Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sheepie's off for a stroll on Nairn beach

Sheepie is having a good holiday and putting images of Nairn up on his 'twitpic' account. Here's his latest picture of the beach.

Suburban CC notes

Familiar territory was revisited by the Suburban Community Council as they gave an update on their input to the Budget Cuts debate, the Sandown Lands, the Single Community Council issue and local bus troubles.
John Mackie encourage all present to go along to Rosebank tonight to have their say as the Highland Council Cuts Roadshow hits town. There were those present that thought Highland Council had already made their minds up but John stated that it was important to make one’s feelings known. It was mentioned that it was ironic that the Cuts debate was coming to Nairn on the last official day of the consultation process.
The Suburban Council are to go to Highland Council in an effort to get moving on the Wetlands/Parklands part of the Sandown project regardless of whether Deveron come back with a new plan or not.
Members felt that the much proclaimed ‘consultation’ process on Boundary Changes for Nairn’s Community Councils had not taken place in any meaningful form and were pointing the finger at Highland Council. Today is also the last day for consultation on that matter too. So if you feel that we should have a single Council representing Nairn then send in an e-mail (you can get details in the Gurn side-bar).
There was a discussion about the recent bus woes in Nairn and John Mackie wants to hear from you if you have bus problems such as not being able to get to the hospital etc or if a bus doesn’t come or if it is too crowded to get on.
Murd Dunbar was present to give an update on his efforts to get improved access for the Firhall Bridge. The next meeting is on the 25th of August.

Danny can't help with Highland Council's housing debt

There had been hopes that high-flying Danny could have helped out the with the cash crisis at Glenurquhart Road but he's firmly kicked that one into touch. The Press & Journal reports:
'Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has dashed hopes of Highland Council being able to write off its huge housing debt.
The sum currently stands at about £146million and is costing the authority another £15million a year in charges.
Local politicians had hoped the Highland MP would intervene, given his past comments and his new high-powered role within the coalition government.'
Tough times ahead indeed and Danny wasted no time in telling MSP's:
'He told Holyrood’s finance committee the Budget would see UK Government departments – like the Scottish Government – face a cut of about 25% next year'
A case of 'Et tu Danny'? Looks like the cuts will have a LibDem sticker on them in Scotland. Full P&J report here. And elsewhere 'Danny Alexander under attack for 'inflicting pain' on Scotland', proclaims the Scotsman. Looks like Danny will see many more headlines like that over the term of this Westminster Parliament.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sainsbury's Nairn store plans unveiled - this Thursday at the Community Centre

A Sainsbury's spokesperson told the Gurn: 'Sainsbury's is proposing to bring more choice, competition and local jobs to Nairn with a new store on Forres Road at Balmakeith.

Since the beginning of this year, the Sainsbury’s team has been developing proposals for a new store at Balmakeith and has now secured outline planning permission, including a £250,000 contribution to Nairn Town Centre for enhanced street lighting, real time bus service and shop front improvement scheme and a two year commitment to improve frequency and routes of the number 20 bus.

Members of the team will be at Nairn Community Centre on Thursday 1st July to unveil the proposal to the community and gain its views. Sainsbury's has received some initial feedback on their proposals and has been working on the details of the proposal which it hopes will be submitted shortly as a planning application to The Highland Council.

The new 25,000sq ft sales area store will offer a wide range of Sainsbury's products, along with a petrol filling station which will allow for supermarket fuel prices in the town.

In addition to the food store, the proposal includes 25,000 sq ft of non-food retail units and Sainsbury’s hopes to attract other retailers to complement the town’s existing shops.

Jeff Wilson, Town Planning Manager for Sainsbury's said,
"We are excited about bringing a new store to Nairn and the proposed development at Balmakeith is a great opportunity to generate further investment in the town, creating long-term employment and enhancing retail choice. Our team have been working hard these last few months to make sure that we have taken into account the feedback we have received on our plans.

“Should the Council approve our proposal, we expect to start work on site later this year with an aspiration to open in Spring 2011."
Sandy is upbeat about the event too:
Nairn Councillor Sandy Park, Convener of The Highland Council, commented,
"I am pleased to hear that Sainsbury's have taken on board the feedback they have received while working on their plans for this new store. I hope that the people of Nairn will take the opportunity to visit the exhibition to see what is proposed for this new development in their town."

The public exhibition will be held in Nairn Community Centre between 2pm and 7pm on Thursday 1st July.

Time to cut top Council Officials pay?

Why not? Seems a good idea. The Inverness Courier has run an article on the subject after an Inverness Community Councillor spoke out:
'TOP earners at Highland Council should take a pay cut as part of the effort to protect vital services such as care homes and day centres, according to an Inverness community council chairman.
With public services facing tough spending cuts, Catriona Johnson, chairwoman of Westhill Community Council, is calling on the Highlands to lead the rest of the UK.
She wants the local authority to submit a formal request to the Scottish and UK Governments to sanction a pay cut for the council's top-paid officials, eight of whom receive more than £100,000.'

Tilda's 8 1/2 Foundation kicks off

' “Who needs church?” actress Tilda Swinton exclaimed inside the Filmhouse in Edinburgh Saturday morning. A few hundred folks had gathered, grabbing placards that read a variety of things from “Jafar Panahi” to “Cinema For Everyone Everywhere,” dancing around the theater until Swinton and filmmaker and journalist Mark Cousins took the stage to address the primary reason of the gathering: The 8 1/2 Foundation.'
As usual, the compulsory mention of Nairn in the Tidla article. More here.
There's also a video of the event

Monday, June 28, 2010

Old Free Church building will be ''preserved by record'

Gurnites will remember the recent letter from Mairi Banks. Mairi questions the wisdom of demolishing the First purpose built Free Church in Scotland. Having written to the Highland Council on the subject Mairi now sends their response to the Gurn:
Andrew Puls an Archeologist with the Council states:
'Thank you for your enquiry re the demolition of the Free Church in advance of the Somerfield redevelopment in Nairn. It is often difficult to make the case for the protection of buildings that are no longer in use, and have no obvious long term viable function, or if the retention of a building is not economically viable, unless they are designated as Listed Buildings, i.e. buildings of special architectural or historic value. It is Historic Scotland's role to maintain, and add, to this list, although the Planning Authority does have some powers when it comes to applications that affect a Listed Building.
Whilst I am not familiar with this particular case, the Archaeology Unit have asked for the building to be 'preserved by record', i.e. the subject of a full building recording prior to demolition. This requirement will be attached as a condition of planning consent.
'With regard to the specifics of the case I would ask you to contact the Highland Council Planning Office in Church Street ( tel: 01463 720606) who would be able to give much more detailed feedback.'
Unless the Co-op move soon on their plans for a new supermarket then perhaps the old Community Centre building and one time Free Church could be with us for a lot longer. Who else would have the cash or the inclination to demolish it?

