After Sandy Park receiving two separate petitions from young people on the swimming pool issue the meeting began just like any other ward forum. That is to say there was the compulsory Powerpoint presentation. We heard how bad the UK finances were and saw some nice graphs but really is there anyone left on Planet Nairn that doesn’t know how bad things are? Then there were a couple of other oral presentations to the overflowing main hall in Rosebank.
After this part of the proceedings we were given a little explanation of what was to happen next. There was a main booklet and a supplementary series of colour coded booklets to guide us in our debate and decision making. Each crowded table had to write down their responses to all manner of questions such as ‘Do we need the same number of Public toilets?’. To this observer it seemed that with the amount of people in the room it was a near futile exercise with it being very hard to hear the folk at the end of the other end of the table as the decibel rate in the room climbed higher. There were four periods of fifteen minutes to answer the questions and make group comments. Our table was not alone in not finishing responses to all these questions. Often there were contradictory opinions expressed and it was almost impossible to come to a consensus on often quite technical questions. Were we all being herded in the required direction anyway? Does a lot hinge on the questions being asked?
It was a great relief to get to the proper question and answer section, which contrary to some expectations lasted for over an hour. Liz made the first statement outlining her fears that despite the consultation process some things seemed to be getting cut anyway. She sat down to applause ringing around the hall. Cllr David Alston (LibDem) got quite shirty with Liz over that and started talking about political point scoring and then the citizens present got shirty with him in turn. Things looked like they were going to get quite nasty but they calmed down.
There were some more difficult moments for the administration councillors and the accompanying high heid yins as members of the public made their points (and many of them spoke eloquently on the swimming pool issue).
And so the consultation road show process came to an end in the Highlands with a farewell performance in Nairn. Goodness knows how they will find the millions of pounds worth of cuts without saying goodbye to so much members of the public take for granted. Folk made their way home as the late evening light slowly faded. Things will change, it looks like the Highland Council will take on board the fact that the swimming pool must survive but just what else will go in the coming months and years?