Sunday, June 30, 2013

Provosts reports fire in the Culbin but fire brigade delayed by locked gate

The Gurn understands that Liz came across a fire in the Culbin whilst out walking today and alerted the fire brigade. It seems the fire engine arrived quickly but was unable to access the locked gate at Lochloy and the fire crew had to walk to the scene of the fire with back packs which took a considerable amount of time. 

Jobs at Gordons Sawmill Nairn

More on the Gordon Timber website here.

Nairn County Youth on course for success - report from Davy Mackinnon

Davy Mackinnon told the Gurn the latest on the U-17 progress: "Nairn County Under 17s have just completed the first lot of fixtures in the Inverness Youth League, and going into the school holidays sit proudly at the top of the league. The team has played 7 games, winning 6 and drawing 1 and in the process scoring 33 goals and conceding 3. Two of the fixtures in the 10 team league were cancelled due to weather and to be re-arranged after the school holidays.

On Saturday 29th June, Nairn County Under 17s sent a squad of 11 players to compete in the Brian Mackintosh Cup which is a 7 a-side tournament in Inverness. The team played very well and topped their section by beating Dalneigh, Thistle Colts, Raigmore Rovers, and Balloan Athletic. In the semi-final Nairn County defeated Stratton Thistle 1-0 but unfortunately lost the final to Dalneigh in a penalty shoot out after the game finished 0-0. Nairn County played some lovely passing football which was echoed by a number of spectators and the organisers of the tournament. In the 6 games played Nairn County scored 12 goals and conceded only 1.

The Youth Team are now looking forward to the league re-commencing in August, and to pushing on to win the league title."

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Armed forces week - parade in Nairn - pictures Murray Macrae

County at the Classroom - player of the year awards - pictures from Donald Matheson

Thanks to Donald for the images of events earlier today in the classroom. Fancy helping the County Fans ground improvements fundraising? Are you a Celtic supporter? Then bid for a top on the County fans fundraising site, a top signed by some of the  Lisbon Lions - details here.The current bid is 250 pounds.

County at the Classroom - Player of the year awards 2013 - video

Sorry John and Connor, missed the hat-trick awards but Iain F has that on the We Believe pages.

County supporters player of the year is Andy Neill

The award ceremony was held in the Classroom earlier this afternon and introduced by the club Chairman Peter Mackintosh.

The hat-trick winner was John Cameron
The triple hat-trick winner was Conor Gethins
"Bobo" Martin MacDonald received the award for outstanding performance.
Young player of the year was Ross Naismith
Supporters player of the year Andy Neill
Players' player of the year Conor Gethins

The changing fortunes of Nairn High Street - DE Shoes no more but elsewhere another shop coming soon

Sadly the last day of DE shoes but the staff can still manage a smile for the camera. Happily, the three ladies in the picture told the Gurn that they had all found new jobs to go to. And up the street in the premises formerly know as Atmosphere there is a promise of a new beginning for that particular shop.

Saturday Miscellany - County moment coming up at the Classroom today

Nairn County fans will be heading up to the Classroom this afternoon for the player of the year awards. Donald Wilson posted on the fans We Believe page:

 "Right guys and gals, Saturday afternoon (June 29th) if you are free. All invited to the Classroom for the NCFC Player of the Year Awards. Peter asked me to get the message out to all fans. Great opportunity to congratulate the players for their efforts last year. Kick off is 3.25pm for 3.30pm."

And from the Westies meeting on Wednesday night: they have £1,198.76 in the kitty and voted to splash some cash in having a pair of offending sea-gulls removed from McLean Court; they debated the gulls for part of the meeting, Gurnites will be familiar with much of this kind of debate. If you are new to the Gurn however, just type in seagulls into the Gurn search box and you will soon be up to date with the situation concerning seagulls in Nairn. 

Seonaid Armstrong who has served this incarnation of the West Community Council as Secretary from the beginning (4 years in total) has decided to step down from the post and this was announced at Wednesday's AGM.. The Westies now begin their search to find a suitable replacement. Seonaid will continue in her role as a Community Councillor however in order to continue her input into local affairs and comment on serveral issues that concern to her. 

Rosemary stated that "the High Street is becoming dismal" and she went on: "I think if everybody takes responsibility for their shop and their shop frontage, their pavement, the whole place would look a lot better." More Westie news and some details from the meeting of the Subbies too if time permits this weekend. 

Are there any budding writers out there aged 16-25, the Scottish Sun has launched a competition to find a new columnist, details are available here.  If the Sun doesn't want you however you could always write something for the Gurn, we cannot pay the same rates - in fact we can't pay anything but low-key parochial fame is guaranteed. 

Thanks to Murray MacRae for the above picture of a seal pup that was stranded on the beach near the harbour on Thrusday. Onlookers were quite concerned and the Gurn understands a call was made to an animal welfare organisation. Sometimes it is hard to know if an animal is injured or simply merely confused and disorientated..Hopefully there was a happy ending to this situation. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sandown debt - Laurie’s words of wisdom through at Glenurquhart Road and other snippets

We’ve masses of interesting material here at Gurn HQ to go through yet from the two Community Council meetings last week and also from what was said in the chamber at Glenurquhart Road on Thursday – The webcast is now up so readers can entertain themselves there if they wish (scroll down on the right hand side to item 19 at 4.43 once you get there). Now bits and pieces that Gurnites will find interesting, if not in an ongoing sense (and it still may be according to one Gurn sources), then mabye now in an historical sense. 

Here’s what Laurie said: “I for one would like some sort of separate, as a trustee, not as a councillor - as a trustee I would like to see separate legal advice as trustees, completely independent from the Council’s and just see what a QC would have to say about the situation. Because we are in this situation where our legal advisors are sitting with two hats and my view its not compatible.”

Interesting view from Laurie. In the post below we have Michael’s take on the vote and the support of the Indies for option 5. Further information about who voted which way emerged in a comment to the Gurn from Liz tonight. Most of the SNP group voted for option 5 and four of them abstained. Liz said: “so they didn't vote against us, but weren't comfortable enough  to vote against officer recommendation, this was partially because they didn't have enough information in the report.   It was easy for the indies to vote against the administration they are after all in opposition, 2 independents voted against Nairn Common Good. One was an independent nationalist Donnie Kerr the other was Andrew Baxter from Lochaber.”

