Sunday, May 31, 2015

Please help The Penguins Tuxedo‏ Youth street band

We hear from the Band:

"We are needing to find some extra help again for the Penguin's so we are looking for someone special who loves music and would enjoy assisting these great bunch of young people practice and attend gigs/rehearsals. They are a youth led band but still need an adult every now and then and ideally every other week help out on a anytime between 4-6pm on a Monday. This person can be as involved as they want to be there is no pressure, but we do need a regular friendly face."   You can contact the band via Facebook here. 

The Penguin's Tuxedo at the Nairn Youth Alliance Lego walk yesterday. We hear that the Lego Walk raised £219.91 for youth activities in Nairn.

Also walking the Lego yesterday was Councillor Stephen Fuller. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Nairn 10 Mile Road Race & Family Fun Run. - charity event for Yorkhill Children's Charity & Calum's Cabin Sunday 7th June 2015

Liz Bow told the Gurn:

"This is the third year of our charity event with all monies raised for charity. The beneficiaries this year are Calum’s Cabin, a holiday house in Bute, Isle of Rothesay, for the families of children suffering from cancer and cancer related diseases, and Yorkhill Children's Charity.
Both charities are exceptionally worthy and support families from all over Scotland, and indeed at present local families are benefiting from them.

We are very fortunate in that this year's 10 mile road race event has been selected to incorporate the North District Championship."

Nairn 10 Mile Road Race & Family Fun Run. 
Charity event for Yorkhill Children's Charity & Calum's Cabin
Sunday 7th June 2015

Family fun day for all ages 
Face painting, medals, wrist bands, t shirts 
Entry fee for Fun Run £3. Family of 4 or more £10
Enter on the day 
Nairn Community & Arts Centre 1pm.

Adult 10 mile race - enter on the day.
Come along and support these worthwhile charities

Further information - 01667452208

Nairn County legends game against a supporters team - Saturday 20th June 2 pm - the Riverside

A massive date for your diary this summer  - the Nairn County legends game against a supporters team. 
It will take place on Saturday the 20th of June at the Riverside with a 2 pm kick off.
Mark Holmes has confirmed to Ali Nicol that Mike Rae, Gary Farquhar, Steve Sanderson, David Macdonald, Mike Sanderson, David Kennedy, Ronnie Sharp have all so far agreed to play with Mark still chasing up others. 

If your interested in playing for the supporters team it will be a one off cost of £20 which will go directly to the supporters ground improvement fund.

More on the County fans We Believe  facebook pages. C'mon down to the Riverside on the 20th of June and roll back the years. 

LibDem coup at Highland Council?

It is hardly gripping the public's attention but the Lib Dems have walked out of the tri-party administration that was the ruling group on Highland Council and are trying to form an administration themselves by wooing Independent help. 

A lot of Councillors will be spending a wet weekend on the phones as, no doubt, the SNP will be canvassing some of the Indies as well. After the election in 2012 the formation of the SNP led administration with Labour and LibDem support came as a bit of the shock and locked the Indies out of office for the first time since the Council's formation. Logic would suggest a LibDem and Indy administration by Monday morning but are the Indies cohesive enough to deliver? What will the Labour group do - jump ship with the LibDems or keep them at bargepole distance? Could there be another surprise on the cards? 

The Highlands waits nervously for news? Mmmm perhaps not but maybe we should pay more attention to this low level political intrigue in these times of austerity as the shape and scale of the services we receive from our local Council may change beyond recognition in the coming years.  

Festival Fringe events wanted for the Wooha Festival

The festival will run from September 8th to 13th (the week after the Nairn Book and Arts Festival). The festival directors are looking for anyone that fancies putting on a fringe show. You name it, put it on, match yourself up with a venue and they will promote it for you. There will be a number of core events at the centre of the festival programme and then an opportunity for any local talent to put on shows, displays or exhibitions etc for the festival fringe. Large or small, this is a chance for groups, businesses and individuals to step forward. 

If you have any ideas the Wooha Festival folk want to hear from you. Contact, Janet Reid at the Golf View; Heather MacDonald at the Wooha Brewery; Rosemary Young at Inveran Lodge; Mary Hemsworth at Hemsworth Images; Jonny Ross at the Classroom; Michael Green or Alister Asher at Ashers.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Nairn Youth Alliance sponsored Lego Walk - Co-op car park 2 pm Saturday 30th May

Something completely different: more details here.

"Talkin 'bout a revolution" with Michael Green 1

Graham Kerr of the Westies CC spoke a little about local democracy and the Community Empowerment Bill going through parliament at his organisation’s meeting in Nairn Academy on Tuesday night. He stressed how he supported Nairn’s Highland Council contingent who wished to see Nairn detached from the association with Badenoch and Strathspey that presently exists in the area committe of Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. 