Sunset 28/06/10

Sandown not for sale says Sandy

From the Highland Council website:

'The Highland Council has today ( 28 June 2010) confirmed that there is no new sales marketing campaign for the sale of land at Sandown Nairn and that Deveron Homes remain the preferred bidder for development of the land.
As agreed, at the Council’s recent Planning, Environment and Development Committee development at Sandown continues to be supported subject to a review of the development potential of the site. This follows the recent appeal decision by the Scottish Government’s Reporters which upheld the Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for Deveron Homes’ initial proposal.
Councillor Sandy Park, Convener of The Highland Council said: “I am extremely concerned about the inaccurate information circulating at present about the sale of Sandown land. It is currently under offer to Deveron Homes and we want to work with the company and the community to deliver an acceptable scheme. As future proposals come forward Deveron Homes have got to carry out pre-application community consultations in line with new planning legislation and we look forward to local people getting involved in that process.”
Perhaps the Highland Council should send a copy of the press release to this web site?

Sandown - P&J report

Sandown issues hit page 3 of the Press & Journal today with a picture and interview with John Hart. There is also comment from the Highland Council planning chairman Ian Ross. The paper states:
'Highland planners have rushed into marketing prime land at Nairn while failing to keep a promise to consult the community on the matter, according to local campaigners.'
The full article now online at the P&J and more from the Nairn Residents Concern Group over at and in articles below more recent developments from Sandown including Sheena Baker's views on interest charges being levied now by Highland Council on the Sandown loan money.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Spotted flying high

This in from a regular reader

'Spotted at the station whilst awaiting the traveller returning this evening Danny may have become a high flyer at Westminster, but some of his election material is still stuck up high in Nairn, it's now weeks past the campaign. Time for a Lib Dem clean up or is this now a coalition job?'
According to the Highland Council rules on election posters:
'9. Posters, mounts and string must be removed within the 7 days following the election. '

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sandown loan interest charges - a contradiction?

Gurnites will see in the previous article the thoughts of Sheena Baker on the latest twist in the Sandown tale, she feels that interest charges should not be retrospective, she says:

'I have no problem with interest being charged now that the sale of the Sandown land is out of the question but it should be from yesterday at 1% and not retrospectively.'
Now a minute of the Ward Forum/Nairnshire Partnership of 26 August 2009 seems to prove her point. Item 4.3 states:

'WG explained that at the last Ward Forum, Sheena Baker had raised questions regarding the financing of Nairn Community Centre by the Nairn Common Good Fund.

Total cost of £2.814m to date with the capital element to fund the Community Centre being £2.081m. The balance went to pay off the tenant farmer and to cover a range of costs associated with legal fees, marketing fees and other smaller items. To date, no interest has been applied by Highland Council. WG highlighted that interest may be applied in the future but this would be a decision for the full Highland Council.
SB commented that it was concerning that the costs involved were around £3m and the Council appeared no further with securing the sale of Sandown.'

The Document presented to the full council yesterday stated in connection with the £390,000 paid to release the land title: 'This sum was charged to the Nairn Common Good Fund when incurred and already attracts an interest charge from the Council.' Now no mention of that at the Ward Forum meeting. Would this have needed the agreement of the full Council?

Thanks to Sheena for forwarding the relevant minute of the ward forum - here at the Gurn we tend to agree with her - the meter for interest charges should only start running from yesterday and not before.

Sandown Lands interest charges - Sheena Baker speaks out

This in from Sheena who has been keeping a close eye on Sandown matters for some time:

'Did I not ask at a Nairnshire Partnership meeting a several months back several searching questions relating to the Nairn Common Good Land and whether interest was being charged, if so at what rate etc. I said when I asked the list of questions that I was not expecting answers there and then but it was agreed that Wm Gilfillan would take the questions away and research and answer them at the next meeting. This he did and we were assured at the next meeting that interest was not being charged but that it might change in the future. Nothing, I repeat nothing was said about there being any likelihood of it being charged retrospectively.

I was 100% + right to ask the questions and to get the answers. This was noted by yourself on the gurn and also by the Nairnshire Telegraph. It may have been as far back as last August, I do not have the relevant file to hand to check back copies of the minutes of the Partnership meeting.

The question arises once more about the Trustees who make decisions re Common Good Assets and as I said at that time we need people as trustees other than Councilors who are 100% independent and who would challenge such decisions!

I have no problem with interest being charged now that the sale of the Sandown land is out of the question but it should be from yesterday at 1% and not retrospectively.

Comments re the mal administration of the land used by the farmer are more or less correct and again I think it is a “cheek” for the Councilors to conveniently forget that aspect or “sweep it under the carpet”.

The two major players who will have clear memories of the farmers land saga are Bill Young and Frank Allen. Frank was, at the time, the area ward manager and Bill Young took a major interest in the various legal aspects of the case on behalf of himself and the “concerned community”.
Memories fade but this needs revisiting and, in my humble view, the retrospective interest charge needs challenging.

Sheena Baker'

Sandown for sale again? Worried NRCG contact Highland Council

Out there on the web today the following information...
The NRCG has written urgently to Highland Council, alarmed by a website that appears to show the Sandown Lands for sale. It does mention the ‘agricultural tenancy’ which no longer exists but the site states ‘last verified 15 June 2010. Writing to Stuart Black they state:
'It has come to the NRCG's attention that Sandown Common Good Lands are again up for sale. The Particulars of the sale cite a Development brief which has been prepared by Highland Council.
It is our understanding, following approval of the HwLDP - Vision and Strategy paper presented to PED on 26th May 2010 that a NEW development brief will be drafted, that the Nairn community will be fully consulted on the contents of such a brief, and that any such Development Brief must be approved by the Council. '

More from the NRCG on Sandown matters soon...

