly went to the NHS and if this carries on Education will ultimately go to Edinburgh. I don’t believe there is no longer a requirement for a regional government here in Inverness. Throughout the Highlands the citizens of the local communities are calling for control of their affairs and an end to centralisation. The right to raise and set their own local taxes, to set their own expenditure priorities. The priorities of the east are not the priorities of the west or the priorities of the centre here. We’ve too few councillors to do justice to our local democracy. We’ve area committees stretching from 75 miles, in some cases a 100 miles. For example, the extremities of Nairn to the Drumochter Pass on the A9. In our case it is 8 councillors over 2 wards – a sort of grand area committee of the people. It’s unrealistic for this massive area to be truly served by an area committee and be called true democracy by that very same multi-coloured bird that turned red. 

It’s almost sort of farcical. No matter how you chop and change the structures and agendas of the Council and the Area Committees you just cannot have local democracy. Centralising is failing our communities at every level whether it is roads, harbours, planning, parks, gardens, services or housing – you just have to read your local papers. In some cases, this Council is, in effect, an absentee landlord for the number of properties we have lying about the Highlands. It takes too long to process projects and in most cases assets that the community believe are theirs end up in the central administration pot. This in turn brings resentment from communities and councillors alike. What is the point of spending effort to sell and dispose of property if you can’t reap the rewards of that sale? Now I don’t have the time or the wish to detail many of this Council’s failings due to its centralised agenda but I’m more than willing to give examples later on if required. 

A number of our staff have to drive over long distances – not so much by choice but by necessity to keep their jobs. To a certain extent some are demoralised by the ever changing structures and having to be re-interviewed for their own jobs again and again. They want stability in their lives and to work for a stable local government. Central officials coming and spending a half day, giving instructions and directions, it’s not very fair. We need to take back control of our communities and that is why I’m advocating as a starting point that we need to be going back to 8 District Councils, serving the Highlands as before, funded directly by the Scottish Government without a regional authority. We need to set out what the communities want of its council and basing a council on centralisation and cost should not be a first consideration as it has been in the past. In America, if a community is large enough to form its own council it holds a referendum, opts out of council control and sets up its own council. What could be wrong with a referendum over local council control? We should have nothing to fear from democracy. By giving back councils to the towns and Counties of the Highlands we’ll end centralisation, improve employment locally, make our communities stronger and financially sound and restore our self pride. I therefore propose this motion to the Council and look for support and I’d like to hear from other members. Thank you."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Freedom for Nairnshire! - but what if Inverness gets there first?

Yesterday saw our local Highland Councillors debating their differing views on bringing back some local democracy to Nairn. At that meeting there were also calls for Inverness to get "Independence" from the Highland Council. The Press and Journal had a front page spread on the topic and the paper's editorial said:

"On the day when George Osborne was unveiling more devolved powers for English cities, "independence for Inverness suddenly became a hot topic. 

Councillors want a root and branch review of democratic processes around the Highland Capital, with some believing the clock should be turned back so that it has its own city council. It is an intriguing prospect, because the city has long thought it was treated differently to other parts of Scotland, which were higher up the pecking order.

But simply being part of a Highland-wide authority is itself believe, by some, to have weakened Inverness's position. It is a debate that is worth having in coming months."

And that debate could indeed ignite and capture the hearts and minds of many Invernessians in the months and years ahead. What then for us if a movement for serious change gets up a head of steam in the Highland Capital? Could we even end up thrown in with a "Greater Inverness"? Holyrood elections are only a year away and the Highland Council elections are in 2017. Will we see promises of devolution made to Inverness by the political parities? This observer thinks it might be possible. Change lies ahead and we must be prepared to be ready to agitate for the best deal possible for Nairn. 

Swans at the mouth of the River Nairn - video

This year's class of cygnets had another training session this evening as their parents took them down to the mouth of the river.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Local democracy "the revolution, the real game changer" is in Nairnshire?