Michael Green then spoke about the model he would like to put forward; namely the “Nairnshire fair share argument”. He said:

“There’s got to be leadership, and it’s got to be councillors and it’s got to be community councillors because between ourselves we are the elected representatives of Nairn. We have got a mandate from the people to take things forward, so it’s up to us to put the shoulder to the wheel and actually do this – because the model for Nairnshire, it’s not just a case of health and social care which we know about: it’s bringing everything, it’s bringing housing, it’s bringing housing, it’s bringing planning, it’s brining economic development, it’s bringing tech services, it’s bringing everything. I’d like to operate it under the fair share model and I spoke about this at the Council and I put this across and the next stage is to take it forward. But the fair share model and if you want to use the health and social care example, you’re never going to reform the Highland Health Board, you’re never going to, it’s never going to change. 

So the only thing you can do is to bypass it and the money comes directly to Nairnshire. We then buy in the services that we can’t provide ourselves and we avoid the tiers of management and administration that swallow up vast amounts of money. So if the money came directly to Nairnshire, avoiding the financial black hole of the Highland Health Board, we could provide services, we wouldn’t have the gridlock [...]”

Michael continued and talked about how a similar model was progressing in Perth and Kinross and how Nairnshire also could become a pilot scheme. He talked of channelling effort into creative energy rather than fighting planning battles He said that “prevention is better than cure and we seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time on cure.”

Liz then spoke briefly. She said: “We had a meeting with the policy, the head of corporate policy. It was about the review of the area committee structures and at that point Michael didn’t mention anything about fair share so. When it went to committee and this came up it was a bit of a surprise. It’s a very ambitious suggestion and it is something that we would all aspire to. I’d also think that if we could drive forward the Nairnshire Partnership and get us all working together in a positive cohesive way that would help deliver on what we want in Nairn.” 

Liz also added that she thought there weren’t resources for the infrastructure in place just now for what Michael was suggesting. Michael disagreed. 

Michael's idea would certainly overturn the tables but it comes at a time when all the elements that make up the Highland Council agree that the present structure doesn't deliver ideal local democracy. Regular readers will know that Colin MacAulay referred to the present council as Regional Government rather than local democracy. It all proves perhaps that it is easier to take something away rather than give it back. Michael's plan seems to this observer as revolutionary in comparison to the deal we get presently - could it find a place in the new radical landscape that is demanding that politics, the machinery of government and local democracy all change for the better? A lot of people have got off their backsides now and want to see things done differently at macro and micro levels. It may be the direction it will all go anyway so at the local level is Michael simply the ahead of the pack? The Gurn decided to find out more about how Michael would envisage his vision being delivered. We spoke to him a couple of days after the Community Councils meeting. He told us:

“There is no point in devolving limited powers or what is on the table just now. The proposal was a partial share of the ward discretionary fund. You can’t work in isolation, which is the real problem. That is the problem for me as an individual and for anyone that is trying to deliver services. For myself, I have to deal with so many different people and I have to drive projects forward across so many...with different departments, it’s almost impossible for an individual to do things. The important part here is, if we get devolved – take for instance planning and housing. All the things I said we would have to get devolved. Well if you’ve got planning, and all this is based on the data, so you have the data, you know what the demographics are. We know that we have a set requirement. If you have your fair share budget we can say ok, we need to build X number of affordable, X number of houses like Corsee over the next ten years. We’ve got a budget to do it let’s do it. “

We mentioned the present planning hierarchy with Highland Planners interpreting Scottish Goverment policy through the likes of the Inner Moray Firth Local Development plan and how it would be possible to break away from that scenario. Michael replied:

“The biggest problem is, they didn’t listen to the locals so you’ve got to change. We’re not going to get new legislation to create new planning guidelines; you have to work within the existing guidelines. The problem is not the legislation; the problem is the interpretation of the legislation. It came down to a crux at Nairn South. They said, the Highland wide, the Inner Moray Firth, all these plans...what was said that we have to represent the views of those that do not consult which are diametrically opposed to those who did. It’s not the legislation it’s the implementation. If you accept the basic premise and I’ll just use housing – planning and economic development and housing, those two and inextricably linked. So we know the requirement, we have to work with planning – that should be the basis from the ground up, not this great Highland wide, Moray Firth and A96 nonsense that is deposited upon us. No! We set the requirement and we use the guidelines and that is accepted as feeding into whatever plans they wish to instruct for the greater Highlands. 

If we have the Nairnshire area that addresses planning because on the fair share budget, we will then say OK we’re not just at the beck and call of the developers; we’re not just there on the back foot; we can invest with infrastructure; we could put in roads with the budget. We’re going to say those houses are for self-build, sold off to local individuals to anybody. We’re going to build some affordable housing, really, really good affordable housing...we’re going to do it with a housing trust, we’re going to do it with the Common Good; we’re going to do it through new structures because we can. As it is at the moment the Common Good can’t be in receipt of any form of assistance because it is actually perceived as the Highland Council because it is under the same control.”