Liz also tweeted the following tonight.

The Gurn understands that Labour members voted against too along with all the Lib Dems. Colin Commented on his facebookpage earlier today: “Have just realised that not a single Liberal Democrat Councillor on the Highland Council was persuaded yesterday to help Nairn's Common Good. A Party with a proud history (well the Lib part) that has sadly lost its principles.”

As to whether the Sandown matter has gone away, that is debatable and only time will tell. One Gurn advisor with a great deal of information on Sandown stated just after the vote yesterday: “As for the result, in effect it was another bodge  - an undistinguished compromise deal, cobbled together in an attempt to avoid an even worse outcome (the whole of the £734k being charged to Nairn's CG).  Nairn is however £344k the poorer tonight, which is not a reason to celebrate.  And by grabbing a share of the land, the Council is indeed now sucked even more deeply in the mire of Sandown.  They have made another rod for their own back. “

Debt decision - Michael Green's view - "closure to the Sandown saga"

Michael told the Gurn: ‘The Highland Council decision to write off the £390,000 debt was a tremendous outcome for Nairn its Common Good Fund and all four local councillors. 

In my opinion, this now brings closure to the Sandown saga and will allow the Nairn Common Good Fund to move on and become the benefactor to Nairn it was always intended to be. 

Yesterday’s vote was thirty four in favour and twenty nine against, with four abstentions. 

 Liz and Colin did a tremendous job in securing five votes from their SNP colleagues, but it was the twenty six independent councillors who supported me and ensured that Nairn won the day. 

This once again proves the value of non political independent councillors who were free to make up their own minds.. 

At recent independent group meetings, I ensured that Nairn Common Good fund was always on the agenda and with so many of the experienced councillors well, versed in the history of Sandown, it was always a vigorous and lively debate.

However, I am delighted that twenty six out of the twenty seven independents councillors supported Nairn  and ensured we won the day’

The Gurn has been looking at the figures and believes the Labour and LibDem groups on Highland Council voted for the other motion which would have seen Nairn Common Good hit for the full £734,000 but would be delighted to hear from any reds or yellows out there who have information to the contrary. 

International Lonely Bouquet Day comes to Nairn

Bobbi Urquhart told the Gurn that On Sunday Big Bloomers are taking part in International Lonely Bouquet Day. It is an international cause aimed at bringing a wee bit of happiness to people, the idea being that random little bouquets of flowers are left for people in random places with a wee note on saying "Adopt me" We will be leaving 11 small bouquets / arrangements of flowers around Nairnshire on Sunday morning for folk to take home and enjoy if they find them."

Bobbie will be posting pictures of each bouquet on this  Facebook page as and when they are left to be "adopted". She added: " We're looking forward to it - it's just a simple bit of fun that anyone can take part doing."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cup shock for the bride and groom

And now for something completly different. Donald Matheson sent us a few pictures of a wee outing the North of Scotland Cup made recently. He told the Gurn:

“Last Friday the 21st June our AJG North of Scotland Cup went to a wedding as a surprise for the groom as he is a dedicated NCFC supporter. The surprise was arranged by Donnie Macleod of DM Catering and we managed to get NCFC player Paul Macleod (Donnie's son) to pose with the bride and groom, Mr and Mrs Fraser and Catherine Munro. Fraser comes up from London to watch the Wee County, that’s dedication for you. The couple are currently enjoying their honeymoon in the USA.” More pictures from Donald here.

The Gurn understands that Les and his squad will begin their defence of the North of Scotland cup at home against Strathspey Thistle on Tuesday the 30th of July, kick-off 8.00 p.m.

Alexander Brodie has a wee gurn in the Sheriff Court

"But when the case recalled at Inverness Sheriff Court on Wednesday Mr Brodie told Sheriff Andrew Miller he was unhappy with changes to the council’s pleadings which now made it impossible for him to defend the case."
More in the Forres Gazette

Sandown debt - no motion for deferral - 390K written off but Council will still get a share of Sandown

The total debt up for debate was £734,410.78 but the Nairn Common Good still takes a £344,000 hit.  Here is the motion that won the day.

"Option 5. The Council writes off all or part of the debt that relates to the fee of £390,000 paid to acquire vacant possession of the land, and transfers a pro rata share of the land equivalent to the value of the remaining debt."

The following proviso was added from the Director of Finance's report para 3.7: 
(a) any gain in land value is returned to the Nairn Common Good Fund
(b) Highland Council does not gain financially from any future sale of the land"

Note Liz told the Gurn this morning 28th June: " I said Nairn members all support recomendation 5 to write of all of the £390K debt and include conditions 3.7. Michelle read this back exactly for the vote. So it was the whole £390K that was written off.
The council has the right to £344K back whenever any lands are sold. % of the land to the value of £344K. "

That was how it went, proposed by Liz and seconded by Michael. It was up against option three which was for all of the debt to be turned into a pro rate share of land. the results were 29 for 3, 34 for 5 with 4 abstentions. 

Is that it then, Sandown finally put to bed or will the festering complicated sore of those three fields on the western edge of town still continue to haunt local politics and the Nairn Common Good for years to come?

Update: Rè na h-uine seo, aig an taigh 's s'ann an deagh shunnd a tha Cailean, thuirt e air a' dhuilleag Facebook a-nochd (Meanwhile Colin home and in good form tonight, he posted on his facebook page:

"Just home and had some pasta after an epic session at Council HQ. Nairn's 4 Councillors - "Team Nairn" fought together and won. We still have a debt to settle, but today we won a principled victory and exceeded our initial expectations - with a further £390,000 cleared. The "horrible history" - the Sandown Saga - can I think be laid to rest. Others may wish to continue to rake over some of the ashes. I think that would be wasteful, negative energy that would be better focused upon looking forward at Nairn's future potential. I'm grateful that the SNP leadership ensured that this was dealt with as a "non-political" issue. We needed that flexibility to ask party colleagues to vote with us or to abstain. I'm sure that we are all grateful to every Highland Councillor who saw the need for a fair and just settlement today for Nairnites. Slainte Mhor!"