Yesterday we reported on a few proposals going forward to be discussed today in the Highland Council chamber. A few crumbs of democracy perhaps to be devolved down to Nairn from the area committee that includes us and Badenoch and Strathspey. The article and details of the proposals here. It was all duly discussed and here is what our local members had to say. 

Liz was the first Councillor from Nairn to speak:

“We also are very keen to take on the participating budgeting and we also considered rather into the future that we extend to the Common Good monies in Nairn. I think we all accept that the boundary we have for our area committee was artificial and that we have got a very distinct area in Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey has also got three distinct communities within its boundaries. So I think we appear to be choosing to go our separate ways focussing on community planning, community partnerships and involving the participation of our communities and other groups that are already working there, for example the District Partnership. So I think if we all go our separate ways I’d just like to say it’s not you it was me.”

Michael was the next Nairnshire councillor to speak:

“That we have started down the road to change is to be welcomed and the merging of the District Partnership with the Nairn component of the area committee is a small step in the right direction. However, if the role of the proposed new Nairn community partnership, as outlined on page 83 (3.3.32) is merely to cover issues of local importance and to encourage community interest and involvement, then this is not an agenda for meaningful reform and we really are missing the point of community empowerment and strengthening local democracy. 

Is the scale of our ambition for local communities is a half share of the ward discretionary fund? Is the end point of our vision a talking shop lacking a remit and fiscal autonomy? No, because the new structures we can create should be able to deliver genuine local autonomy and empowerment. They have to contain at their core two vital components. Firstly, individual communities as represented by their elected councillors, and you are going to love this folks and it’s true because we have very active community councillors in Nairn. Elected community councillors need to be given a clear defined role and a role where they are in control of the administration, commissioning and delivery of local services. Secondly, just as the SNP want full fiscal autonomy from Westminster, then any new structure will have to have control of the entire locality budget. 

So what’s the vision? What’s the plan? As Councillor Kerr said: “we’ve talked about this long enough we need action”. Well a Nairnshire area with complete control of our Health and Social care, housing, education, planning, economic development and roads and transport; i.e. all services. A Nairnshire area with a devolved fair share budget that will deliver services tailored to the needs of our local community. Could you imagine a devolved fair share health budget bypassing the fiscal hopper of the Highland Health Board? Could you imagine the improved outcomes from a health budget delivering cost effective care tailored to meet local needs and priorities? Imagine a budget that would enable health professionals to deliver that holy grail of health care – early intervention. 

So is the commissioning of services from a locally devolved and controlled budget merely a pipe dream? No the fair share principle for all localities is happening in Perth and Kinross with remarkable results. Therefore, drawing inspiration from best practice models elsewhere in Scotland and utilising our own local talent and resources we have been given a remarkable opportunity to radically improve the quality of services we provide to our communities. And finally, as the great and the good from across Scotland depart from Westminster to be followed by the brightest and best to Holyrood next year; I can’t help but think the revolution, the real game changer, in community empowerment, local democracy and service provision is happening not in London, not in Edinburgh, maybe not even in Inverness but it certainly is in Nairnshire.”
Michael Green (bathed in the light of a revolution in local democracy?) speaking in the Glenurquhart Road chamber earlier today - Thursday 14/05/15
Liz responded to Michael’s statement:

“We started up the area committees as a first step to delivering more local democracy in Highland and I think we are all sort of coming to the idea that the shape it is in is not fitting what is required. Michael’s statement there was very ambitious. It would be an aspiration to try and deliver but at the same time, the costs involved in doing it and the administration and the bureaucracy I think would need to be worked out in detail. I think for just now if we can get along and get our community partnerships working together well in the local area. I think one thing we have done with the area committees is through listening to HIE and the Cairngorm Partnership and different agencies that are available, building relationships and getting to know them better and understanding what they do because when the area committees stopped in 2007 a lot of that links were lost and we’ve started to rebuild them. I think perhaps that Michael’s suggestion is a step too far at the moment. I think we need to work towards delivering more local involvement and engagement in a positive way. I can understand the fair share concept. It’s something we hear a lot about in Nairn but the other side to that is that if Nairn is going to be getting more other areas are going to be getting less and its going to take a lot of consultation and agreement across the chamber to deliver that.”