More later from the conversation with Michael Green

Nairn Theatre Director takes new production to Nairn Beach‏

Symon Macintyre, Artistic Director of Edinburgh-based visual theatre company, Vision Mechanics, has a reputation for staging innovative productions in unconventional spaces. This summer, his new production, Drift, takes place on some of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches including in Symon’s home town of Nairn. Drift is supported by Creative Scotland and the Nairn performances have been made possible through the support of Davidson (Nairn) Charitable Trust.

Drift is inspired by the true story of Shetland crofter Betty Mouat, who in January 1886, aged 61, was the only passenger on the coastal cutter Columbine
which left Grutness bound for Lerwick. Shortly after setting sail a storm washed the captain and crew overboard and Miss Mouat was presumed lost at sea. More than a week later the Columbine grounded on Lepsoy in Norway. To everyone’s amazement, Miss Mouat had survived. She returned to Shetland to live in her croft for another 30 years, a folk hero celebrated in her local community.

Drift has been the combined effort of an impressive team of collaborators with libretto & script written by playwright Judith Adams, music by Eddie McGuire, vocals by Gerda Stevenson and visual artists including Kim Bergsagel and rust painter Tony Reason designing and building the Drift installations pieces which depict Betty’s journey at sea.
Symon says “The audience experience Drift wearing individual headphones. Like archaeologists ,they walk through our installation, discovering images and objects which uncover the thoughts and feelings of Betty Mouat, abandoned and drifting alone at sea.”

Drift will take place on Nairn Beach (near the harbour) from 3-5 July inclusive, followed by performances on Scotland’s most northerly beach, Skaw Beach in Unst, Shetland Islands from 10-13 July. The production can then be seen in Aberdeenshire, at St Cyrus Bay from 23-26 July.

The performance lasts 40 minutes. Admits one person every 5 minutes. No pre booking is required and entry is by donation. The production is not suitable for young children.

Drift is a co-production with Nordland Visual Theatre, Stamsund and will tour to Norwegian beaches in summer 2016.

Three trampolines, a multi-gym and other equipment for the Links play area

At the regular meetings of the West and Suburban CCs on Tuesday night in Nairn Academy Cllr Liz MacDonald announced that new equipment was destined for the Links, she explained:

"This is money that was left over from our discretionary budget last year. The four Nairn councillors at the time, when Colin was here, actually as well, we agreed with the steering group from Junior World, from First Steps and from parents that were present – at a stake holders group meeting – that this was equipment that we would be putting in and hopefully it will be in before the summer. So it will be three trampolines, a multi-gym, some springy sit on things, refurbishment of the swings and games panels as well. So this is all new equipment going down...”

Liz was asked by Graham Kerr of West CC: “Is that beside the paddling pool?”

“It’s beside the paddling pool and roundabout it, on the grass areas beside it [...]"

Liz added a little later: “It was an end of the year thing to use up our budget, so we had to make our decision quick so we could buy any equipment and then it will be paid for getting installed this year under the community services budget for new equipment.”  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Festive Forres Football Fixtures no more as Xmas and New Year derbies dumped

They were prone to get hit by the weather but when the Christmas and New Year Derbies between Forres and Nairn took place they certainly captured the holiday spirit and brought a few more punters through the turnstiles. It looks as though the twin towns tussles will take place at other times of the year now as the new Highland League fixture list for 2016 shows. 

The change comes as a surprise to fans and whatever their attitude might be (discussion is ongoing on the We Believe NCFC fan pages) it could be challenging for any fan that might have been fully celebrating Hogmany to get to the Brora v Nairn fixture on 2nd January.  So far there has been some negative comment in connection with the change but it remains to be seen what the majority reaction may be. Forres Mechanics will also be otherwise engaged on 2nd January, they will be playing Wick Academy at home.

A managerial moment during Nairn v Forres Christmas Derby 28/12/13 Picture Donald Matheson

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bandstands of Britain - a book starring Nairn's Wallace Bandstand

A recently published book features an image by local photographer Richard Gerring. The Book by Paul Rabbits is described by the author himself thus: 

"Bandstands of Britain is a historical celebration of one of the best-loved features still found in many of our parks, open spaces, squares and seaside towns. They are a reminder of a forgotten age of outdoor music and theatre, and act as a lingering memory of the class and sophistication that prevailed in the Victorian era. This book venerates the bandstands in Britain, showcasing the elaborate and iconic pieces of Victorian architecture with beautiful full-colour images, accompanied by a potted history of the evolution and decline of the British bandstand."  

Richard tells us that the foreward is particularly interesting and highlights the important role of manufacturers from Scotland in the fabrication and design  of bandstands that were sold across the world. Richard's image captures two moments in one, Nairn Cricket Club are playing at home and in the background inside the bandstand, local wedding photographer Ian Macrae is creating images with a bride and groom. 