Sandown loan money - interest charges shock!

Highland Council are charging interest on the Sandown elements (approx 734K) of the £2,815,143 loaned to Nairn for Community Centre and Sandown purposes (to be repayed by the Common Good Fund one day). The £390,000 'incurred clearing land title' already attracts interest it seems but yesterday the full Highland Council agreed to charge interest on another £344,410.78.
Dramatically the rate to be charged was dropped from 4.55% to the 'standard rate' (around 1%) in a note circulated seconds before the debate on this item was due to take place.
The fact that interest has been charged from Day 1 on the 390K will come as a surprise to many.
Update: the 344K + is made up of:
'External costs totalling £305,189.91 (legal, property and land surveys and marketing) and Highland Council costs totalling £39,220.87 (legal, property and planning) make up the balance.'
Update: What Liz said at the meeting and Sandy's response:
There was some brief debate around this item and Liz stated:
'At the time I actually moved against clearing the land title because I felt, what's the point of paying the farmer to get out when we don't know how long it's going to be sitting with nothing happening to it. So I did move against that at the time and at the Highland Council when it came here for the trustees because I felt we could still be getting the payment from the farmer for the rent.'
Liz was concerned interest had been charged on the sum and asked how much had accrued, she welcomed the lower rate but indicated that nothing had been mentioned about interest at the time. She had another concern however and said that there would be 'tremendous pressure on Common Good trustees to now move as quickly as they can to get Sandown sold' as they couldn't leave it sitting about with the interest accruing.
Sandy thought the payment was good value and said that the agreement with the farmer was for 10% of the development value and it would probably ended up 50% of the development value if it had been left any longer.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Care homes protest at Highland Council meeting Glenurquhart Road 24 June 2010

Top picture: protesters take over the entrance to the Council chambers. Second picture: John Finnie leader of the opposition addresses the demonstrators. More pictures here on the Gurn flickr pages.
Protestors and those that spoke against the administration earlier today seemed to be concerned by a perceived 'creeping privatisation agenda' within the Council. More from the speeches at the meeting over the next few days.

Letter to the Gurn - Preserve the first purpose built Free Kirk?

Dear Sir/Madam,

I have thought of something which does not seem to have entered the fracas surrounding the Somerfield site, and the proposed demolition of the old council offices and Free Church.

My husband and I own Cawdor House, 7 Cawdor Street, formerly known as Ascot and Eldon House. We have been researching the house, and bought the book 'Nairn and the Disruption' by A. Gordon McGillvray. The house and Church are mentioned in this. They were the first purpose built Free Church and Manse in Scotland. In fact the front of the book has the plaque from the Church which verify's this with the words " Nairn Free Church begun in anticipation of the diruption of May 18, 1843, when ministers and members left the Church of scotland in very large numbers in protest over the interference of the state in the life of the church. This building was the first of many churches built for congregations of the Free Church of Scotland, and was opened for worship on Sunday June 11, 1843."

Coming to my point- we have submitted plans to extend the house, and the planning officer came out to do his site visit last week. He told us that our house is 'of historical interest' as it is the first Free Church Manse. So, does the Church not fall under the same category or higher? And if so, how on earth has Somerfield been given permission to knock it down? Surely this Church is part of Nairn's history, and should be preserved and used, and contribute once again to the community in some way?

I think this issue requires further investigation before part of Nairn's rich history is flattened.

Yours faithfully,

Mairi Banks

How wet, cold, warm, whatever is Nairn?

This interesting statistical site in from one of the regulars.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Midsummer – the ideal time to break a promise?

Highland Council’s administration are coming under more pressure on their forthcoming U-turn on care homes. The Badenoch and Strathspey Herald reports:

“THE SNP opposition are calling for the chairwoman of Highland Council's social work committee to resign if plans to build five new care homes in the region are scrapped tomorrow (Thursday), as expected. They have said that Margaret Davidson (Independent) must be held to account for not one but two 360-degree turns on care home provision in the Highlands.” Full details on what the Highland Council opposition have to say on the matter here.

Perhaps more worrying for the Council ruling coalition will be the fact that over 800 marched in Fort William at the weekend on this issue and it looks like Charles Kennedy is rebelling against his Glenurquhart Road colleagues too, the P&J reported on Monday:

‘Giving a speech to the crowds, Mr Kennedy said: “This is not about opposing the private sector. What we’re saying is that, as a community, we should maintain a public sector provision which has been a mainstay over the years. “Commitments were made and financial arrangements were put in place. All we are asking is that they be stuck to.” More here.

A march is planned from the Northern Meeting Park tomorrow at 09.30 to reach the Highland Council HQ in time for the meeting that will decide the fate of the care homes proposal. It seems that the outcome is a foregone conclusion but if large numbers of protesters turn out tomorrow morning will the Administration hold the line without losing a few councillors who find themselves unable to square this with their consciences? Sometimes last minute lobbying can have an effect. In the meantime Lib Dem Councillor David Alston has come out fighting, attacking ‘scaremongering’ by campaigners:

“Mr Alston felt compelled to respond to speculation among some campaigners that existing care homes may close as a result of the review.
He said: “All councillors feel passionately about services for the elderly and every single one wants to do their best for the elderly in their communities.
“Any suggestion that a vote against building care homes shows a lack of compassion is a falsehood.
“A few misguided or misled campaigners have suggested we plan the immediate closure of the five existing homes. This is untrue. Scaremongering of this kind, which distresses residents and their families, is a callous manipulation of people who deserve our respect and require our support.”
More here.

The scene looks set for an emotional event tomorrow morning and perhaps a wee taster of more similar protests to come in the future as the Highland Council gets down to making serious cuts in the budget.

Cuts meeting - Wednesday 30th

The meeting in Rosebank will be the last chance for Swimming Pool campaigners and others to have their say. Posters have been appearing in the town centre.

What day are...

...the white bins collected?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Brae chains - symptomatic of a malise in the system?

The new brae chains (& padlocks) have prompted an exasperated response on the Nairn Matters blog. This observer thinks that the well-crafted words will resonate with many worried about the brae road layout. It's all over to be read on More madness on the brae.