Laurie spoke a little later:

“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. The reality is area committees of four people can only do a limited amount of business and I can’t see you getting budgets down to that sort of level. You can certainly scrutinise at that level but one of the big problems I’ve seen so far is that you bring reports to these area committees and you bring a senior manager. A senior manager cannot answer the detailed questions that we want to ask. I don’t know how you are going to sort it because it seems we’ve only got senior managers left nowadays, no sort of junior in-between ones."

People in Nairn to have their say on Community Council merger

Not the full ménage à trois to give us something that one day might resemble the old District Council perhaps (River CC are still against that) but the Westies and the Subbies hope to live together in happy municipal matrimony after "living in sin" with dual meetings for a while now. Below is a Highland Council press release:

"A consultation meeting will take place on Thursday 21 May at 7pm in Nairn Academy to consider the proposed merger of two Nairn Community Councils.

Nairn Suburban and Nairn West Community Councils have put forward proposals to The Highland Council (the administrating body) to merge the two into one Community Council. 

Work has been ongoing locally by the two Community Councils to progress the merger but this meeting is an opportunity for the community to have their say on the proposals.

Nairn is also represented by Nairn River Community Council which is not involved in this proposal.

Following the consultation meeting, a report will go forward to the next meeting of The Highland Council on 25 June for Members to consider the proposal.

If the merger is approved, the two Community Councils will merge following an election in November, when elections will be held for all Community Councils in Highland."

So citizens of Gurnshire, if any resident of these two areas can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let them speak on May 21st or else thereafter forever hold their piece.

"Sound advice taken by upmarket Nairn hotel after noise warning"

The Clubhouse getting a bit noisy for the neighbours - more on the Highland News site. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

NHS leaders in a Q&A session with Patients Group - appointments at the practice raised again

Last night the Nairn and Ardersier Patients Group held their AGM in the Community and Arts Centre it was followed by a Q&A session with Deborah Jones (Chief Operating Officer, NHS Highland) and JeanPierre Sieczkarek, Area Manager, Inverness West, Inverness East, Nairn & Ardersier, Badenoch & Strathspey. Numbers were perhaps a bit down on what this observer has witnessed at previous meetings organised by the NAPG and its forerunner the Patients Participation Group but that was more than made up for by questions that had been gathered from the group’s facebook page and other sources. 

There was discussion on quite a lot of subjects important to patients in Nairn, including the regular one of appointments, also questions related to physiotherapy, hip replacements, mental health care for young people, day care, the future of the hydrotherapy pool and others. If time permits we hope to have a look at some of the questions and the responses. Tonight we will have a quick look at the discussion on the topic of appointments, this issue just doesn’t seem to want to go away.

One woman attending the meeting said: “There is a situation at the moment with our GPs if you turn up at the clinic at half past eight in the morning you’re going to get appointments. I’ve a brother who has got his own doctor three times to come up there. I think that is wrong, sombody else is sitting at home, needing an appointment, they’re on the phone till nine o’ clock maybe and when they get through the appointments have gone. Should it not be a case of, perhaps, phone calls only until maybe half past nine or ten o’ clock to give everybody a fair chance? There’s somebody sitting at home not able to go or maybe has no transport and somebody gets up there at half past eight. I don’t think it is a fair system.”

Simon Noble, chairing the meeting said this was a point that had been heard before and that he thought that there was recognition that there were a limited number of appointments on the day.

The individual making her point continued: “If you are able to go up you’re maybe not is as much need as someone who is sitting at home, really quite poorly, and needs to see a doctor that day. I think there must be a better way of dealing with this.” 