Richard's image of Nairn Bandstand that features in the book Bandstands of Britain
Fans of Nairn Bandstand may wish to visit this flickr group page where several photographers have displayed their images of this iconic structure.  

Viking theme - Nairn Sailing Club Open Day - Saturday 6th June

Another day of diversions

There's a bit of work going on up the High Street this morning (27/05/15) that means you can't continue into Leopold Street when coming up from the Brae or in via Gordon Street. 

Meanwhile the ongoing work on the gas mains in Harbour Street means diversions in the Fishertown this morning with warnings of more to come in the image below that was taken at the top of Harbour Street. One of our regular readers reports some drivers looking lost despite the sprinkling of diversion signs. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Contraceptives for seagulls not recommended

Matters turned once again to seagulls at the meetings of the West and Suburban Community Councils earlier tonight in Nairn Academy. Liz announced that she had an update on seagulls, she said to Graham Kerr of the westies:

“You know that you were suggesting at a previous meeting giving them contraceptives. The RSPB don’t recommend that because the wider bird population could access it. In Aberdeenshire they have been doing hawks to try and get rid of their seagulls although the RSPB said they had done that at the wrong time of the year. In 2010 we had a report from Dumfriesshire on removing eggs and that’s still ongoing [...] we haven’t had an update on that yet.” 

Liz went onto see that she thought there was a big responsibility on people to take responsibility and deliver pigeon proofing and seagull proofing on their own individual properties. Liz also had some Council seagull advice leaflets she added: “It’s just about following the advice and not feeding the seagulls.”

On Seagull proofing Liz also added: “One lady who is on a very low income has just spent £40 seagull proofing her council house in Queenspark.”

Michael then said: “The most effective management of the seagull problem is here in the Academy because they have a concerted enforcement action. That involves hawks; that’s monthly visits; it involves the removal of nests, it involves the popping of eggs and over the years we have almost eradicated seagulls from here. [...] What we need to do for the seagulls with the “town team”, which we are forming – come together, we will then have a policy and a plan and, yes, a lot of the individual building holders will have to step up to the mark including the Council. Unless we do it, a concerted overall town plan. It’s a range of actions, as Liz says, it’s stop feeding them; that’s not one’s the use of a hawk; it’s protective measures; it’s the removal of eggs. And if we do displace them somewhere than that is the best, we won’t eradicate them totally, we’ll displace them.”

Liz added: “We’re a seaside town, we are going to have seagulls.”

Monday, May 25, 2015

Nairn Academy Dress code review published but opposition is expressed via online petition

Nairn Academy's Dress Review findings have been published on the School's website.

Nairn Academy states: "Our dress code was in need of review following feedback from the school community (pupils, parents and staff). We have not formally revised the dress code in the last 6/7 years so the timing was right to consider what is going well and what needs to improve? The focus was still very much on having a dress code/uniform which provides a strong identity with the school, promotes a positive work ethic and encourages equality rather than brands/labels." 

The school then goes on to state how the review was carried out. The outcome of the review is given thus:
"S1-S3 blue sweatshirt and poloshirt th black trousers /skirt (or tartan skirt)

S4-S6 shirt/blouse and tartan tie with black trousers/skirt ( or tartan skirt). Plain black jumper,cardigan plus a school black zip top will be available. Some seniors have asked about a blazer. This is optional.

Shirt/tie option is also available to any S1-S3 pupil if they wish. We will also support a period of transition where pupils can wear current dress code items."

The background to the review can be read on this Academy page here. 

There seems to be a degree of opposition to the results and the methodology used however which has led to a petition being created entitled "Ask every pupil how they want the dress code changed" on the site which has attracted over sixty signatures since its launch four days ago. The petition page is here. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Subbies and Westies merger – the omens are good but will River CC ever come to the party?

Last Tuesday night saw a meeting organised by Highland Council to canvass public feeling on the proposed merger between Suburban and West Community Councils. The meeting took place in Nairn Academy. It all went very well with Dick Youngson of Suburban and Rosemary Young of West explaining  how they have effectively worked together so far and how a merger would benefit their respective communities. Those members of the public present also echoed those positive views. 

Rosemary Young mentioned how five years ago Nairn West had been a defunct community council and was resurrected by the current crop of councillors. She said: 

“Nairn West was formed, from the outset it was always my wish and also the wish of my colleagues on the community council that we should form one community council for the town. We did in fact have some early meetings with the three community councils which William Gillfillan chaired very expertly and we came to the conclusion at that point that we weren’t ready for that sort of action. This would in fact still be my ultimate goal but at the present time it seems well in the distance.”

A little later Dick Youngson outlined how local community councils have to work together to deal with some of the issues facing the town and how there was no way that a community council could now work in isolation to what was happening with their neighbours. Dick also would like to see a single council for the town one day, he said:

“We’d dearly love to get Nairn River to work with us but that is not going to happen at the moment, they want to remain as they are but time might change things. In the meantime we will work well and we’ll liaise with Nairn River on everything that happens.”

