Thursday, October 20, 2016

Nairn County stunner in SFA twitter vote poll for best goal of first round of cup

You need to be on twitter to vote though :-)

Westminster boundary changes - Nairn getting slung out of the Highlands?

Just a quick look at the map in the facebook post by Drew Hendry seems to indicate that that is the case. We are going to be part of Moray now for Westminster purposes?

Highlands and Islands Growers annual horticultureal day 2nd November Nairn Community Centre

HIG's Annual Horticultural Day is on 2nd November this year. It's actually only half a day, starting at 1pm with lunch included in the ticket price. There's three fascinating talks on subjects dear to the hearts of people who love growing plants, fruit and vegetables. Bugs and Beasties, Propagation and a talk on the revitalised Walled Garden at Gordon Castle in Fochabers by the head gardener himself, John Hawley. Find out more on the brand new HIG Facebook page

Meanwhile over on the Gurn twitter account

If there's not much being posted here it's worth having a look at the Gurn twitter account. Quite a lot happens in the Nairn twittersphere these days. You don't have to have an account to look at tweets either. 

Childhood flu vaccine at Nairn Health Care Group

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Community Councils "a brave last stand for local democracy or a wasted effort"

A few years ago one of the usual suspects sent us a copy of the Scottish Community Alliance's newsletter and a very interesting read it was too. This observer subscribed and subsequent issues have been full of stories of communities moving forward and getting things done. We don't seem to be so lucky here, through one form or another we seem to hire consultants on a regular basis, get a list of assets and things that need doing (sometimes complete with a very nice map or two) and then nothing happens. However, there are great hopes that Michael Green and the business community's BID will brake the cycle but that remains to be seen. 

Anyway the Scottish Community Alliance has also been following developments on the localism front at Holyrood and they haven't been shy in pointing out some of the dangers they see looming up. Here's the headline paragraph from their latest newsletter:

"Dear Reader,

Opinion is divided over Scotland’s 1200 community councils – a brave last stand for local democracy or a wasted effort on the part of thousands of local people? Back in 1973, when local government was being restructured into much larger, more centralised blocks of administration, setting up community councils was a sop to those who cried foul at the dismantling of local democracy. And twenty years later, when local government stepped even further away from its roots after yet more ‘reorganisation’, community councils, invested with neither resources nor responsibilities, were left to wither on the vine. Except they didn’t wither. Despite decades of official neglect, thousands of local people have stayed committed to this most local tier of democracy. While the new community empowerment legislation studiously avoided any serious mention of community councils, the next two pieces of legislation lined up by Scottish Government – a new Planning Bill and a Decentralisation Bill – would be scarcely credible if they were to follow suit. This moment has been a long time coming and whatever the outcome, we can be assured there will be as many again it as for it. One thing is certain though, it’s make or break time for community councils.

best wishes

It probably is finally make or break time here in Nairn folks. Many of the usual suspects are growing tired of the cycle of nothing ever happening after initiatives to try and get our community more say. Michael Green is calling for Community Councils to be given more say on the new District Partnership but reporting in the Nairnshire this week indicates that it is not even known yet if the new body's meetings will be open to the public.

Are we finally heading to the new dawn or another generation of the crushing boot from Glenurquhart Road? Remember it emerged at a recent local CC meeting that it will be Inverness that will be setting the 50p (?) charge for the use of the public cludgie and local members will be powerless to do anything about it.

More and more people await the outcome of the potential of local democracy returning to Nairn with weariness and increasing disinterest unfortunately. The Highland Council elections are coming round in May so you might see our four local members in the shop window a bit more soon but things will have to get slightly more exciting and they need to generate an air of hope if the turnout next spring is to be more than the whopping 48% it was last time round. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Nairnshire's digitally deprived speak up at Cawdor CC meeting

Last week’s Community Council meeting in Cawdor also saw the issue of lack of superfast broadband in some rural areas debated. Recently too there was discussion in East Nairnshire. Attending the Cawdor CC meeting were Highland Councillors Michael Green and Liz MacDonald. The meeting heard from Felix Spittle of Community Broadband Scotland which is part of HIE and has been set up to try and get the service to the 5% of the country where normal provision isn’t going to reach. 