Deborah Jones then said: “Undoubtedly there has to be a better way. I think we have got to try and get the balance haven’t we? Some people may not have telephones; there may still be some people that don’t have telephones. So we have to try and get the balance haven’t we between availability and timing. A friend of mine is a receptionist in a doctors’ surgery and she says “I sometimes feel like I am the worst person in the world because everybody is pointing the finger saying you aren’t giving me what I want to have and we only have got a certain number of slots for certain categories and she describes having a list of appointments for urgent or routine and then some visiting slots later on in the day. [...] What she is saying is that there are a finite number of slots that she has available as a receptionist to actually provide to patients and that kind of makes sense in terms...if we have a finite number of places, 1,2 ,3 or more then in terms of then being able to meet the needs and demands of the local population there has to be some system. Now in all the years I’ve been working in health I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a system that has ever met the needs of the population. There have been some that have been more efficient and effective than others and clearly this is an issue that has created significant concern for people and is absolutely an issue that needs to be addressed through the practice, by the practice for the practice population.”

JeanPierre Sieczkarek then added:

“When we had our last meeting, many of you were here at the last meeting that we had. We had a similar question about how do we get our points over to GPs and how do we get that system better and I think just so that we can sort of bring that part to some kind of conclusion it’s my job really now to take that back to the practice and start looking at some of the issues that you have raised there. I’m with Deborah on this really, when you listen to it, it’s like “I don’t like the sound of that and we need to sort this out”. We do have an arrangement and it’s a contractual arrangement with the practice and we expect a certain level of quality in that so I’ll take everything back but can I encourage you in the future, as part of our relationship; this is a very good example of what I described last time as a conduit between patients and the practice until we get that part of it all sorted out again. 

The meeting continued - more on the Gurn if time permits.

Also related to appointments at the practice: earlier today a local resident tweeted a complaint that there was now a three day wait for telephone appointments. The Gurn contacted the practice for a comment and we were told by Dr Adrian Baker who clarified the situation regarding telephone appointments:

“Patients can speak to a duty GP or a nurse on the day that they phone up. If they wish to speak to a particular GP or nurse then there may be a wait for a few days as the GP or nurse may not be available. This is because they may have been on call the night before, working on the hospital ward or performing other duties such as clinics or working in A&E.”

First gentle steps in seeing some democracy being returned to Nairn?

A theme running through civic life for many years in Nairn is the democratic deficit that the community suffers after years of centralisation in the direction of Inverness. It makes sense to many that this community has more of a say in its own future. The present situation has lead to much dissatisfaction being expressed to the authorities from the community councils and others even to the extent of citizens taking to the streets to protest about planning decisions implemented on the town. It may be too that the new radicalism abroad in Scotland that enabled the SNP to be the lightening rod for what Michael Forsyth has called a political revolution will also create further ripples locally with more demand for increased self-determination in community affairs. People want more say at all levels of politics now and surely change has to come in Nairn. 

Let’s consider the situation we have presently. Colin MacAulay said recently in debate in the comments section of one of our articles:

“Sadly, we do not have "local" government - the Tories and Labour Governments at Westminster in the 70s and 90s took that away from almost all of Scotland. We have sub-national government - a geography the size of Wales or Belgium.”

Nairn’s situation found itself reflected in the General Election hustings at the Golf View when Nairn Academy Pupil, Finlay Almond asked: “With the Centralisation of Scottish services in Edinburgh and British services in London – how can we trust that Nairn’s voice will be heard on a national scale?” All the seven candidates responded of course but let us consider what our new MP, Drew Hendry, had to say:

"First of all Nairn’s voice is very important. I can tell you I know all about the Big Slide and I know all about the Traffic Lights. So Nairn’s voice does get out there very well. I was part of the commission for strengthening local democracy and as a signatory a co-author to that. That was about how we actually make sure that communities like Nairn can actually participate in their own development, in their own ability to make decisions. It’s not about the gift to communities, it’s about the community itself being able to take control of its own assets and its own decision making and part of that journey is about realising how we transfer powers. Within the Highland Council I’m very pleased that we have reversed the previous situation where area committees were disbanded and actually reinstate area committees so that Nairn could have a local political voice there as well. 