David Hass, of Highland Council, in the chair, said at the end of the meeting:
“We respect the work that is done here and the efforts that are made. So the message we will be taking back to our report is a very positive message about the request and we will be setting that message out in a report that will go to Council.”

Fergus to seek re-election to Holyrood next year

Fergus with a quick response on twitter to a P&J reporter

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Calling all anglers - Fly Fishing Competition on Saturday 6th June 2015

Press release from the Findhorn, Nairn and Lossie Fisheries Trust:

Catch the biggest fish and catch a fantastic angling prize at the Achagour Fly Fishing Competition on Saturday 6th June 2015. Prizes include fishing for a day on the spectacular waters of the River Findhorn at Glenferness and Logie. Or if you feel you still have room for improvement in your casting technique- win a day’s expert tuition with Ian Gordon- a Speycasting Champion.

The competition is being organised by the Findhorn Nairn and Lossie Fisheries Trust, kindly hosted at the Achagour Trout Fishery. Proceeds from the event will fund the work of the Findhorn Nairn and Lossie Fisheries Trust in conserving and improving river habitats for salmon and sea trout populations, benefiting all native wildlife and plants.

Registration is now open for adult and junior competitors (age 9 to 16), and costs £25 for adults and £5 for juniors. The competition will run between 10am and 4pm with prizes for the biggest fish and biggest bag caught on the day.

Excellent prizes are on offer for the adult competition including a day’s fishing for 2 rods on the River Findhorn at Glenferness and Logie, and on the River Nairn at Nairnside. A day’s casting lessons under Ian Gordon’s expert tuition. The junior competition prize is a gift voucher for £50 for fishing at Achagour Trout fishery and a junior rod donated by the Forres Tackle Shop. We have great raffle prizes ranging from a tour of Benromach Distillery to Highland Military Tattoo tickets.

For those who are new to fly fishing there will be expert coaches on hand to introduce you to the sport and a demonstration of casting techniques.

Places are limited so register early to secure a chance to win an amazing day’s fishing on the Findhorn and the Nairn. 
Bob Laughton, Director of the Findhorn Nairn & Lossie Fisheries Trust said:

“Anglers had a great day out last year- with good catches gaining great rewards. The funds raised from this year’s event will be used for researching the numbers of juvenile fish in the River Nairn. This information will help to assess the health of the fish stocks in the river and thus the health of the river itself.”

To register sign up at the Achagour Trout Fishery or contact the Findhorn Nairn and Lossie Fisheries Trust on 01309 611220. For more information visit the website.

Travellers on Balmakeith Industrial Estate

Tonight a number of vehicles and caravans are parked up on one of the vacant plots at the eastern end of the Balmakeith Industrial Estate. The Gurn understands that Highland Council are aware of their presence. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Will NHS funding for the Nairn Hydrotherapy Pool continue?

The final question at the patients group meeting, held in the Community and Arts Centre on Tuesday night last week was about the Nairn Hydrotherapy pool. Taking questions from the floor were Deborah Jones (Chief Operating Officer, NHS Highland) and JeanPierre Sieczkarek, Area Manager, Inverness West, Inverness East, Nairn & Ardersier, Badenoch & Strathspey.

A representative had been sent by the Hydrotherapy Pool (a facility approaching its thirtieth birthday this November), she said: “ I was sent here to ask you a question, my bosses set up the Nairn Hydrotherapy Pool and they are wondering whether funding for it will be guaranteed by the NHS basically in light of the spending cuts?”

Deborah Jones said: “NHS Highland finished 2014/15 in balance with a small surplus. I’m not conscious that the board has cut any services. We are looking certainly at all services in a critical way in terms of are they delivering the outcomes that we expect them to deliver and are they consistent with the evidence and the needs of the local population. So that’s globally.” She then asked JeanPierre Sieckarek to continue.

He then added: “I suppose that just continuing on the global theme. I suppose that we are looking at everything at the moment. Nothing’s got a guarantee and I probably would include myself in that. There’s no guarantee that we’ll be doing the same thing tomorrow that we were doing yesterday. We’re still looking at working...I know exactly what you are talking about of course and we are still trying to work with your bosses to try and work out just the value of the Hydro Pool and just where that fits within our future plans. That’s the simplest way I can put it because we just think of what are we trying to do there and I don’t breach any confidence but we’ve had several lengthy discussions about what are we trying to get out of that. It’s actually very like the discussion we had over GP contracts: it’s about making and maintaining and making sure we get full quality out of what our agreements are with all our partners. That’s the best answer I can do.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

Rev Steve leaving Nairn this autumn

The Gurn understands from some of our regular unreliable sources that the Rev Steven Manders will be leaving Nairn for an Edinburgh parish in September. We'll have him for a wee while yet but already the plaudits have started out there in Facebook land. 

