Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 - Give the community the chance to use the Common Good to create wealth!

One of the issues that will come to dominate 2011 in Nairn will be the town centre and Highland Council’s Plan B. The Citizens’ group NICE will also be to the fore as they continue the campaign for a better town centre and perhaps expand their role to help improve other parts of Nairn. Inextricabley linked with the town centre (and the Sandown problem) is the Common Good fund, especially as efforts by the Highland Council to raise cash from the fund have ended in spectacular disaster - is it now time for a daring change of approach? This observer thinks so. Earlier this month a book entitled ‘The Poor have no Lawyers’ was recommended to me. It is written by Common Good campaigner Andy Wightman and in quoting from chapter 23 “All Property of a Burgh” I’m struck by just how appropriate his words are for our current situation in Nairn:

“Common good assets form a central part of the history, heritage, culture and identity of communities across Scotland. Over many decades, however, their significance has been lost, their status diminished, their role forgotten and their fate become increasingly insecure. We should be aiming to expand the portfolio of such property to promote regeneration in Scotland’s towns and cities. It is now apparent that thirty years after the abolition of town councils, Scotland’s towns and villages have lost much of their identity, cohesion and self-belief. Common good assets can play a part in recovering civic identity and prosperity.

It is self-evident that those best positioned to take a view on the best interests of the inhabitants of a Burgh are the inhabitants themselves. This should be done through open, transparent and democratic debate and yet they have no such avenue to do so. Instead the local authority determines this question. This is no longer sustainable.

There are literally hundreds of millions of pounds floating around in the form of previously unaccounted-for assets, undervalued assets and underused assets. This wealth belongs to local people and not to the Council. It should be used to begin a process of civic renewal and physical regeneration, to deliver wealth and prosperity and to give back to towns across Scotland some self-respect, belief and power to improve the welfare of their community.”

We need more control over our own affairs as Andy Wightman says, local people have the skills (just look at the squad of talent quickly assembled by NICE) and a profound desire to protect and improve their community. Will our Highland Council representatives have the courage to let the community take the next steps instead of relying too heavily on the advice and guidance of their (often out of town) officials? Will they have the foresight to respond to public opinion and allow us to have a Royal Burgh Community Council? Remember Scottish Government sponsored consultation on that is still ongoing until the end of January. They have the choice, let the community have more freedom or fight a battle against the community to keep power in Glenurquhart Road. Will they be remembered as guiding visionaries or out of touch individuals who failed to see the writing on the wall? Come on Sandy - you could help Nairn really set an example here - let the people have a go instead of the bureaucrats!

2011 will be very interesting indeed.


APTSec said...

For a bit more from Andy Wightman see links from APT page on 19th Nov

Wiccad said...

Spooky. I just saw that book in Waterstones yesterday and was planning to use my book tokens on it. Don't like the 'royal' in the title of Burgh Community Council though, you know where you can stick that.

Anonymous said...

Why not Royal? The Royal Burgh of Nairn is part of Nairn's history which should be reclaimed to help retain and reclaim Nairn's identity and individuality.

Graisg said...

If you click on Wiccad's name anon you will see where that particular comment is coming from.
I strongly suspect that most people will agree with you however in wishing for a single Community Council to have the tag 'Royal Burgh of Nairn' prefacing it - it's not a title that would have this observer losing any sleep.
Anyone that wishes otherwise however, should be allowed to get the chance to put their views forward when the time comes to give that organisation its title. Hopefully that day will come to pass in 2011 - all the indications are that Nairn citizens wish a Town Council.
Just look at the poll in the Gurn sidebar to see the depth of feeling on this issue. Other soundings of public opinion in Nairn and submissions to the ongoing review have indicated the same 90% support for a democratically elected body for the town instead of the three serperate community councils.

Wiccad said...

Well we won't know what people want until we properly have the debate and ask them will we? And if we do that I strongly suspect the exact opposite from you Graisg. The trouble is most people don't really think about the monarchy at all and are just sleepwalking along with it without really realising what it is, does, represents and perpetuates. It's long past time people woke up and got real politically in this country. It is anachronistic, stupid and an insult to have the word 'royal' in any organisation aspiring to be bringing democracy to the people.

Graisg said...

It would be a major injustice and a scandal if the Highland Council does not let Nairn have a single community council as part of the ongoing review (a review ordered by the Scottish Government).
Once we know if we are to get one however the Gurn would be willing to run a poll as to the most appropriate name for the said Council, obviously "Royal Burgh of Nairn Community Council" would feature in the list of suggestions.