There are two pieces of legislation going throw the Scottish Parliament that I very briefly will tell you about - at the moment the Land Reform Bill and the Community Empowerment Act. These are actual pieces of legislation, for the first time we are legislating to return power to communities across Scotland so that is work in progress just now. But I won’t take any lessons from Danny on centralisation when one of the issues that could have solved the ability for us to actually take more control of issues here is devolution of the Crown Estate. Something that all parties and none across the Highlands and in this constituency have agreed that we should have, yet there has been no movement there and it has been watered down through the Smith Commission to the point where it is almost worthless and it looks to be watered down even further and that is something that could be delivered very, very quickly indeed. So it is important that Nairn’s voice is heard and it is important that Nairn’s voice is heard.”

So what next, are we really on the way to a better deal or will any real attempt at giving back some power to Nairn find itself side tracked as it makes its way through officialdom towards the community? Tomorrow at Glenurquhart Road the Highland Council will discuss a document entitled: “ Up-date on the Review of Area Committees and Local Community Planning Arrangements”. Obviously the forthcoming Community Empowerment Act is focussing their minds.   Here’s a paragraph relevant to our community from the document going to the Council meeting:

Feedback from the conversation with Nairn Members 

Members felt that for Nairn to be a shining example of local democracy, they needed to make sure that: 

• They get positive relationships with the community; 

• Public agencies work together with the community; 

• They lead on projects and push on ideas and strategies – linked to priorities; 

• They scrutinise the process for all public services; 

• They make decisions for things they are elected for; 

• They facilitate the community to deliver for the town; 

• They address inequalities and include the harder to reach communities; and 

• They build trust with community groups. "

And the document goes on to outline some mechanisms the local members would like to see implemented. The first steps on the road to getting real power back to Nairn? The meeting will be webcast should any Gurnites have some spare time tomorrow, this item is well down the agenda though so it may be discussed in the afternoon. More below

To achieve this vision, Members propose:

1. Taking forward participatory budgeting in 2015/16 so that people in Nairn decide how 50% of their ward discretionary budget is spent. The plan is to run a community event in early Autumn 2015 to distribute the funding. Members were open to identifying other potential discretionary funding to be distributed in this way in the future, possibly including the Nairn Common Good Fund. Lessons from the first event will be identified for any future roll out.

2. To no longer have the Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Area Committee, District Partnership and Locality Planning meetings. Instead the governance model proposed would be a local community planning partnership model. Potentially branded as the Nairn Community Partnership it would cover the issues of local importance (i.e. health and social care, transport, economy, town centre regeneration, community safety and possibly arts and culture) along with any other Council business. Meetings of the Nairn Community Partnership would be themed to make workload manageable and to encourage community interest and involvement. Ideally the resource for running the partnership would be shared across the partnership.

In developing this model, Council business would have to be dealt with appropriately with the right governance arrangements in place. This would include being clear on the respective roles of members and of partners during partnership meetings, making sure e.g. that Members know when they alone are responsible for making decisions.

Following the workshop Cllr MacDonald shared the idea of the new model with some of those involved in locality planning and has received positive feedback so far. Conversations are underway with NHSH regarding the potential changes to the District Partnership."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Eilean Dubh Fine Foods Nairn High Street

The premises formerly known as Brown the Butchers takes a new identity.

A site for comparing Nairn with other Scottish Towns (Understanding Scottish Places)

Thanks to Georgina Bower of the Carnegie Trust who sent us a link to the "Understanding Scottish Places" page for Nairn. The page was created last month.