So was today the "Big Bang" that will banish the Sandown toxicity in local politics forever or is to be eternally enmeshed in the DNA of community affairs?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sandown Debt Controversy - dramatic new moves outlined at West CC meeting tonight (Weds)

The debate moved down from its airing in the Academy at the Suburban CC meeting last night to the monthly gathering of the Westies in the Community Centre tonight. Michael Green revealed a dramatic change in strategy for our four local councillors at the Highland Council meeting tomorrow. Regular readers will be au fait with the background so far but if you are new here then please read a few of the posts below this one. 

Michael Green said tonight: “Things have moved on quite dramatically at a local level. Tomorrow we are going to put forward another option which is going to be for deferral. Now that’s the four Nairn councillors that are putting that forward. The reason we are going to cite, and we have to cite a specific reason, is actually going back to the December paper.”

Michael then quoted from that December paper extracts which he said were related to the £730,000 in its entirety: “Clarity over the substance of the original transaction is essential to avoid a situation whereby the Council may be deemed to have acted unlawfully. Recommendations: Note that the legality of the transaction is being reviewed by Audit Scotland.” Gurnites can read the report that Michael quoted from here.

Michael then continued: “Basically they haven’t received a report from Audit Scotland. […] The background papers and you’re expecting we, the trustees of the Nairn Common Fund to arrive at their decision on the basis of six lines. I don’t think it’s competent and I don’t think it’s fair. So we have asked for a deferral and we will come back to the Council towards the end of the year. From my own perspective and from the other members perspective we need to get the transparency on this. We need to actually address each of the issues that have been raised. That will require a lot of work which the four of us have agreed to do – to prepare this as trustees to come back to provide a background report whereby then, our fellow trustees can make an informed decision. […] Because if we don’t address this suitably I think prejudice, jeopardise, compromise the Nairn Common Good Fund for decades actually. Folk would lose confidence in it and I don’t think we would be able to get the benefits that we need to get from the Nairn Common Good fund. 

Michael said he didn’t really know how things would go but if the motion for deferral falls then the Nairn councillors would back option 5 once again.  Please see this report here for details of the five options on the table.

In another dramatic development West Councillor Bill Young revealed that he had reported the Highland Council Director of Finance to a professional body. He said:

”The essential point is, I don’t think it is necessarily the Councillors, it is the quality of the information which has been fed to the councillors by the officials. That report which has been prepared by the Director of Finance is grossly misleading to the extent that I’ve actually reported him to the professional body for doing that. These people need guidance, help and assistance to get a proper decision and to feed the rubbish which was contained  in that report to them as fact is so grossly wrong, I think it needs to be reported and I have done so.”

Liz: “. And it was all stitched up in District Council days and it is very disheartening.”

During discussion last night at the Suburban CC meeting over the Sandown debt and events to take place tomorrow when Highland Council will decide whether or not to take a part share of the Sandown lands in payment of that considerable debt, Liz lifted her hands to her forehead, they didn’t quite go all the way, but a brief look of anguish came across her face. Her hands went down again and then she said with a controlled anger in her voice: 

“I would have to say the Nairn Common Good is an absolute nightmare. Even things like, you know, the Angling Association pay fifty pounds a year and we are now paying £9,000 a year rent – well not rent but rates. And it was all stitched up in District Council days and it is very disheartening.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Liz: “A lot of the dealings that has gone on with that has been dealt with, been proved to be illegal”

There were a lot of interesting items discussed at the Suburban Community Council meeting earlier today (Tuesday 25th) and the crowded agenda meant that discussion on the latest chapter of the controversial Sandown saga had to wait until the end. The meeting was to run around 25 minutes over time as angles as to how the Highland Council might vote to deal with the Common Good debt relating to Sandown were aired.

Liz and Michael were there to be quizzed by the Subbies plus Brian Stewart from the West Community Council who had questions and comment to make too. Before discussion began Dick showed the meeting a copy of a letter he had written to the Highland Council Director of Finance outlining his council’s concerns about the five options for clearing the Sandown debt. You can see a copy here, it is shorter than the one that the Westies wrote but it is just as good a read.  Anyway, now a few highlights from some of the conversations and statements:

In response to a comment from Brian, Michael said: “The key, and we are all sort of saying the same thing, we’re working together very closely and I think the key there is, as you said, is that the 80 councillors are Trustees of the Nairn Common Good Fund and they have to act in the interests of the Nairn Common Good Fund […] We’re asking for them to write off half which we think is fair and equitable.”

John Hart was his usual forensic self and asked how the debt was agreed. Liz said in response to this:

“I remember when the thing came for paying off the farmer. Now I wasn’t in favour of paying off the farmer. I’ve never been in favour of really developing that site at all. So it did come to the Nairn area committee to pay off the farmer and it was ratified by the Highland Council.”

She went on: “I think the problem is now we’ve got to do something or the Council will be report by the auditor for not holding proper accounts so we have to act now.”

A little later John Hart said: “They’ve illegally given us a loan and charged us interest and now they are going to shaft us by making us pay the whole bloody lot.”

 ”They’ve taken the interest off it,” said Liz in response to that and she added: “A lot of the dealings that has gone on with that has been dealt with, been proved to be illegal”
“Correct,” said John Hart.
“If there was any chance I thought that we could get the whole thing written off then we would go for that. We have got 76 other members who we have got to persuade.”
“But that is wrong as well, and you know it is wrong.”
“I know,” conceded Liz.
“But you’ve done nothing about it,” said John.

Brian Stewart made an intervention outlining why he thought Highland Council was responsible for the debt in a corporate sense, here’s part of what he said:

“It is nothing to do with individuals and nothing to do with motives. It’s to do with proper administration and the key point is that those who take the decision and are visibly responsible for the taking of those decisions have to bear the consequences of those decisions.”

John Hart was soon to make another point and he asked:

”Why wasn’t the Nairn Common Good Fund billed in 2002,3,4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10? Only in 2011 did wee see a final bill. Only then why?”

As John was running through the years Liz could be heard saying “Because it had no money.”