Class of 62 reunion - tickets now on sale

Saturday, May 16, 2015

“Make our communities stronger and restore our self pride” - Laurie’s motion calling for options on “participative democracy” in the Highlands.

On Thursday Laurie Fraser put a motion to Highland Council which obtained cross party support across the chamber at Glenurquhart Road. This is what he said:

"Following discussions across the chamber and on behalf of the Independent Group, I propose that we amend our motion to as follows: The report of the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy was supported across the chamber and members agreed strongly with its conclusions that we must develop genuine local decision making closer to the communities in the Highlands. Whilst noting the important role of regional government in many other European countries we recognise that these aspirations cannot be met by the Highland Council alone with its current structures. Therefore we call on the Highland Council to continue its leadership in this debate and propose that Highland Council in partnership with community representatives produce a report that sets out a range of viable options for local decision making through stronger local representation and participative democracy in the Highlands. 

I’ll start by saying a little bit of history. In the beginning we had the Burghs and Counties, they in turn occasionally fed into joint council. They were reasonably well respected and had directly elected local member. At that time we all recognised that reform was required. In 1975 the Regions and Districts were create. These councils worked well in delivering local services and setting their own taxes and charges. In the Highlands we had eight district councils and one regional. However in the nineties, Conservative Government decided to set out and reorganise the councils in Scotland. This would have been fine but the priority was to get rid of the monster council Strathclyde and, of course, save money. The communities were an afterthought along with the councillors who served these councils. I was going to have a go at a certain councillor here but the great multi-coloured bird of the Highland Regional Council, which later turned red, met with the then Secretary of State and convinced him only a giant sized council would fit and work for the Highlands; bigger than Wales or Belgium, one size would fit all. 

Laurie speaking to the Highland Council chamber on Thursday
However twenty years later this Council, I believe, is losing its relevance. Not only is but is disconnecting from its communities. It starts by describing itself as a highland government on all its e-mails – not a council of the communities. After twenty years, we’ve lost the Water Board, and then recently the Police and the Fire Board went off to Edinburgh – although sometimes I suspect it is more Glasgow than Edinburgh. Finally, the care of the elderly went to the NHS and if this carries on Education will ultimately go to Edinburgh. I don’t believe there is no longer a requirement for a regional government here in Inverness. Throughout the Highlands the citizens of the local communities are calling for control of their affairs and an end to centralisation. The right to raise and set their own local taxes, to set their own expenditure priorities. The priorities of the east are not the priorities of the west or the priorities of the centre here. We’ve too few councillors to do justice to our local democracy. We’ve area committees stretching from 75 miles, in some cases a 100 miles. For example, the extremities of Nairn to the Drumochter Pass on the A9. In our case it is 8 councillors over 2 wards – a sort of grand area committee of the people. It’s unrealistic for this massive area to be truly served by an area committee and be called true democracy by that very same multi-coloured bird that turned red. 

It’s almost sort of farcical. No matter how you chop and change the structures and agendas of the Council and the Area Committees you just cannot have local democracy. Centralising is failing our communities at every level whether it is roads, harbours, planning, parks, gardens, services or housing – you just have to read your local papers. In some cases, this Council is, in effect, an absentee landlord for the number of properties we have lying about the Highlands. It takes too long to process projects and in most cases assets that the community believe are theirs end up in the central administration pot. This in turn brings resentment from communities and councillors alike. What is the point of spending effort to sell and dispose of property if you can’t reap the rewards of that sale? Now I don’t have the time or the wish to detail many of this Council’s failings due to its centralised agenda but I’m more than willing to give examples later on if required. 

A number of our staff have to drive over long distances – not so much by choice but by necessity to keep their jobs. To a certain extent some are demoralised by the ever changing structures and having to be re-interviewed for their own jobs again and again. They want stability in their lives and to work for a stable local government. Central officials coming and spending a half day, giving instructions and directions, it’s not very fair. We need to take back control of our communities and that is why I’m advocating as a starting point that we need to be going back to 8 District Councils, serving the Highlands as before, funded directly by the Scottish Government without a regional authority. We need to set out what the communities want of its council and basing a council on centralisation and cost should not be a first consideration as it has been in the past. In America, if a community is large enough to form its own council it holds a referendum, opts out of council control and sets up its own council. What could be wrong with a referendum over local council control? We should have nothing to fear from democracy. By giving back councils to the towns and Counties of the Highlands we’ll end centralisation, improve employment locally, make our communities stronger and financially sound and restore our self pride. I therefore propose this motion to the Council and look for support and I’d like to hear from other members. Thank you."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Freedom for Nairnshire! - but what if Inverness gets there first?