He said that the fibre option for superfast would reach 84% of the Highlands by the end of the year by that he meant speeds above 30mbs. For the areas that were currently going without he outlined the options. CBS could provide 89% of the capital cost of infrastructure and also help with the scoping work. Communities could pay BT to put in more of the green cabinets (an expensive option but some communities were going down that route). There was the 89% funding option from CBS which could include wireless or satellite services.

The meeting heard from a resident of Regoul Geddes who had been part of a delegation that recently had meetings with Fergus Ewing. Fergus had told them that it was SNP policy to get 100% coverage in Scotland by 2021 and that a new study would be starting by the middle of next year. Felix Spittle was of the opinion that this study, he called it an “open market review” would begin within the next couple of months and may lead to different methods of delivery of superfast broadband. 

Liz MacDonald suggested that a survey was done to indentify the needs in the village such as had been done up at Geddes. She also suggested that perhaps the future Tom nan Clach community benefit wind farm cash could be used to help upgrade the service. 

Felix Spittle stated that there was a big corridor of difficult places for Superfast Broadband south of the A96.

The meeting heard from one resident who said that there were issues now with the school requesting pupils to do homework over the internet. People in rural areas were being turned into second class citizens he claimed. It was expressed that there was a sense of unfairness and there should be equality of cost for what was becoming an essential service. 

It is obvious that this all remains a hot topic in rural Nairshire areas and there are people that are finding it difficult to keep up with the modern world without a superfast connection. In digital terms some folk are indeed becoming second class citizens and as we move more and more into a digitally dependent world – you keep up or get left behind. The SNP have promised full coverage by 2021 but with the speed technology moves there may be some people that get left a long way behind unless specific solutions are found for their locations. Compared to the towns and cities though the digitally deprived find their influence in the greater scheme of things to speed things along is diminished by their lack of numbers. 

On the brighter side though, across Scotland there seems to be a lot of action through a mix of possible solutions though as the community in Ullapool have shown - article in the National here. Big or small there seem to be options for the digitally deprived but the onus is on them to get organised and take them - should politicians be doing more?

Previous Gurn articles
"Superfast Broadband and mobile reception - Margert Davidson, Leader of Highland Council outlines levels of frustration and expectation rising every month throughout the Highlands" here

"Broadband issues in East Nairnshire - Big noise coming down the line soon?" here. 

Recently Fergus Ewing hit back at criticism of the Superfast roll out in rural areas. Article in the National newspaper here. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

"We're equals wanting to win together."

Seen a quote on social media from County player Glen Main's interview with the Courier following the amazingly entertaining 4-4 draw with local rivals Forres on Wednesday night at Station Park. He told the paper:

"There's fans that haven't come for years that are coming back and there's more of a buzz around the place. We were winning when Narden were here but it feels more of a community club: "There's great spirit about the club and everyone's fighting for each other. We're all in it together now and there's no big egos. We're equals wanting to win together.

"I'm a local boy and leaving never really crossed my mind. There's a brilliant feel about the club and it's just 11 boys on the field that do everything for the club. Guys on the bench do their bit and there's fans raising money all over the place. It's a good place to be just now."

Good for you Glen and your colleagues too - spot on comment. The good vibes seem to be extending all across the Nairn football spectrum too with everyone willing to assist each other for the benefit of football in the town. There was a fans charity game on Sunday up at Station Park and also across at the Showfield Nairn Ladies played a County youth select in another charity fundraiser. Saint Ninian are doing well too. It all seems to be coming together as the community gets behind soccer at all levels in Nairn. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Arts and craft exhibition on Saturday 29th October in the United reformed church from 10am-3pm.

Nairnshire S.W.I. are holding a arts and craft exhibition on Saturday 29th October in the United reformed church from 10am-3pm.£2.00 entry and tea, coffee and cakes included and there will be a tombola.

Scottish National Orchard Inventory Survey - do you have an orchard?

Nairn Allotments Orchard Group are helping with the Scottish National Orchard Inventory survey. If you have five or more fruit trees that meets the criteria of an orchard you can submit details online at

or contact the orchard group via

There is also an excellent article in the Nairnshire this week describing the ongoing work of the Nairn Allotments Orchard Group and their success in establishing an orchard at Sandown. 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Official opening of the Davy Johnston enclosure Station Park Nairn 8th October 2016 - video

An amazing, emotional and entertaining afternoon at Station Park. If anything could have put the seal on the new dawn at the Wee County then it was this, the honouring of the legend Davy Johnston. The community club that is NCFC was at its wonderful wholesome best today and a great display by the young talent on the park too following the ceremony. Que sera, sera, NCFC gu bràth, gu bràth.

