Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Local Government – a quick flashback to 1993

This observer has received a copy of the proposal that the Nairnshire Community Councils put to Highland Council a few weeks ago – it is quite a remarkable document and Gurnites who are assiduous students of these matters will no doubt wish to browse it in great detail. It can wait until the next article however, as whilst searching through the Gurn pre-digital archives we came across a copy of a Leopold Street Thunderer dated November 16th 1993 and something caught our attention. The end of 1993  was just prior to the major stushie that kicked off about whether Nairn should stay with Highland or go with Moray as all was soon to be subsumed into a single, all powerful local authority. In the end Nairn went with Highland Council after a vociferous campaign by the Keep Nairn Highland faction. It wasn’t much of a choice really, whether to be ruled by Inverness or Elgin was about the sum of it. 

Could there have been more of a fight to save local democracy? Did we get what we deserved; the editorial of that week suggests a lack of enthusiasm in all quarters to fight what was being proposed:

“Like a friendly, tired and inherently obedient old dog our council has rolled onto its back for the vet, in the form of the government and more proactive councils in the region, to tickle its tummy and slip in the kindly needle which will send it to oblivion. Some Nairn councillors appear quite happy to prepare for winding down the operation. Sure the best that the Districk Council can do for is to fight for its own existence. 

But in fairness it is not just the council. There has been a marked lack of support for Nairn’s continuance by leading members of the commercial community locally, some of whom have obviously seen the route to the ranks of the great and the good to be via Inverness. Nairn’s district status for them is at best an irrelevance, at worst an irritation. 

And in general Nairnites themselves have shown little concern that their political status is about to be down-graded. Very few bothered to take the opportunity to contribute when the Secretary of State for Scotland invited comments on the proposed local government reforms. Tax the average Nairn person on the subject and the most you will get is a tirade on the proposal to spend £100,000 on the Courthouse, an argument which misses the point that the Courthouse accommodation is woefully inadequate and that administrative functions will continue from there after the death of the district 

It is a great shame that at a period in Nairn’s history when the local economy is as severely stressed as it ever has been, Nairn’s political status is about to be removed and the council sees itself as a terminal case.” 

So spoke the Nairnshire over 20 years ago. Now we are offered the first crumbs of some sort of return to local democracy in the form of the odd combination (some would say shotgun marriage) of Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey into an area committee of Highland Council. To this observer a more sensible and immediate route to redressing the democratic deficit in Nairn could be via the proposal that the Nairnshire Community Councils put to the Highland Council recently.  A copy of that coming soon. 

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