Yesterday saw our local Highland Councillors debating their differing views on bringing back some local democracy to Nairn. At that meeting there were also calls for Inverness to get "Independence" from the Highland Council. The Press and Journal had a front page spread on the topic and the paper's editorial said:

"On the day when George Osborne was unveiling more devolved powers for English cities, "independence for Inverness suddenly became a hot topic. 

Councillors want a root and branch review of democratic processes around the Highland Capital, with some believing the clock should be turned back so that it has its own city council. It is an intriguing prospect, because the city has long thought it was treated differently to other parts of Scotland, which were higher up the pecking order.

But simply being part of a Highland-wide authority is itself believe, by some, to have weakened Inverness's position. It is a debate that is worth having in coming months."

And that debate could indeed ignite and capture the hearts and minds of many Invernessians in the months and years ahead. What then for us if a movement for serious change gets up a head of steam in the Highland Capital? Could we even end up thrown in with a "Greater Inverness"? Holyrood elections are only a year away and the Highland Council elections are in 2017. Will we see promises of devolution made to Inverness by the political parities? This observer thinks it might be possible. Change lies ahead and we must be prepared to be ready to agitate for the best deal possible for Nairn. 

Swans at the mouth of the River Nairn - video

This year's class of cygnets had another training session this evening as their parents took them down to the mouth of the river.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Local democracy "the revolution, the real game changer" is in Nairnshire?

Yesterday we reported on a few proposals going forward to be discussed today in the Highland Council chamber. A few crumbs of democracy perhaps to be devolved down to Nairn from the area committee that includes us and Badenoch and Strathspey. The article and details of the proposals here. It was all duly discussed and here is what our local members had to say. 

Liz was the first Councillor from Nairn to speak:

“We also are very keen to take on the participating budgeting and we also considered rather into the future that we extend to the Common Good monies in Nairn. I think we all accept that the boundary we have for our area committee was artificial and that we have got a very distinct area in Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey has also got three distinct communities within its boundaries. So I think we appear to be choosing to go our separate ways focussing on community planning, community partnerships and involving the participation of our communities and other groups that are already working there, for example the District Partnership. So I think if we all go our separate ways I’d just like to say it’s not you it was me.”

Michael was the next Nairnshire councillor to speak:

“That we have started down the road to change is to be welcomed and the merging of the District Partnership with the Nairn component of the area committee is a small step in the right direction. However, if the role of the proposed new Nairn community partnership, as outlined on page 83 (3.3.32) is merely to cover issues of local importance and to encourage community interest and involvement, then this is not an agenda for meaningful reform and we really are missing the point of community empowerment and strengthening local democracy. 

Is the scale of our ambition for local communities is a half share of the ward discretionary fund? Is the end point of our vision a talking shop lacking a remit and fiscal autonomy? No, because the new structures we can create should be able to deliver genuine local autonomy and empowerment. They have to contain at their core two vital components. Firstly, individual communities as represented by their elected councillors, and you are going to love this folks and it’s true because we have very active community councillors in Nairn. Elected community councillors need to be given a clear defined role and a role where they are in control of the administration, commissioning and delivery of local services. Secondly, just as the SNP want full fiscal autonomy from Westminster, then any new structure will have to have control of the entire locality budget. 

So what’s the vision? What’s the plan? As Councillor Kerr said: “we’ve talked about this long enough we need action”. Well a Nairnshire area with complete control of our Health and Social care, housing, education, planning, economic development and roads and transport; i.e. all services. A Nairnshire area with a devolved fair share budget that will deliver services tailored to the needs of our local community. Could you imagine a devolved fair share health budget bypassing the fiscal hopper of the Highland Health Board? Could you imagine the improved outcomes from a health budget delivering cost effective care tailored to meet local needs and priorities? Imagine a budget that would enable health professionals to deliver that holy grail of health care – early intervention. 

So is the commissioning of services from a locally devolved and controlled budget merely a pipe dream? No the fair share principle for all localities is happening in Perth and Kinross with remarkable results. Therefore, drawing inspiration from best practice models elsewhere in Scotland and utilising our own local talent and resources we have been given a remarkable opportunity to radically improve the quality of services we provide to our communities. And finally, as the great and the good from across Scotland depart from Westminster to be followed by the brightest and best to Holyrood next year; I can’t help but think the revolution, the real game changer, in community empowerment, local democracy and service provision is happening not in London, not in Edinburgh, maybe not even in Inverness but it certainly is in Nairnshire.”
Michael Green (bathed in the light of a revolution in local democracy?) speaking in the Glenurquhart Road chamber earlier today - Thursday 14/05/15
Liz responded to Michael’s statement:

“We started up the area committees as a first step to delivering more local democracy in Highland and I think we are all sort of coming to the idea that the shape it is in is not fitting what is required. Michael’s statement there was very ambitious. It would be an aspiration to try and deliver but at the same time, the costs involved in doing it and the administration and the bureaucracy I think would need to be worked out in detail. I think for just now if we can get along and get our community partnerships working together well in the local area. I think one thing we have done with the area committees is through listening to HIE and the Cairngorm Partnership and different agencies that are available, building relationships and getting to know them better and understanding what they do because when the area committees stopped in 2007 a lot of that links were lost and we’ve started to rebuild them. I think perhaps that Michael’s suggestion is a step too far at the moment. I think we need to work towards delivering more local involvement and engagement in a positive way. I can understand the fair share concept. It’s something we hear a lot about in Nairn but the other side to that is that if Nairn is going to be getting more other areas are going to be getting less and its going to take a lot of consultation and agreement across the chamber to deliver that.”