Tuesday morning local press review

It’s a 16 page Nairnshire this week. The front page has pictures of the Armed forces flag being raised at the Courthouse and below that news of how perhaps a ‘Consultation’ exercise on a single Community Council for Nairn has failed to get off the ground. The forthcoming ‘cuts’ meeting at the end of the month at Rosebank features too in a Page 2 article and the editorial. News from Cawdor with a ‘Call for Cawdor folk to pull together more’article. There’s details of Rosemay Young’s address to the first AGM of the West Community Council. Fears about the Common Good Fund too from the recent West CC meeting. The Auldearn Guides are off to Switzerland and the coaches at Nairn County are off to...well just off really. Read all about it and much more in this week’s local paper.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


In the same way that a few derelict buildings can give the wrong impression of Nairn, there are a few eyesores in the centre of Ardersier that must do little more than hurry the visitor along to Fort George or other destinations.
It is harder to get to and from Ardersier by public transport now as the Nairnshire Telegraph recently revealed. It is a shame really as perhaps more folk from the village might want to come to Nairn once we get a Sainsbury's. Perhaps the powers that be want to point us all in the direction of Inverness?

RNLI stall

Once again the RNLI stall animates the town centre. Just an all too short brief glimpse of what could be if we had a weekly market in the town.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cuts and Swimming Pool issues in Easter Ross

Nairn has its ward forum meeting to discuss the proposed budget cuts on the 30th of this month. It was the turn of Easter Ross on Thursday night. Here's some comment from a Press and Journal article:
'During the meeting, Fiona Thorburn, of Invergordon, said all the pools already have huge waiting lists for people wanting to learn to swim.
She said it would be irresponsible to close any of the local pools as children might then resort to going to local rivers and trying to learn by themselves.
Sally Cartwright, of Alness, said it was the people of Alness who raised the funds to make the pool larger than originally planned. She said: “Morally you can’t close it.”
' Full article here.
It seems over 200 people made their way to the Ardross hall, here in Nairn perhaps we'll have a similar turn-out?

The Right Combination for Youtube success?

This video of a combine harvester in action just to the West of Nairn has acheived over 120,000 hits on Youtube.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The West CC highlighting Nairn Common Good Fund fears

There was debate at the West Community Council meeting about Nairn Common Good Fund. Brian Stewart and other members were concerned that a policy document recently approved by the Highland Council Resources committee might cause some long term problems for the town’s fund. Graham Vine perhaps summed up the situation perfectly when he said the following during the debate:

‘At the moment Nairn Common Good Fund maybe hasn’t got enough money worth nicking. But as and when, if ever, Sandown is sold for real money then there will be real money there and we don’t want Highland Council playing with it.’

A statement that had Councillor Laurie Fraser affirming, ‘No, we do not want that happening, no.’
Earlier Brian Stewart had outlined how the Housing Expo in Inverness had received Inverness Common Good money and he found this worrying, he said:
‘The money that the Highland Council has just decided to grant to this questionable event is Inverness Common Good Fund money. Now the Highland Council controls Nairn’s Common Good Fund just as they control Inverness’s. It this is an example of how the Highland council manages public money, particularly Common Good Funds, then we here in Nairn have reason to be concerned too. Secondly that’s the point of substance, the point of procedure is this, this was voted through by the relevant committee of Highland Council by 15 to 2. I don’t know which if any of our elected members were there and whether if they were they voted in favour of it but it concerns me seriously that money which is common good money should be voted on an exercise like this at a time like this without apparently very much consideration of the interests and the preferences and the views of these residents to whom the Common Good Fund belongs. So I think this is an important point simply because it is illustrative who knows what else in the way of spending decisions and grants of money are being made but it is symptomatic in my view of an approach in terms of Highland Council budgeting at least from where we look at it deeply disturbing.’
Laurie pointed out that this had been a decision of the Inverness City committee as it was an Inverness Common Good issue. Brian then went on to detail some of the points that concerned him in the Common Good Funds Policy Document. He stated that for payments of over £10,000 the decision would go to the Highland Council Resource committee, coupled with this and also,perhaps the biggest of his concerns, section 8 of that document and he quoted the following
‘Highland Council has wide discretion over common good so long as it is applied for the benefit of the community in such a manner as using reasonable judgement they think proper and having regard to the interests of the inhabitants of the former burgh.’
To Brian this was a major danger and he stated:
‘Don’t need to be a lawyer to see that that is a loophole wide enough to drive a truck through. It effectively gives Highland Council carte blanche to spend Common Good money in any way they chose without any consultation as long as they are able to say ‘we have had regard for the interests of the local community.’

Laurie made some further comments but suggested that the West Council write to William Gillfinnan (giving Laurie a copy) as there would be an opportunity for further review in six months time.

There we have a few details from the debate Gurnites, perhaps there will be more in the Nairnshire but we hope to have given you a flavour of the quality of debate, backed by considerable research that the unpaid volunteer watchdogs at the West lay on once a month in the community centre.
Granted there is a gentleman’s agreement to allow the local members to decide what happens to local funds but we are moving into troubled times ahead and who knows what might happen at Highland Council. There is no guarantee it will stay like that forever. The cuts could bring a period of turmoil, the ruling administration has weathered a few problems but will it survive the full term and if it doesn’t what will take its place? Another regime that might cast envious eyes on a Nairn Common Good Fund that one day might have been topped up from Sandown? If our local members were to be given a veto, for example, on any move from the resources committee or others to spend Nairn money then perhaps the Brian Stewart and his West colleagues and, we imagine, quite a few more folk in Nairn would have their fears allayed. The community has to keep its eye on the ball on this one.

Would you pay more for council services to ease the cuts?