"The Understanding Scottish Places platform was commissioned by the Scottish Government and was launched in April 2015. It offers a mechanism for understanding the similarity of places across Scotland. Deliberately designed to avoid a simplistic ranking of places as better or worse, USP focuses on the shared characteristics of towns."  

Here's Nairn's page - you have to scroll down for a range of statistics and a button you can click to compare Nairn with other towns.

Mike Vass's album "In The Wake Of Neil Gunn" is being streamed live today on the Scottish Album of the year site

Unroofed records very kindly tweeted us with the info. This observer is listening right now and enjoying the music very much. 

"The Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award is a prestigious and exciting arts prize developed by the Scottish Music Industry Association to celebrate, promote and reward the most outstanding albums released by Scottish artists between (for this year only) January 2014 and March 2015. Inaugurated in partnership with Creative Scotland, The SAY Award promotes a longlist of twenty albums which, in turn, is reduced to a shortlist of ten in advance of the award ceremony when the winner is announced."

Best wishes to Mike Vass as the award progresses - Gurnites can listen here

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Housing on Sandown - should we follow the Helmsdale and District Development Trust example?

At some point in the future there will be housing development on Sandown. As the land is owned by the Common Good fund this observer imagines that this would potentially make it easier to enable public housing to be built there. Wouldn't it be nice if the community had more say in how that housing was shaped and what happened to that housing when built? Nairn Common Good owns the land so why can't it own any houses that get built? 

"Community owned projects are helping increase the number of affordable homes in the Highlands. Helmsdale & District Development Trust (HDDT) is spearheading a new community led housing development having built four new homes in the Highland village of Helmsdale, backed by £110,000 of Scottish Government investment. Local people have also been heavily involved in shaping plans within the development, as well as the overall priorities the Trust has for the area.

During her visit to Helmsdale, the Housing Minister Margaret Burgess met with one of the new tenants Mrs Amy Withey at the Rockview Place project. Mrs Burgess said “Housing is at the heart of this Government’s ambition to create a fairer and more prosperous country. In the Highlands, Helmsdale and District Development Trust is an excellent example of housing development led by the community for the community. It is great to see not just homes being built, but a wider community being invigorated too."

Only four homes but a great boost for Helmsdale. The potential surely exists for us to do something on a bigger scale in Nairn on the Sandown Lands that can benefit those in Nairn who are in need of housing? 

The article goes on: 

"Ruth Whittaker, Chairperson of HDDT, commented: “We are delighted and honoured to welcome Mrs Burgess here today, to perform the official opening ceremony of the Helmsdale & District Community Owned Housing Project. Although the homes were actually completed in perfect time for local families to move in just before Christmas 2014, we see the Minister’s visit as an acknowledgement of this community’s tenacity in addressing its housing needs.

“It is significant that our success with this innovative project is now inspiring similar community groups to emulate our pioneering delivery model.”  "

Now wouldn't it be amazing to see Laurie out on Sandown  one day wearing the municipal bling welcoming the Housing Minister to perform a similar opening in front of a brand new scheme of  20, 30, 40 or as many houses as we had the vision and drive to achieve? An impossible dream? If they can do it in Helmsdale why not here? As well as The Scottish Government, HIE were involved along with a bank who provided finance. More here.

I'm sure there are many, many people in Nairn who would love to see similar happen. Could NICE and other local bodies such as the community councils get together and step forward? Would the Scottish Government also offer backing to Nairn? Most importantly, would the Highland Council be prepared to offer real support and assistance given the crucial role that it plays in its control of Nairn's Common Good Fund?  As "local people have also been heavily involved in shaping plans within the development" in Helmsdale can we have some of that here too please?

A walk in the sun beside the A96 - ducking the traffic

Thanks to our regular reader Wanda for these pictures. Spring again and the first ducklings are appearing. Wanda told us: 

"A mother duck takes her new family for a walk along the A96 - pleased to say she successfully guided them all into the river below the bridge - although they needed some help in climbing over the high kerb!"