 More discussion followed that and we hope to bring details of that to you tomorrow if time permits.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Essential reading material for all students of Sandown matters- Westies write to the four Nairn Highland Councillors

The West Community Council have put into the public domain a letter they have written to Nairn's four Highland Councillors prior to the meeting in Inverness on Thursday that has profound implications for the future of the Sandown Lands. Their letter begins:

"The inclusion of an item about the Sandown Lands and Nairn’s Common Good on the Highland Council agenda, and the text of the associated paper (23/13) by the Director of Finance, have only just become publicly known and available – less than a week before the meeting.

We understand that, as elected Councillors, you have been in dialogue with Council officials about the way forward.  But we remain concerned at the complete absence of local consultation or discussion, and about the very short notice between publication of the officials’ recommendations and the proposed timescale for decision.

This is a serious and complex issue, of major importance to the community of Nairn.  We recognise the need to explore possible ways of resolving it.  But we have a number of concerns about both the process and the substance of the official recommendations.  We think the context has been insufficiently explained, and the options proposed are almost all inappropriate. "

We would urge all Gurnites who have shown an interest in the Sandown Lands issue over recent years to make a cup of tea (or pour a dram) and read the full letter from the West Community Council plus a detailed annex which goes into considerable detail on points around, 1) Conflict of Interst, 2) Timescale for Resolution, 3) Attribution of Responsibility, 4) Identification of Options. The letter is available online here and the annex here and we promise you that they are both a good read.

Nairnshire Challenge - Male and Female firsts were first timers

Thanks to one of our regular readers for the following information:

The top three and the lead lady (who did the Highland Cross the day before!).... Both male and female firsts were doing the Challenge for the first time.

Well done to all the contestants and those that make this popular charity event possible each year (the Rotary Club of Nairn and other volunteers), especially so on such an awful day as yesterday. If anyone fancies competing next year here is the website.  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thursday decision for Highland Council - Common Good debt on Sandown- Colin's view plus other comment

Note: this article is best read in conjunction with these earlier ones posted this weekend: here, here and here and the more serious students of this matter may wish to read the Highland Council's Director of Finance's report listing five options for Thursday's meeting. 

Now, a comment from Colin as he prepares for the debate over the Sandown debt options on Thursday at Glenurquhart Road:

“What is clear is that every Nairn Councillor is working collaboratively for the people of the town on this complex and historic issue. Although the Director of Finance has a clear recommendation that we believe is not best for Nairn, we will focus hard on winning the best possible "Option 5" solution for our folk of the Royal Burgh. We hope to persuade as many of our fellow Highland Councillors to vote for the Common Good of Nairn on Thursday. I believe that is their fiduciary duty as Trustees of "our" assets.

I note that there is some questioning of why it has come to a head now. As the Director of Finance makes clear the Highland Council are being steered by Audit Scotland to bring things to an appropriate legal / fiscal settlement. In other words the Council cannot simply leave the "debt" of £700K+ lying around in the books long term.
We all think Option 5 is the best one for us locally. We have to accept that the Director Finance doesn't think so. So we have a big task on to persuade a majority of our Council colleagues to see things our ways on Thursday. Every vote may count at the end of the debate.”

Thanks to Colin for that. The poisoned chalice of Sandown will once again be exhibited in the Highland Council chamber next Thursday and perhaps a few more Nairn residents than usual will be tuning in to the webcast.
Elsewhere in Gurnshire the five options outlined in the report have been exercising minds.

One of our regular correspondents contacted us earlier tonight with his observation that: “Sandown (Common Good) just reads as 'Nairn is f*****' to me no matter what suggestion gets voted in.”

Another of our regular readers has read the Director of Finance’s report and writes to us with the following points:

“I find the vagueness of the references in the Highland Council  paper to taking a "pro rata share" of the Sandown lands (in lieu of, or to "pay off" the so-called debt) very worrying.  Nowhere is it explained how this pro rata share would be calculated, or what it might translate to on the ground.

There are two very worrying phrases in the paper's references to this:  para 2.5.4 "the Common Good Fund loses absolute control over the land...." (how can the Highland Council as Trustee possibly acquiesce in this?);  and para 2.5.5 "the Common Good Fund would lose control over potential future uses for any land transferred  to the Council".

So does that mean that in today's sluggish market the Highland Council could claim a larger share in terms of acreage because the value of the land is depressed?”

Yet another observer points to comments made by Bill Young, a member of West Community Council back in January of 2012 and reported on the Gurn, he said:

“I think there’s a huge conflict of interest between the Highland Council’s duties as Highland Councillors and their trusteeship of the Common Good Fund and the two are getting hopelessly intermixed and hopelessly conflicted.” 

Sandown issues have had a toxicity for some years now. Will the alarm and even outrage that is being felt by some across Nairn this weekend translate once again into a widespread feeling that Nairn is still being given a bad deal by Highland Council? Will the decision to be made on Thursday once again leave a bad taste in the collective community mouth and impact on the reputations of this current batch of elected Highland Council members that represent us, or has the boil finally been lanced and will most people not give a toss this time round?  

Sunday Miscellany

The latest on the Sandown issue (surely a curse handed down from the last Highland Council administration?) can be found in three Gurn articles this weekend: here, here and here and we hope to publish more including a statement from Colin much later tonight/tomorrow morning. Also an article here on a Common Good issue in Forres.

Dial a bus users have a meeting in Croy on Tuesday night. See the poster here. You can use the bus to get there too. 

Thanks to Andrew for the picture shown above of the footpath next to the empty Sandancer building. He told the Gurn: “The rainfall on Saturday highlighted an area the council need to take a look at; namely the disused Fun Centre's guttering into the drainage system in Nairn harbour - it is flooding the walkway onto the promenade.”

Gurnites who have been following the Nairn County Fans Ground Improvement Fund initiatives may like to browse the following events coming up over the next three months. A chance to appear with Les in a “Dug out Photo 11”; NCFC Legends - Speakers Night in the Seaforth on Friday 26th July; Race Night 3rd August; a Concert inUnited Reform Church on the 4th August; a ladies lunch at the Classroom on the 25th of August and the supporters that will be going up BenNevis on the 1st of September are looking for sponsors and will be delighted to hear from you if you can pledge some cash. 