The Highland Council is seeking views on whether we would be willing to pay more as a way of easing the pain of what has to come. They say on their website today:
'In week six of its Budget Blog, The Highland Council is asking if users of services are prepared to pay more for the services they receive from the Council to ease the impact of public spending cutbacks.
The Council already charges for a range of services, including school meals, hire of rooms and facilities, commercial refuse collection, leisure centre use, car parking, and burials. It receives income of approximately £68 million from these charges.
By increasing charges over and above inflation, the Council estimates it could inject £3.7 million into the budget over the next two years and ease the need for savings'
You can contribute your views on this Highland Council webpage.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Armed Forces Week Celebrations in Nairn

The Highland Council have released details of Armed Forces Week celebrations in Nairn:
A programme of events is being held in Nairn from Monday 21 June to mark Armed Forces Week.
The celebrations start with the flag raising ceremony at the Court House on Monday, 21 June at 10.30 am. In attendance will be the Lord Lieutenant, Ewen Brodie, The Highland Council Convener, Councillor Sandy Park, Provost Laurie Fraser and Nairn Ward Members, Royal British Legion, Seaforth Club, serving members and veterans from the Armed Forces and three pipers.
At 12.00noon, Royal Air Force representatives will make a presentation on their contribution to the Armed Services at the Royal British Legion.
On Saturday, 26 June, a parade has been planned at 2.30 pm led by the Nairn & District Pipe Band, marching from Millbank Street. Millbank Crescent, Cawdor Road and past the Royal British Legion where the salute will be taken by the Lord Lieutenant.
The Lord Lieutenant will give an address at 3.45p.m. followed by representatives from The Highland Council, the Royal British Legion and Seaforth Club.
At 4.30p.m., representatives from the Royal British Legion and Seaforth Club will renew their Poppy Wreaths at the War Memorial in a private Act of Remembrance followed at 5.30 pm by a short sunset service at the Royal British Legion where the Armed Forces Day Flag will be lowered, accompanied by pipers playing “Home to Barracks”. The flag will then be presented to a veteran.
Armed Forces Week ends on Monday, 28 June with the lowering of the flag at the Court House at 10.30 am.

Highland Council budget has increased by 50% over the last five years?

At the Nairn West Community Council meeting last night Rosemary Young outlined points raised at a recent meeting of all the community councils in Nairnshire with the County's four Highland Councillors. The West Council had raised specific points that they thought would be useful in the current debate about where to make cuts:
'We had all our elected councillors there, we were talking about spending trends and that the council budget has increased by 50% over the last five years and we suggested why not go back to the former amount. We wanted them to look at bench-marking so the Council expenditure needs to be bench-marked against other councils for efficiencies. We looked at outsourcing, we looked at managed areas of the Council that could perhaps look at alternative models of management delivery. We looked specifically at the community centre here which is managed quite differently from the Highland Council doing it. We also asked what could the Highland Council delete immediately. We also asked about grant funding to public sectors, this is my little baby actually, because of Visit Scotland getting such huge amounts of cash given to them to do various things in the Highlands. So we asked them to look at that. Current jobs, if they did not exist would they be necessary to invent. We also asked if we need 4 elected councillors and do we need 80 across the Highland Council. We looked at streamlining everything and...'

At this point Graham Vine intervened: ‘Can we please not have departments engaging consultants merely to endorse what it was they intend to do in the first place. Consultants should only be engaged where the Council simply doesn’t have officers with the necessary expertise.’

‘And we looked at discretionary and statutory..’said Rosemary then Graham continued:

‘Yes, there seems to be a lack of understanding even within the Highland Council as to which of their activities was statutory and which of them were things that they have fallen into the habit of doing’

‘Rosemary continued to round up her summary: ‘To cut a long story short we fine-tuned that and give it to our councillors and asked them to take it,’ she then looked in the direction of Cllr Laurie Fraser who was present and asked, ‘did you?’
He confirmed that they’d given the information to the budget team.
More issues from the West Council meeting last night later, including worries about the Nairn Common Good Fund.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Early morning local press review – On the buses!

The Nairnshire ‘spreads’ on the buses issues and a startling admission from a Highland Council official. Read for yourself and decide if you think it is a scandal. There’s changes at Auldearn Community Council and debate over the Cawdor village Hall again. A new backer for the Nairn Games, is a certain national company trying to worm its way into the affections of Nairnites? There’s lots of pictures including another one of the man with the chain, a more flattering picture of Laurie this time round? Loads on the Book and Arts Festival and the usual extravaganza of sports reports and pictures. Down to 12 pages this week but not lacking in thrills, information, sensation and down right hyperlocal raison d’être. It wouldn’t be Tuesday without the Nairnshire.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

WA Smith Nairn joiner - now online

Out surfing today and came across this excellent website that the well-known Nairn family firm of joiners have recently launched. Have a look here.

Heron in the harbour

Thanks to Billy Milne for the picture

Hello Yellow Brick Road?

The nickname 'Yellow brick road' seems to be gaining currency as we start to see more of how things will look as the project progresses. The first picture shows the new design while across the road the old look remains.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Nairn by-pass blog back up

Here at Gurn HQ we often wondered what had happened to the LibDem (sorry ConDem now?) by-pass blog. Perhaps it was a browser issue or something but anyway we can see it again now. If anything new happens we'll put it back in the list of Nairn blogs in the side-bar.

The latest entry in this LibDem blog is an article dated 10.01.10 and states: 'We would like to apologies for the site being out of action for the past month due to technical problems which have now been resolved.' The previous entry was posted on Posted on February 27th 2009. There has been a bit more activity on the Facebook group however with a member posting a message in April of this year but nothing official from the Lib Dems there either. Surely Danny and Graham have done something interesting about getting a Nairn by-pass over the last 16 months? We know Graham has been very busy in the lead up to the Lizgate affair and speaking to the press afterwards so perhaps we'd better ask the main man. Any news on the by-pass Danny?

Trying to change currency in Nairn

Having seen the way the exchange rate had been moving I thought it the right time to exchange a small amount of Euros I had, given there are warnings that the Euro is about to enter into its very own wee apocalypse at some time soon.
I went into the Bank of Scotland where I have an account but was shocked to be told that unless I had obtained the currency there they were not interested in changing them for me and recommended the Post Office. Excuse me but we have all been helping to pay the wages of the Bank of Scotland staff for some considerable time now and if the banks are part or wholly public owned then surely they should serve the public, otherwise what is their purpose? Perhaps to tell us that it's time to close swimming pools and community centres?
Yes I went to the post office, having been told to go away by the bank we partly own. Perhaps we should all go to the Post Office with our accounts too but we'd need a slightly bigger building. The charity case Bank of Scotland needs to rethink its priorities.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A more appropriate sign for Nairn