George Street access to Railway Station coming soon?

Murd tells the Gurn that he had a good meeting with our four councillors and a Scotrail rep earlier this week and the prospects of access to the railway station from George Street becoming a reality in the near future are very favourable. 

Such access would especially benefit the disabled and also those who have to use the steep steps down onto Balblair Road. Well done community campaigner Murd Dunbar!

Friday, October 07, 2016

Tomorrow (Saturday 8th October) marks the official opening of the Davy Johnston enclosure at Station Park - "A memorable Journey"

Kenny MacLeod has compiled a video showing some of the many moments along the way as the community got behind the County Fans fund raising efforts.

Ardersier and Culloden Council by-election win by the LibDems - real winner the 70% who voted for nobody?

The Highland Council website states: "Trish Robertson - Scottish Liberal Democrats has been elected to serve Ward 18 (culloden and Ardersier) following the death of Councillor John Ford."

In a very poor 30.51% turnout no candidate went past the quota mark on the first count and it went all the way to the 7th PR transferable count where the LibDems just edged ahead of the SNP. Number crunchers can download a spreadsheet here to see how it went. Interesting point perhaps to see the Scottish Labour Party beaten by the Greens in the first count of ballot papers by 163 to 180. Will Scottish Labour be doing the most greeting tonight?

Thursday, October 06, 2016

World Orienteering Championships & Scottish 6 Days Orienteering win Scottish Event Award for 2015

A major accolade for the 2015 World Orienteering championships that took place in Nairn and Moray. Below is a tweet from the event ceremony in Glasgow.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Broadband issues in East Nairnshire - Big noise coming down the line soon?

Much discussion tonight in the Old Schoolhouse up at Glenferness where local community council members were articulating their fears that they are to miss out on an upgrade to broadband. Michael Green was the only Highland Councillor present and he made a suggestion or two - echoes here of the comments by Margeret Davidson at the Nairnshire Committee recently - more here if anyone missed the Gurn article. 

The East Nairnshire CC folk look ready to go on the broadband warpath and were urged by one of their members to make "a big noise". 

Good news from Michael Green though he informed the meeting that the Achnagour bus stop turning point is set to finally become a reality. He told the Gurn that he was delighted that after three years of chasing the issue up it was finally becoming a reality. 

A pretty active meeting tonight up the road and Michael Green was again telling another of Nairnshire's CCs that he wishes to see Community Council representation on the new Community Powerships that the Council has to set up as Scottish Government localism policy becomes law. 

In the Gurn article we quoted the Leader of Highland Council Margaret Davidson speaking at the recent meeting of Highland Council. She like, Lesley Riddoch, writing in a National article we also referred to, was also critical of the Scottish Goverment's superfast broadband role. Fergus Ewing has since then responded to the Lesley Riddoch article, in a article that is entitled "Minister hits back at digital plan critics" which is available on the National site here. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Online petition to Designate tidal River Nairn area As wildlife sanctuary / Haven

A petition has been launched by local swan mannie Joe Telfer and reads:

" Designate River Nairn Area As Wildlife Sanctuary / Haven"

"The Tidal area of the river Nairn is home to over 200 water birds, Mainly Swans and Ducks. They need a safe area free from fishing tackle injuries, dog attacks and disturbance from human water sport activities. People get a huge amount of pleasure from the existence of these birds on the river. They are also a big attraction to the tourists who visit Nairn. "  More here.

The petition will eventually be delivered to Provost Laurie Fraser. 

Monday, October 03, 2016

Official opening of the Davy Johnston enclosure Saturday against Rothes 2.45pm

Built by funds raised by the Community the new Cowshed gets its official naming at Station Park on Saturday. It was incredible how so many groups, individuals and organisations rallied round to help fund the project. The Gurn understands there will be more details about the ceremony in a local quality weekly newspaper that is usually available in a Co-op near you later on on a Monday evening. 

Local author Donald Wilson told the Gurn:

"Six years ago I had this book published as a tribute to Nairn County's greatest ever player. I never thought we be here today with an enclosure named in his
Donald with a copy of the book six years ago
memory. The official opening is on Saturday against Rothes 2.45pm. Davy made his debut for County against Rothes in November 1958 just days after his sixteenth birthday. Let's make sure we recognise the occasion in style. If you are free get up to Station park early on Saturday. Arguably this has been the most important infrastructure development at the ground since the original stand was built in 1937 and then refurbished in 2014.