Unfortunately it turned out a very wet day for those taking part in the Nairnshire Challenge. As they were getting into their buses this morning for the journey up to the start line a cruise liner sailed past the other vessels out in the Firth - image here. It would have been a wet day for the passengers on that ship too once they disembarked at Invergordon. The rain was needed however but hopefully it will stop soon.  

First Trophy of the season for Nairn County Football Club - Under 15 success in Inverness

Davy MacKinnon told the Gurn: "The current NCFC under 15's managed to do what their peers did last year and win the under 15's Street League six a side tournament on Inverness yesterday 22nd June
Format was round robin and after some great football the victory belonged to NCFC and the trophy is back at Station Park."
Congratulations to all of the U-15s on a magnificent performance, great news for everyone connected with NCFC - "We Believe!"

Sandown debt options to be decided Thursday - Laurie's view

Earlier this morning Laurie's view was pretty dreich as he attended to his duties with his Rotary colleagues down on the Links at the finish point of this year's Nairnshire Challenge. Things are brightening up a little however at the time of posting this article so let's hope it stays that way for the competitors. Good luck everyone!

Laurie took a moment  to approach the Gurn with his views on the five options proposed to settle the Common Good debt incurred over the attempted sale of Sandown to a developer by Highland Council. The Highland Council's 80 members in their role as trustees of the Nairn Common Good fund will pick one of them on Thursday in Inverness. We e-mailed all four of the town's Highland Councillors yesterday to ask them their views on the five options and so far Laurie is the only one to respond although Chair of West CC Rosemary Young gave the Gurn her views yesterday. Anyway here are the five options again for those that haven't seen them yet. 

• The Council writes-off all of the outstanding debt

• The Common Good Land is advertised for sale immediately

• The Council transfers from the Common Good account a percentage of the land equivalent to the value of the outstanding debt

• The Common Good Fund uses income generated to write-down the balance of the debt over a period of time or when the land is sold

• The Council writes off all or part of the debt that relates to the fee of £390,000 paid to acquire vacant possession of the land, and transfers a percentage of the land equivalent to the value of the remaining debt.

One of our regular sources (this time a reliable one) was suggesting that they be translated into plain English - could someone out there with a moment or two please oblige?  

Anyway Laurie told the Gurn that he supported option five and that his colleagues were of a similar mind too. He said that at current land value prices he believed that this would mean that Highland Council would receive a share of less than 10% of the Sandown Lands. Option five was not on the table beforehand according to Laurie and he sees it as the best deal for Nairn but he is worried what might happen in the "bear pit" of Glenurquhart Road on Thursday. Laurie also revealed to the Gurn that it had been suggested by one of his colleagues that the allotment land be given to the Council by the Common Good in exchange for the debt but he was strongly against the suggestion and it failed. To Laurie this would have meant that perhaps at some point in the future some agency or other might have attempted to move the allotments so that development could take place. To him it is better that the allotments stay with the Common Good. As to public perceptions of things on Thursday, he sees option five as a "technical financial exercise" and he lays the trail of blame back to the developer upping the number of houses they wished to build on Sandown from around 300 to the 550 mark."

The Gurn hopes to return to this matter later this evening, thanks to Laurie for commenting - Liz, Colin Michael, any chance of a line or two on this matter? Just below this post there are now two other articles on this matter and also an item on a Common Good affair in Forres. 

“Hardly a great groundswell of trust!” – A Common Good issue Forres style

The main hall in the Tolbooth is not as grand as our Courthouse perhaps but it carries all the same gravitas and more. Forres only has one Community Council so they meet as the definitive body representing the town – spaces are left for the four Moray councillors, it is obvious that they all feel it necessary to attend every meeting. The image shows some of the Councillors seated before the meeting. More were to arrive and four Moray Councillors were elsewhere in the building holding surgeries. They were shortly to enter the room where around 35-40 members of the public were waiting. A facebook group “The Battle for Bogton” had passed the 1,000 membership mark earlier in the day. Maybe for every 1,000 cyber activists or protesters you can get 40 in a room? That page is available here if you wish to indulge

Before the meeting proper began a young police woman gave a run down of the latest crime figures. Maybe it had been a bad month but compared to the reports heard in Nairn it seemed to this observer that Forres is a hotbed of crime. After that he meeting moved straight to the point and first item up was the Bogton Development. An articulate, and initially nervous woman, spoke for about 15 minutes with some convincing arguments that the development was not in the town centre as defined by the local plan. She continued with other points about the impact on the High Street, Hydrological assessment, water and sewage and many other matters. One could compare her performance with the contributions that many Nairnites have made at
public inquiries and the like of that in recent years. The speaker quoted well know pro-nuke Greenie George Monibot suggesting that you create one job for ever 50K spent in local shops compared to 250K to create a job in a superstore. Hard to do a real comparison with Nairn here because the jobs in Sainsburys were jobs that were created before any money was spent – we didn’t have an existing superstore in the way that Forres had Tesco. There was also the vexing question of if Forres Mechanics Football club have to move then who builds the new stadium.

Then the meeting was open to the floor and there was a barrage of questions for the Moray Councillors from the public and the Community Councillors. Like Councillors at this level all over Scotland they are somewhat trapped between public will and the planning system. Yes, only outline planning permission had been granted but many of those present and others in Forres were unsure of what that means and sincere explanations in the face of “hardly a great groundswell of trust”, as one community councillor succinctly put it, can fall flat or even seem evasive. The members of the public present felt that they were in the majority and in that they are almost certainly correct. One of the top tier councillors stated however that there were Forresians that considered the proposed development a good thing and their views had to be taken into account. He said there were those people that had told him that the developer should be given the land to help give Forres the boost that it needs. For some this was a startling revelation. Other questions centred on historical aspects of the site and proposed development and it was obvious that in that sense there were still things to be clarified. As we know in Nairn with the Sandown situation, in these situations it is hard for even serious students of the topic in hand to have a complete grip of how things have progressed.