A new sign has appeared on the Western approach to Nairn on the A96 and presumably there will be one on the other side of town too. It must have been put there by Bear Scotland, presumably with Scottish Government guidance
The sign seems to have made good use of the Book and Arts festival logo and seems very appropriate, highlighting the distinctive heritage of the town and perhaps reflecting ambitions for the future. Far better to be an 'Historic Burgh' rather than Ward 19 of Highland Council. The Gurn welcomes this sign which will go a long way to demonstrating Nairn's separate identity apart from Inverness.
If you feel Nairn should have more say in it's own affairs and that the Burgh should assert itself and its distinctive identity and traditions more then you can act with a simple e-mail. If enough people respond to a current community council boundary review organised by the Scottish Government then we can once again have a democratically elected body representing the town meeting in the Courthouse - yes we still will have four Highland Councillors but recent events have proved more than ever before that the interests of Highland Council do not always happily coincide with the wishes of the people of Nairn. We need more say in our own affairs. Nairn is a caring community and a great place to live, let's keep it that way and decide our own future.
Please send that e-mail to Further details at the top of the sidebar of the Gurn.

There's no money but Highland Council offers a top post at a higher rate!

The P&J reports:
'The top social work job in the north has been advertised by Highland Council, offering an annual salary of £105,450 – up by £450 on last year despite the recession.' See the full article here.
Isn't there supposed to be a cash problem somewhere? How about offering that job at £80,000 and seeing what the calibre of applicants are? If the cook and admin assistant had to go how about the high heid yins sharing the pain? Wake up Highland Council the good times are supposed to be over.
Yesterday the Highland News was asking questions about Highland Council again in an article entitled 'Suspicion high-salary posts are bullet-proof'. It's beginning to look like it isn't it?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Aonghas Phàdraig Caimbeul agus Meg Bateman aig Fèis Leabhraichean agus Ealain Inbhir Narainn

Dà bhideo goirid, two short videos (lots of English and some Gaelic in the videos – APC finishes with a good joke)

‘S ann anns a’ Bheurla a bha a’ mhòr chuid den tachartas seo. Bha an dithis aca a’ leughadh an cuid obrach sa Ghàidhlig agus ged a bha e a’ còrdadh rium bha mi mothachail fad na ùine gur e Beurla a bha faighinn prìomhachas. Cha robh doigh eile faighinn as nam bheachdsa, chì thu san darna bhideo APC a’ tuigsinn nach robh moran daoine aig an robh Gàidhlig an làthair.
Leugh APC an caibideil ud bho ‘Tighinn Dhachaigh’ far a bheil an trèana agus an taibhse a’ stad ann an Inbhir Nairn airson greiseag.
Dà uair a thìde le APC agus Meg Bateman agus cha do chosg e ach sia notaichean. Aig a’ cheann thall chan eil cus adhbhar ann a bhith gearain.

Moss-side bus withdrawal - users claim they got one week’s notice- Highland Council got ten – why didn’t they warn the community?

One of the parents protesting about the withdrawal of the Moss-side school bus Gerri McNab told the Nairnshire in an interview that was published on May 25th:
"Giving a week’s notice was ridiculous. How did they expect people who had used the bus for years to suddenly find other forms of transport. If they had been using the bus it was probably because they didn’t have other means of transport."

It emerged at a meeting held by River Community Council on Tuesday night however that Highland Council knew a full ten weeks in advance that the withdrawal would take place. In situ to talk about problems concerning public transport (mainly issues about getting to the hospital from the Fishertown) was Mr Robert Edwards a Highland Council senior transport officer. He told the meeting that they get 70 days notice of a change from Stagecoach and that they usually informed local members and ward members, he went on to say that Stagecoach should display information about the change 21 days beforehand.

Liz was also present and stated that she received a copy of all the bus time tables about a month ago but this document didn’t specify any changes. Community Councillor Ian Gordon was outraged by the 70 day revelation and said:

We’ve a 40 day period where everyone is sitting on their butts doing nothing when we could have organised a protest or whatever. Why was that not made available to us quicker so we could act upon it?’ Liz then qualified her statement to say that she got the new timetables about the same time as the article appeared in the Nairnshire. Ian continued, ‘An awful lot of people that do not have private transport are dependent on public transport and we cannot just sit and pontificate around this table if we are comfortable with private transport and not looking after the people that need it.’

It then emerged from Mr Edwards that the first 14 days of the 70 have to remain confidential but that still leaves 8 weeks where Nairn folk could have been informed of this change – why weren’t they? Protests had to be organised and the media contacted by parents almost after the event. It might have perhaps been a different story if those parents and their supporters had had a full eight weeks to campaign to keep their bus. Highland Council you should have warned the community – what went wrong and will you make sure it doesn’t happen again?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Serious concerns in Inverness about Common Good Fund cash being used for Housing Expo purposes

Gurnites need to read this earlier article and this newer piece (plus the comments they are receiving) on the Inverness Courier site to keep up to date with goings-on connected with the Housing Expo. There seems to be real anger directed at the use of common good cash to fund free entry for children to the Expo.
Here in Nairn we should be concerned because Highland Council also controls the Nairn Common Good fund. As we've said in the Gurn before, it is high time to bring the Nairn Common Good back until local control or at least allow more folk from Nairn into the decision making process. There was talk of this at one of the ward forum meetings but it seems to have gone quite on this front recently
Students of the local Common Good Fund may wish to read this document that went before the Resources Committee at Glenurquhart Road earlier today (sorry we don't know if it was approved).
The Expo cash issue is also attracting attention further afield in the Highlands as this Caithness based blog displays and earlier this week the APT blog also featured the Expo situation

There's no money but Highland Council finds 100K for 'Sail west'

Mmmmm, aren't the Highland Council supposed to be broke and thinking about closing Nairn Swimming Pool etc? A HC press release states today:

'The Highland Council has agreed funding of £100,000 over the next three years to complete a funding package which will expand the marine tourism industry between the west of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. This will see new infrastructure and ancillary harbour services provided at Mallaig and Lochaline and project development work carried out for Kinlochleven, Inverie and the Small Isles.
The total project value, including marketing and infrastructure schemes in the three countries, is 7.4 million euros, attracting 6.2 million euros of grant funding from the EU Interreg IV funding scheme.
The Sail West project will create a marine leisure centre of excellence in the coastal zone and provide employment opportunities as well as rejuvenate coastal communities. The lead partner is Donegal County Council with 23 partners involved in the project including The Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.'