Cawdor Bonfire November 4th

Jennifer Walker told the Gurn: 

"There will some parking with in the school grounds but we would kindly ask that those who are
fit and well park up in the village and walk down.

There will be a raffle at the dance following the bonfire in aid of the Cawdor School Christmas Carolling Night. 

The Bonfire has received sponsorship from Cawdor Estate, Forbes Kildrummie, Nairnshire Farmers Society, Cawdor Tavern, Cawdor Community Assoc and Cawdor & West Nairnshire community council and the Classroom, Nairn."

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Friday, September 30, 2016

Superfast Broadband and mobile reception - Margert Davidson, Leader of Highland Council outlines levels of frustration and expectation rising every month throughout the Highlands

Yesterday morning this observer noticed another exasperated thread on a popular Nairn social media page concerning high speed broadband in the town. The roll out across Nairn has certainly not been universally praised. Later on I read an article in The National by Lesley Riddoch. My mind then flashed back to the Nairnshire area committee meeting last week (Weds 21st) where local Councillors Stephen Fuller and Liz MacDonald raised concerns about high speed broadband and mobile coverage in parts of Nairnshire and their desire that these be priorities for their new committee. This prompted the Highland Council Leader, Margaret Davidson, who was sitting in on the meeting at the invitation of her Independent group colleague Michael Green, to make a lengthy contribution. She certainly knew her stuff and she said:

“Broadbrand and mobile delivery are a priority for the Council, they’re right up there with Highland First. The reason they are there is that I don’t know a community in the Highlands that doesn’t have this on their agenda. The level of frustration and expectation rises each month, and that’s because it is usually important, it’s really important for the way of life that we are evolving: we are going to need it to deliver health and social care in the future, for connectivity it’s holding families together at the other end of the world and I understand that completely. 

And it is very much going to be what will help keep some of our young people here because they need decent mobile reception and broadband there is no doubt about that and every tourist that arrives in Nairn will take out their mobile and see whether they can get a signal and the answer is some places yes and some places no. We’re now at the moment, is, that BT has delivered, just about finished delivering, the first part of the first contract which was to put 84% cover for high speed broadband across the Highlands and I say “haven’t we done well?” They are probably going to deliver a little bit more because it is about squeezing a little bit more out of them and it might go up to 85, 86%. This is fine, if you are sitting somewhere within a few hundred yards of a green box you’ll do well. If you are outside the orbit of that it starts falling away quite rapidly and I’ve got complaints from areas of Inverness that you would think would be fine but they’re not. And you may well have patches around the town where it’s not great. BT are just about getting there with that contract. Any improvement in high speed broadband in the area of the green boxes you need to get to BT.

If it is of any use to you I have the contact details of the chief executive of BT, Brendan Dick because I find that trying to get a service anywhere else in the organisation is practically impossible. So I’m quite happy to share that with you guys if you need to use it. 

Mobile reception is on the move, there’s a lot of applications up to come through about upgrading existing masts. The police and fire masts are going to be upgraded and they’ll be public access to...I don’t understand most things with broadband and Wi-Fi, I just like using it like most people but the upgraded masts will be available for public use and BE which is now part of BT will be actually operating businesses on the back of that. So they will be operating full services for people within the range of these masts. They’re upgrading with 4G and that is happening quite rapidly across the Highlands. I see it across my desk because I’m part of the planning committee applications from that regularly for rural Inverness. 

The other thing is that there is a push by other operators Vodafone and O2, they’re working in partnership and they are looking to put in a lot more masts along the road infrastructure in Highland. There are many places in the Highlands, you can drive down the trunk roads and your reception falls out and comes back and I think that is to be welcomed. In addition to that there are other masts where they are choosing to put them in. But we are at the mercy of what the mobile operators are offering. So we haven’t yet got a clear picture. They are going to come with their applications and that’s 4G which is really good. Except that 4G has less penetration than 2G and you have to be close to the mast to get the benefits of it. However what I do think is that we are going to have significantly improved mobile reception within the next 12 months and that is actually on the move and the mobile operators are really keen to do it. They’ve got certain obligations from the UK government that they’ve got to deliver. 