An interesting meeting that mirrored many things we have witnessed in meetings in Nairn in recent years but there was one important thing that to this observer demonstrated that Forres is not merely a different dimension but another planet when it comes to Common Good affairs. At some point in the future there will be a public meeting organised in an orderly fashion with speakers both for and against the development and then again, at some point in the future, a ballot for those residents of the town who live within the area of the Royal Burgh. Now if we had had that for the proposals suggested by Highland Council’s preferred bidder for the Sandown Lands then perhaps things might have been different and the Nairn Common Good debt measures proposed for next Thursday might not have been necessary? See previous Gurn articles here and here.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nairn Sandown Lands 700k debt options for Thursday decision - " Do our councillors know or have they been kept in the dark?"

The Gurn has been seeking comment from our four Highland Councillors and the Community Council leaders on the controversial Sandown proposals being decided by Highland Council on Thursday. After that meeting, to be held in Inverness, it seems likely that Highland Council could end up having a pro rata share of the Sandown Lands transferred to them to pay off debts owed to the Council by Nairn Common Good Fund (Trustees the 80 Highland Council members). See previous Gurn article here for details on five options to be discussed.

As we state above we are seeking comment from Local Councillors. Rosemary Young, the Chair of West CC was immediately forthcoming with a statement. She told the Gurn: 

"I had some discussion with Michael Green who assured me that the Sandown lands were going to be included in some agricultural scheme to grow carrots and this would be an income for the Common Good. Nothing else was being considered. This is obviously not the case as discussions must have been taking place for several months over the other options. Do our councillors know or have they been kept in the dark."

The Gurn hopes to return to this topic later this evening. 

More than just a pub lunch

The Gurn is proud to introduce the first of a series of food reviews from one of our regular readers who likes to eat out occasionaly. Our correspondent went to the Westerlea recently.

Having seen that the Westerlea Hotel was under new management and that they were also starting to serve meals again, it was the obvious choice for myself and my friends to give a try for lunch!  Lunch is served in the bar which was light, clean and airy, which was welcomed on a very warm day.  There were tables outside the hotel but not sure if these are in use as yet for al fresco dining, this could be a lovely option on a sunny day.

There was a good menu selection with starters including homemade soup, chicken wings, haggis and mash as well as a vegetarian option.  However knowing we would all want a dessert we skipped on the starter and were presented with a good choice of main courses including lasagne, scampi, chicken and sirloin steak, prices ranged from £7.25 upwards to £14.95 for steak which we all thought was very reasonable.  A good selection  of side orders were on offer also.

Our food was served on warmed plates and presented beautifully, there  was a 100% success rate with everyone commenting on how good everything tasted and clean plates all round! The service was relaxed and friendly and very attentive.  Everyone still had some room for pudding which didn’t disappoint! Again a good selection on offer of sticky toffee pudding, berries, ice creams, cheesecake and also apple crumble , all priced around £4.25.

I would highly recommend visiting The Westerlea Hotel for a meal, adding the great food together with the lovely relaxed atmosphere and service  and reasonable prices made it a very enjoyable lunch and I would definitely go again.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Common Good Sandown: meeting next Thursday in Inverness - 5 options to addressing the sum owed to The Highland Council of £734,410.78

Thanks to APT Sec for drawing the following very important matter to our attention. Next week at Glenurquhart Road there will be a meeting of the Highland Council and one item on the agenda will be discussion of options of resolving the 700K plus debt that the Common Good fund has to the Highland Council. The meeting is taking place on  Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 10.35am. After this meeting is finished it seems that Highland Council could end up having a pro rata share of the Sandown Lands transferred to them. 

There is a school of thought in Nairn that the debt incurred is Highland Council's problem and that the people of Nairn were never consulted about options for the Sandown Lands before the debts were incurred. Note that in the Forres Tolbooth last night at a meeting of the Community Council, with four Moray Councillors present the people of the Royal Burgh of Forres were promised a ballot if a developer should make an offer for the Common Good Land at Bogton. Time for such ballots in Nairn before anymore decisions are made relating to Sandown?  Anyway...

5 Options listed on a report to for the Council to decide on are:  

• The Council writes-off all of the outstanding debt

• The Common Good Land is advertised for sale immediately

• The Council transfers from the Common Good account a percentage of the land equivalent to the value of the outstanding debt

• The Common Good Fund uses income generated to write-down the balance of the debt over a period of time or when the land is sold

• The Council writes off all or part of the debt that relates to the fee of £390,000 paid to acquire vacant possession of the land, and transfers a percentage of the land equivalent to the value of the remaining debt.

The report also states: "Option 5 represents a compromise position, proposed by local members, that requires the Council to write-off part of the debt. This option would mean that there would be a greater benefit to the Common Good Fund as it would benefit financially to a greater extent in the event of a future sale of the land. It would also require the Council to meet the one-off cost that would have to be met from balances." 

And under recommendations: " Note an Officer recommendation that Option 3 should be pursued;"

The Gurn recommends that all serious students of these matters read the report from the Director of Finanace that will be going to the full Council, it lists all the options and the benefits and disadvantages as seen from Gleunurquhart Road  - it is available on line here.   

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Local Councillor gets involved in the comedy business

Michael Green tells the Gurn that his “Wildnight” comedy shows will be a logical business extension from his established activities. He plans to have at least half a dozen regular comedy nights across the Highlands if the pilot show is successful. The comedians are all top acts booked with through the Gilded Balloon venue in Edinburgh.  See details on the poster in the side bar or head to the Wildnight facebook page for further details.

 Comedy fan Michael would also like to eventually see a comedy festival added to Nairn’s yearly programme of events. The first show will be in Nairn Community and Arts Centre on the evening of Friday the 26th of July and will also travel to Portree, Michael’s business initiative is a joint enterprise with one of his fellow Councillors, John Gordon.

Michael told us there will be two free tickets (value £30) awarded to the winner of a best joke competition, to enter just head to the Wildnight facebook page and submit your joke via the social network page.

Up for a (Nairnshire) Challenge? - try the Synchro Stall on Sunday

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Building the local economy in Nairn – time for some radical thinking?

The inspiring poster was spotted in the window of  Iolaire down at the harbour - nice one Tez!. In an age where many of us do our shopping from the comfort of our armchairs, bathed in the glow of electronic devices then just how
much more could we do to stimulate the local economy?  NICE hope to stimulate employment through their initiative with the old Social Work Building but it is hard indeed to see how cash, in its traditional form of handouts from the authorities, might arrive. Those days are perhaps just a happy memory of the last millennium. NICE high heid yins would argue that Nairn simply needs to get its equitable share of public funds and there would be sufficient to implement several initiatives in the town.  But can we rely on the authorities to help us anymore? What is there that we could do on our own?