Sounds great but what has to go to fund this 100K? Full press release here.

Million pound boost to Nairnshire dairy farming

Good news for dairy farming and the Claymore creamary as the Scottish Goverments announces the Rural Priorities Scheme awards. The Press and Journal reports:
'Drumduan Farm, near Nairn, run by C Innes and Sons, has been awarded £1million to expand a dairy herd from 700 to 1,200 cows.
The money will also be used to build a new dairy parlour and ensure that nearby Claymore Creamery remains in business.'
Full article here.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Time for the Council to pay a bit more attention to the War Memorial area?

The weeds at the War Memorial have been sprayed and as is happening in the rest of the town centre area they are now turning brown as the weedkiller takes effect. Perhaps the Highland Council waits until they are big and noticeable enough before acting or maybe they have a set time each year for spraying. Dead or dying weeds can be just as unsightly as green living ones and yes times are hard now but here is one place where a little more effort should be made and the weeds perhaps sprayed earlier or removed by hand?
The civic dignitaries turn up once a year to take their place, pay their respects and have their picture taken for the local paper. Beforehand steps are taken to make sure everything is up to scratch but surely this place, above all others, should be kept immaculate at all times of the year? There really is no excuse here, it should be done.
It is also ridiculous that Legion campaigners are struggling to get the authorities to provide a proper metal frame to keep the wreaths in place. A piece of wire just isn't good enough to keep everything in situ in extreme weather. There's over a million pounds being spent in the High Street just now, perhaps some, just some could still be diverted here to keep this place in the condition it deserves. Can our councillors manage this?

St Olaf residents support proposals for improved access to the Firhall bridge

Tonight the River Community Council discussed a letter received from St Olaf residents calling for improved access to the Firhall bridge. The letter stated that they felt discriminated against because of the present state of the bridge which deprives them of the chance to fully enjoy the riverside walks in wheelchairs etc. A strong contingent from St Olaf’s were down at the Laing Hall tonight to here the response from the River CC members.
The River CC have been, up to now, the only Community Council in the town not to support Murd Dunbar’s campaign for improved access for all on the Firhall Bridge.
The letter and the visiting residents were given a sympathetic hearing from the River CC but as Murd pointed out the River are still the only Council not to support the proposal. One felt the wind of change in the air however, and this observer feels it is only a matter of time before the River put their full weight behind this initiative. They agreed to go and meet with the St Olaf residents and hear more of their concerns about the lack of disabled access to the bridge. Now that the River CC is seeking funds to upgrade the path from the Firhall Bridge to the Howford then surely ramps on at Firhall will become even more of a necessity.
Murd also revealed tonight that someone in Highland Council had told him that the work to remove the redundant pipe was being progressed by the HAPS (Housing and Property Services?) and ‘timescales’ would soon be provided.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Time for the Highland Council High Heid Yins to share the pain?

A quick glance at a document going before the Resources Committee on Wednesday (remember Nairn's LibDem resource Graham Marsden is now the 'Vice') suggests one or two job losses and is worthy of some analysis. Yes it is quite easy for bloggers and other commentators to pick a few bits and criticise, we admit that, but does this document tell us a lot about the council's thinking? Will the workers suffer more than management. The document states:

'This report recommends amendments to organisational structures/establishments as a consequence of proposals from Service Directors.'
A Cook (is that the tea lady?) and an admin assistant are to go at HQ. This will save the council £24,000 and will mean that 1.8 full time jobs will have to go. However according to this document a new post of 0.8 full time jobs will have to be created here, to replace them perhaps? It's a tough world and quite a few cooks and admin assistants across the UK will be getting their P45s before our present wee spot of bother has been overcome. Contrast this though with the proposal to extend the temporary post of 'Strategic Performance and Business Intelligence Manager' (cost to the public purse £51,000 per year).
It's a cruel world and if it's goodbye to the HQ chef and admin assistant then let's dump the Strategic Performance and Business Intelligence Manager and spread his work around the survivors too.
Is the wee man and lady getting it in the neck? You decide by having a look at the document yourself. The resources committee agenda is here.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Erosion on the path from Mill Road down to the river - Murd speaks out

The recent heavy rain proved too much for the repositioned drain at the Millford bend and all the good work in repairing the path has gone to waste. Here's a video of the damage.

Murd Dunbar has been concerned about this spot for some time and he told the Gurn:

'I was concerned that the result of raising the drain and road would result in further erosion at this point. I pointed the fact out to the contractors at the time of the road being resurfaced and was told it would be rectified. At the same time I reported it to TEC services. Not long before the resurfacing they spent money repairing the path and lowering the drain and installing kerbs to prevent this damage which occurred every time it rained and, as you can see, their good work was undone when the resurfacing was done. Realising it was going to be left I raised the matter again and was told it was the roads department who would deal with it after an inspection. The Highland Council keep telling us all money is tight but are they prepared to ignore warnings of what will happen. Is there any point anymore in trying to raise the obvious? In the past when putting forward some of my suggestions I have been told that ‘you are not an engineer, Mr Dunbar.’ That’s true and I concede that but I do have common sense. So if this work is considered satisfactory by engineers it’s no wonder that money is unnecessarily spent as it will be in this case to put things right again. '

Here's a picture taken earlier this morning by Murd that shows the water clearly running down the centre of the path.

In town and tweeting

Appearing at the Nairn Book and Arts Festival tomorrow but appearing today on twitter is Andrew O' Hagan. You can see if he makes any more observations about Nairn on his twitter page.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Beyond 2012 - A New Civilisation

A video from the Beyond 2012 conference held in Nairn recently. It's lengthy but stick with it it's interesting.

More information here

Care homes issue causes upset

Sandy Park and another senior councillor visited a care home in Fort William, the visit didn't seem to go down too well:

'John McIntosh of Grant Place, Claggan, the founder of a campaign group initially established to save it from closure, was unimpressed by what he heard.
“It was rather heated, actually.
“They weren’t listening. And we had one old friend who was in tears today, asking ‘are they going to take my home away?’ It’s so sad.”

Are the Highland Council administration preparing to drop a promise made? More on the P&J site.