What we are really waiting for now and the biggest hold up is the Scottish Government coming forward with their plans of how they intend to get to 100% high speed broadband which is what they have promised. The frustration is that there are communities the length and breadth of the Highlands. You may have them in rural Nairn that are willing to pick up the baton if nobody is coming and organise their own Wi-Fi systems with Community Broadband Scotland, as some have been done on the west but they can’t move until they know how far the main stream stuff is going to get because you can’t invest public money twice in one place. And the real frustration is that they are still waiting and I’ve been saying this now for over a year. Still waiting for a clear picture of where public investment is going and where communities need to work with Community Broadband Scotland to fill the holes. You may have areas like that, certainly in rural Inverness I do, lots of it. It’s a mixed picture, we really have to at the moment, your target, if you want to target BT, I think they are doing what every business does, making the most of their contract. [...]”

Margeret Davidson then suggested that the Nairnshire Committee also got HIE along to give them an update, she then went on:

“I think we now need to put the target towards the Scottish Government, everyone is waiting for them to say what’s their plan to get to 100% coverage. The trouble with 100% coverage is that the deadline, the delivery date for that is up to 2021 and I do not know a single community that is prepared to sit quiet and wait until 2021. They’re not and they shouldn’t be, it is too important for business, for leisure, our way of life. It’s too important there. 

The really good news is that the guy in charge of Broadband is Fergus. The MSP for this area and I meet Fergus regularly and discuss it with him. But really at the moment we should be all saying to the Scottish Government come on let’s have your plans so that we can all get on.”

Liz MacDonald thanked Margaret Davidson and said that it would be worthwhile if they invited an HIE official to the December meeting. Liz then outlined difficulties that Geddes and Cantray and Galcantry have and that a delegation of people had met with Fergus recently to try and get their situation pushed further and she knew that he was working on that. She also said that there were also parts within the town that didn’t get the broadband required. She asked for the matter to be put on the agenda for the next meeting. 

And so this week this observer went up to the Co-op for his daily copy of the National and within the paper was an article about Superfast Broadband and mobile reception in the Highlands. Like the Leader of the Highland Council, columnist Lesley Riddoch is also critical of government policy in the Highlands, her article is entitled: “The Government's failed on broadband - here's how to fix it.” She criticises the roll out of superfast broadband, she wrote:

“After various false starts resulting in “not spots” all over the Highlands and Islands, the Scottish Government decided the Highlands and Islands should come first in the rollout of superfast broadband.

That hasn’t happened, indeed the delivery of “superfast broadband” across the whole of Scotland – especially rural Scotland – has been a bit of a disaster. So much so that Nicola Sturgeon’s 2015 pledge to connect 100 per cent of properties by 2020 simply won’t happen unless the Scottish Government tears up the existing model of broadband rollout and starts again.”

She goes on to compare the situation with that of the Faroes: “A recent trip to the tiny Faroe Islands, located between the Shetlands and Iceland, revealed something rather more ambitious and successful. There 98 per cent 4G LTE coverage is backed up by an islands-wide fibre network. Indeed the cluster of 18 islands is set to have 100 per cent superfast mobile broadband by the end of 2016. That coverage extends out to the 200 mile fishing limit – to include the Faroese fishing fleet and passing cruise ships – and also a mile up in the air to cover important helicopter routes. There are no exceptions, no not spots and there is no argument about Faroese Telecom’s claim to provide the world’s best mobile broadband.”

The Faroese are even willing to sort Shetland’s problems it seems but existing legislation may scupper that according to Lesley Riddoch. The Scottish Goverment has a few years to realise its 100% ambition but as Margaret Davidson articulates, people are not patient. Such is society’s hunger to be on the information super highway 24/7 that many voices will be raised in the intervening years. Not only is it a social necessity that our addiction to the internet be satisfied no matter where we live it is of course, again as the Chair of Highland Council insisted, a must for business survival and growth – a level playing field is necessary for the remote parts of the Highlands to compete with similar UK and international businesses. Read Lesley Riddoch’s article here.

Perhaps it is a lot easier for the Faroes who enjoy a greater autonomy than Scotland. The assessment of Lesley Riddoch is that it “has more to do with political control than technological pyrotechnics”. Give the Faroese the contract for the whole of Scotland – superfast and mobile?