Perhaps it is worth examining some of the ideas of the Transition Towns movement. They bill themselves thus: “Transition Network's role is to inspire, encourage, connect, support and train communities as they self-organise around the transition model, creating initiatives that rebuild resilience and reduce CO2 emissions.”

Some people dismiss them as a indulgent bunch of well-off green loonies having a bit of fun. We face challenging times however and things may never be the same again. Consider the following two opening paragraphs of an interview with a Transition Town luminary:

” Late last year, Rob Hopkins went to a conference. Most of the delegates were chief executive officers at local authorities, but it was not a public event. Speaking in confidence, three-quarters of these officials admitted that – despite what they say publicly – they could not foresee a return to growth in the near future.
"One said: 'If we ever get out of this recession, nothing will be as it was in the past,'" Hopkins recalls. "Another said: 'Every generation has had things better than its parents. Not any more.' But the one that stunned me said: 'No civilisation has lasted for ever. There is a very real chance of collapse.'" ”  If any Gurnites have a few minutes more can be read in this interesting article here.

Will we face that kind of future in Nairn or will we be kept afloat by Ardersier opening up again to make windmills or the building of thousands of houses between here and Inverness?  Whatever the future perhaps it is worth considering some of the Transition Town folks agenda. Some of it might be considered a bit far out but how about a local currency? That is to say Money that could only be spent in Nairn? Would it improve the local economy? Individuals could buy into it for as little as much as they liked then obviously as long as there were shops and businesses that would accept it would get off the ground. It has been done in Bristolinformation here.

When NICE mark 1 got off the ground there were several working groups that were working on various issues concerning the then Council’s plans for the town centre. NICE mark 2 just doesn’t seem to have that kind of engagement with its membership and the wider public just now. Perhaps they, or the community councils, need to consider a few more “out of the box” ideas and set up working groups to bring them to fruition.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nairn County signings - Stuart Leslie and Daniel Moore from Elgin City

News that is going down very well over on the Nairn County Fans "We Believe!" Facebook page.
From the County Site: "Last night (17th June) Nairn completed the double signing of two Elgin City stars for the forthcoming campaign! Stuart Leslie, Elgin's top scorer last season with 21 goal was being hotly tipped in some quarters to be coming to Station Park. But Manager Les Fridge sprung a surprise with an Elgin double signing coup, for fans to celebrate, with the news that Leslie is being joined by team-mate, left-sided midfield player Daniel Moore."

More on the County site news page. 

"We're in Nairn...the ocean is warmer than it is in California...just awesome"

Happy visitors tell the world about Nairn.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Next Generation Broadband in Nairn - has it enhanced your life?

The Gurn is happy to publish the following request:

Next Generation Broadband
Do you live or work in Nairn and have access to Next Generation Broadband (NGB)? How has it enhanced your life or work online? Highlands and Islands Enterprise is carrying out a review of broadband services in the Nairn area and would like to hear from you. Please contact Paul Riddell of Platform PR on or phone 01595 697296.

Regular readers will be au fait with the reasons why the whole of Nairn hasn't got superfast yet - details on this Gurn article.   

New interpretation board at Merryton/sewage bridge - The River Nairn - Abhainn Narann - The River of Alders

As part of River Community Council's regeneration project between the sewage and the A96 bridge, a new interpretation board with details about Abhainn Narann - The River of Alders has been installed today. Larger image here on the Gurn Flickr pages

The Black Hole of Society Street

Gravity's relentless pull was working its magic in Society Street this morning. One of our regular unreliable sources tells us that this particular cavity appeared over the weekend and the image was taken just before 10.00 this morning. Has anyone been looking into it? This observer thought it went quite deep and had the potential for rapid expansion - could the Fishertown disappear soon? We hear too that this is by no means the first time that such a hole has appeared in the Fishertown.

A tale of the riverside and grass cutting

In the URC hall last Wednesday night Tommy told his fellow River CC members of his encounter with a council employee on the riverside. He began:

"I was down at the river there a fortnight ago, this guy was there with a clipboard walking round marking things on a map." Tommy engaged the gentleman in conversation and made inquiries as to the nature of his presence. The man was a Highland Council employee and investigating areas of grass that weren't being cut and complaints from members of the public, etc. Remarkably this Council worker had come to Nairn from Fort William.

Tommy added: "He came down from Fort William. What a waste of time, money and energy." 

River CC help for purchasing Millbank School football strips

At their regular meeting last week, Chair Tommy read out a letter  from the coach of the Millbank football teams, seeking financial help for the purchase of two strips. The school have both a boys and a girls team and the present kit is getting into a poor state - a new outfit for both teams would cost £520. The letter stated: "In today's financial climate, funding for such extras are in short supply."

Speaking in favour of a donation Andrew Purkis said: "Parents are continuously asked to help schools with donations. I think in the present climate there have been many people struggling financially. I think we should help out, especially if we can help the girls because I'm all for girls getting into these sports which is a male dominated area."

The River folkies voted unanimously in favour of donating £150 to Millbank. Anyone in Gurnshire with a bit of spare cash could  maybe contact Millbank if they too wish to help? 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hole in Moss-Side Road

Sunday afternoon and Scottish Water are tackling a problem in the road next to the Co-op Shop. Watch yourself on the bend until the problem is sorted. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Local Soldier at Trooping of the Colour today

We hear from proud dad James that his daughter Fiona Dunbar took part in her first Trooping of the Colour ceremony today. Fiona serves with the King's Troop, Royal Artillery.

The image shows Fiona with Horse No 27, the horse's military name is Rock Port and civil name is Uri.Click on the image to enlarge.

Saturday Miscellany

Colour provided on the street this morning with the yearly RNLI stall. Once again a great selection of books, home baking, plants and other items. 

Thanks to Donald G for tweeting us this page of information on Nairn Cinemas – perhaps the Community Centre should be added now to any history of local picture houses. 