Tilda trying to save MacKenzie and Cruickshank

According to the Daily Telegraph Tilda is pitching in with a letter of support for the popular Forres business:
'Moray Council plan to spend more than £40 million on developing the Forres flood alleviation project.
But local firm Mackenzie and Cruikshank say the project which goes to inquiry next week would force them to close their doors after almost 130 years in business.
The garden centre sits on the site of the new project and would lose land under the plans as well being surrounded by engineering works for two years. Its owners say that would leave them with no option but to shut up shop. '
More details on the Telegraph site. The Telegraph sites Nairn as in Morayshire. This observer has heard a couple of individuals state 'wish we were etc' recently.

Flap on

Picture will enlarge

Thursday, June 03, 2010

'Award winning hotel manager set to further cement Nairn as world-class travel hotspot'

The Oxford Hotel and Inns group have a news article on their website detailing the hopes the New General Manager of the Newton Hotel has for his new role:
'New General Manager Don McGregor has over 20 year’s managerial experience in the hotel industry. He joins Newton Hotel from the largest banqueting property in Scotland, the Thistle Hotel in Glasgow where he achieved three awards during his three years as General manager – he scooped Best Banqueting Venue, Best Bedroom Design and the Managers Gold Medal award for Service Excellence at the 2009 Scottish Hoteliers dinner.
Mr McGregor said: “I was attracted to Newton Hotel as it is in a first class location - Nairn is perfect for exploring the highlands, and the travel website, Trip Advisor recently put Nairn in second place, behind Troncones in Mexico on the list of the world’s top emerging travel hotspots. So my plan is to further cement this prestigious title by establishing the Newton as the best hotel in the area.” '

More on the Oxford Hotels and Inns site.

Hole in one for David Ellen

After 78 years of trying, more in the P&J. And signings for Nairn County mentioned in another P&J soccer round up article.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Bad parking concerns in Leopold Street/High Street area

A concerned Gurnite contacted us with this picture of inconsiderate parking in Leopold Street. Some motorists show no consideration to other road users and pedestrians in this bottleneck area.

The matter of dangerous and inconsiderate parking in these areas was recently raised at a River Community Council meeting where Highland Councillor Graham Marsden promised to take the matter up with the authorities.

Pookie nearly goes to sea

Meanwhile make-believe notes from Nairn's infamous make-believe character (thanks Pookie):
I) When Mr. Boneyard suggested going out on his yacht, I accepted. His name’s Barnard, but having met him, ‘Boneyard’ is more appropriate, and the yacht is a dingy with aspirations of grandeur.

“Fetch me a drink…” I crooned, and as he tottered off below decks, I gazed desperately into the darkness of the harbour, with it’s little boats bumping together.
“Lager or cider?” he barked, as I leapt nimbly into the freezing water, my thoughts only of home.
Sadly, the pink velour tracksuit I had chosen to wear, quickly became waterlogged, dragging me deeper and deeper into the abyss…

II) She couldn’t resist the idea of being perched aboard a yacht, clutching a pina colada, or something equally classy. But being stone cold sober and in a state of shock, words failed the former glamour model, as she climbed aboard the good ship ‘petit pois’. The aperitifs consisted of cans rather than bottles - not a drop of bubbly in sight. There was only one thing for it. If only she hadn’t been wearing a huge pink sponge!

III) “Fetch me a drink, Mr. B…” she crooned, breathing a huge sigh of relief as the ageing car salesman disappeared below decks. What to do? What to do? She looked wildly about her for a means of escape. There were plenty of other boats in the harbour, but most of them even more ridiculous than this so-called yacht she had been invited onto, by that fiend in human shape, Adrian Barnard, or Mr. Boneyard, as she had mentally renamed him.
“Lager or cider?” he bellowed. She rolled her eyes. Just when she had thought things couldn’t get any worse! There wasn’t any point in answering. She had to act now and fast, or her entire evening would be in ruins. And what, she pondered in horror - what if someone were to see her aboard this crate, clutching a can of Strongbow, making inane chit-chat with a man who could barely speak? That was it. Her mind was made up.

Adrian Barnard appeared on deck just in time to see his date disappearing over the edge of his boat and into the harbour.

“Pookie…!” he screamed in alarm.
“Pookie! Don’t worry, I’ll save you…!”

Sunset yesterday (31 05 10)

Earlier yesterday evening the prospects for a good sunset looked good but then cloud quickly came in from the west. Hardcore sunset watchers were rewarded with a last minute turnaround however and a spectacular finish to the day. Thanks to Tommy for the pictures.

NSC open day pictures

NSC pictures have now been put on line by Bratach

Right wing press gunning for Danny?

So Danny Alexander didn't pay some tax because he knew how to slip through a loop-hole. Anyone else in Nairn ever done that? The Telegraph and now the Mail seem to be taking pot-shots at him. Are they simply trying to attack the ConDem coalition however? Their tactics to undermine Danny might be having some effect if you analyse a few 'vox pops' in the Inverness Courier today. Danny's meteoric rise to political fame is obviously a double edged-sword and his career will obviously either proceed magnificently or he'll crash to the ground if the wings melt from flying too close to the sun. Interesting times.
Today the Mail states:
'New Treasury minister Danny Alexander has charged taxpayers more than £13,000 for his wife to make 62 journeys between London and Scotland.
The Chief Secretary, who stepped in after David Laws resignation for abusing his expenses, ran up the highest bill of any MP for using the little-known perk last year.
Mr Alexander's wife, 35-year-old magazine writer Rebecca Hoar, used public money to travel between Westminster and their family home in the North-East Highlands.
The average cost of the trips – by rail and by air – between London and Inverness was £209'
Big deal, he's trying to lead a normal family life between the big city and Aviemore where he has his first home. If the right-wing press have any real dirt on Danny then they should put up or shut up.
Here in Nairn there are those who are upset that they voted for Danny and received a Tory government, that will be the first hurdle that Danny and his fellow LibDems have to get over and of course Nairn LibDemmery has to answer for its part in sacking Liz MacDonald. Of course no one knows just how the coming brutal cuts will pan out over the next few years. With ConDem Danny, one of the chief lumberjacks now and LibDems in Glenurquhart Road preparing for the massacre that lies ahead then ultimately that party might suffer badly every time Nairnites go near a ballot box.