Over in Forres it has all kicked off over the Bogton redevelopment proposal. Moray Council granted outline planning permission to an application. The area is Common Good land and there is outrage in Forres over
Moray Council’s decision. More in the Forres Gazzette. A facebook group, “The Battle for Bogton”, has attracted 355 likes in a just over 48 hours and the intellectual infrastructure for a massive campaign against the proposal and the sale of the Common Good land is in place thanks to the social network. 

A video of the Scottish Highland League Football awards in the Newton has been posted on the SHFL TV site. The site will be showing highlights of Highland League games throughout the coming season and has been created in association with the Nairn based Thistle Channel.

One of our regular readers reports activity in the field suggested for a cemetery on Granny Barbour’s Road. The Gurn understands that some test equipment had been installed some time ago so perhaps we are coming to the end of the test period and we’ll know soon if the new cemetery can be laid out in that field?

There’s been a fair bit of comment on the article reporting debate at River CC on Wednesday night concerning the future of the old Social Work building. The building and the NICE proposals are of course all tied in to the future of the High Street and the town centre in general. Discussion in that thread has moved in that direction of the prospects for the High Street and what might happen to some shops – could they be converted into housing? The Gurn understands there were no buyers for the Social Work building NICE wish to buy for a pound when it was but on the open market by the Highland Council. Another building in the town centre, Barron House, goes up for auction again on the 26th of June, this time in Edinburgh.  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Bringing grass cutting back under local control - latest from River Community Council

On Wednesday in the URC Church Hall Tommy gave his fellow councillors an update on River CC’s submission to the Highland Council’s Community Challenge Fund. Regular readers will remember that the River folkies are desirous of bringing grass cutting in the town back under local control – see previous Gurn article here.

Tommy reported that he had received an encouraging reply from Highland Council and he read out the text of a letter he had received:

 ”I write further to your expression of interest for funding from the Community Challenge Fund. Your expression of Interest was carefully considered by a panel of elected members following a review and input from relevant Council officers. The panel understands that your Community Council has the support of local Highland Council members and that it is intended to discuss this proposal with other neighbouring Community Councils to explore whether a further proposal will be submitted covering a wider part of the Community. The panel has therefore agreed to place your expression of interest on hold pending these discussions and has also asked that, if required, Council officers have further discussions with your organisation regarding your proposal. The lead officer Richard Guest, head of Roads and Community, will be happy to discuss this with you. I hope that the information provided will enable you to take your project forward. ”

Tommy did report that one thing had changed however, and that was that the other two Community Councils in the town no longer seemed interested in joining in the bid to take control of the grass cutting. Tommy believes that River will have to go forward alone.

This observer finds it very difficult to understand why Suburban and West Councils do not seem to be very interested in the proposal from River. There has been much talk in recent years in bringing local democracy back to Nairn. What better way to start than getting the grass cutting back under Nairn control? Obviously there is a long way to go and a lot of work involved for the River Councillors but the idea does have the support of local Highland Councillors and the language of the correspondence is very favourable. Could River be pushing at an open door?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cawdor Road/ Balblair Road junction - Removal of trees

On the agenda at the River CC meeting last night were the dead elm trees at the corner of Cawdor Road and Balblair Road. Gurnites will remember that there was considerable concern expressed at a previous meeting that dead elm branches at this junction could fall onto the road and cause an accident. See article here. River CC had written to Network Rail. 

Last night Tommy revealed that he had had a response from Network Rail. He said that they had informed him that they have put the job out to tender and once the job was accepted the trees would be taken down on both sides.

The Gurn spoke to Tommy later and he said that he was under the impression that both sides meant up the town side of the railway property on the station brae too. This would be the trees behind the station sign on the right hand side of the road in the picture below.

Come dine with me - could there be a Nairn winner tomorrow night?

Zarina Ainslie on the programme "Come dine with me" on Channel 4 earlier this evening. She impressed the other contestants so much that she scored enough points to go into the final day in the lead. All will be revealed tomorrow night. Contestants that spoke to the press so far have been tight-lipped about who won. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Social work building: “It belongs to the community not NICE!”

It was just an item under ACOB at the River Community Council monthly meeting yesterday (Wednesday) in the URC Church hall but it could have a major impact on the relationship between the CC and the organisation NICE which has a set of ideas for the town centre.  NICE is  a campaign group that has over a thousand members and this observer imagines that many of them will find the following uncomfortable reading. 

Mike Henderson indicated he wished to make a comment about the old Social Work buildings and the Chair, Tommy Hogg, allowed him to speak. Mike said:

“I know what NICE have come up with but we are in the realms just now of this government introducing this bedroom tax. Has it ever been considered making it into one bedroom units? Which is definitely lacking not just in Nairn but all over. There’s people crying out for 1 bedroom units. Is there any way? Well, NICE have offered them a pound for the building, could we offer the them two pounds?”

Tommy then pulled no punches: “Well I think that would be a good idea. My own personal view on the whole thing is selling it for a pound…to me that is just …I mean it belongs to the community not NICE. This buying it for a pound and then going to do this and set up…I just cannot get my head round it. Surely there is another way round this.”

Murd then made an intervention: “At the NICE meeting, what they said there was that there’s money out there. They are after a big grant from somewhere or other but they’ve got to own the property. That is why they are wanting to buy it off the Council for a pound and then they can say: “we’ve got the property, can we get fifty thousand or whatever?” It is to do what they want to do.”

Murd then continued with a warning for the River folkies; “Apart from that I said to you to keep an eye on NICE because they are coming up with ideas that affect your area. They’re wanting to do away with the bus station. The want to put in a huge roundabout opposite Viewfield. You really have to keep an eye on what NICE are doing.”

Tommy then told Mike that as far as he was aware the Council had done a consultation and had the building surveyed and as far as he was aware they came up with the suggestion that it wasn’t suitable for housing. He commented: “How this came about I don’t know, I never actually saw it but I believe that was their comments, it wasn’t suitable for housing.”

The Chair then asked Murd: “When the police station was there did the police not use the rest of that for accommodation?”

Murd replied, “Yes, it was police houses.”

 Tommy then said: “So why can’t they convert it back again to houses?”