Laurie spoke a little later:

“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. The reality is area committees of four people can only do a limited amount of business and I can’t see you getting budgets down to that sort of level. You can certainly scrutinise at that level but one of the big problems I’ve seen so far is that you bring reports to these area committees and you bring a senior manager. A senior manager cannot answer the detailed questions that we want to ask. I don’t know how you are going to sort it because it seems we’ve only got senior managers left nowadays, no sort of junior in-between ones."

People in Nairn to have their say on Community Council merger

Not the full ménage à trois to give us something that one day might resemble the old District Council perhaps (River CC are still against that) but the Westies and the Subbies hope to live together in happy municipal matrimony after "living in sin" with dual meetings for a while now. Below is a Highland Council press release:

"A consultation meeting will take place on Thursday 21 May at 7pm in Nairn Academy to consider the proposed merger of two Nairn Community Councils.

Nairn Suburban and Nairn West Community Councils have put forward proposals to The Highland Council (the administrating body) to merge the two into one Community Council. 

Work has been ongoing locally by the two Community Councils to progress the merger but this meeting is an opportunity for the community to have their say on the proposals.

Nairn is also represented by Nairn River Community Council which is not involved in this proposal.

Following the consultation meeting, a report will go forward to the next meeting of The Highland Council on 25 June for Members to consider the proposal.

If the merger is approved, the two Community Councils will merge following an election in November, when elections will be held for all Community Councils in Highland."

So citizens of Gurnshire, if any resident of these two areas can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let them speak on May 21st or else thereafter forever hold their piece.

"Sound advice taken by upmarket Nairn hotel after noise warning"

The Clubhouse getting a bit noisy for the neighbours - more on the Highland News site. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

NHS leaders in a Q&A session with Patients Group - appointments at the practice raised again

Last night the Nairn and Ardersier Patients Group held their AGM in the Community and Arts Centre it was followed by a Q&A session with Deborah Jones (Chief Operating Officer, NHS Highland) and JeanPierre Sieczkarek, Area Manager, Inverness West, Inverness East, Nairn & Ardersier, Badenoch & Strathspey. Numbers were perhaps a bit down on what this observer has witnessed at previous meetings organised by the NAPG and its forerunner the Patients Participation Group but that was more than made up for by questions that had been gathered from the group’s facebook page and other sources. 

There was discussion on quite a lot of subjects important to patients in Nairn, including the regular one of appointments, also questions related to physiotherapy, hip replacements, mental health care for young people, day care, the future of the hydrotherapy pool and others. If time permits we hope to have a look at some of the questions and the responses. Tonight we will have a quick look at the discussion on the topic of appointments, this issue just doesn’t seem to want to go away.

One woman attending the meeting said: “There is a situation at the moment with our GPs if you turn up at the clinic at half past eight in the morning you’re going to get appointments. I’ve a brother who has got his own doctor three times to come up there. I think that is wrong, sombody else is sitting at home, needing an appointment, they’re on the phone till nine o’ clock maybe and when they get through the appointments have gone. Should it not be a case of, perhaps, phone calls only until maybe half past nine or ten o’ clock to give everybody a fair chance? There’s somebody sitting at home not able to go or maybe has no transport and somebody gets up there at half past eight. I don’t think it is a fair system.”

Simon Noble, chairing the meeting said this was a point that had been heard before and that he thought that there was recognition that there were a limited number of appointments on the day.

The individual making her point continued: “If you are able to go up you’re maybe not is as much need as someone who is sitting at home, really quite poorly, and needs to see a doctor that day. I think there must be a better way of dealing with this.” 

Deborah Jones then said: “Undoubtedly there has to be a better way. I think we have got to try and get the balance haven’t we? Some people may not have telephones; there may still be some people that don’t have telephones. So we have to try and get the balance haven’t we between availability and timing. A friend of mine is a receptionist in a doctors’ surgery and she says “I sometimes feel like I am the worst person in the world because everybody is pointing the finger saying you aren’t giving me what I want to have and we only have got a certain number of slots for certain categories and she describes having a list of appointments for urgent or routine and then some visiting slots later on in the day. [...] What she is saying is that there are a finite number of slots that she has available as a receptionist to actually provide to patients and that kind of makes sense in terms...if we have a finite number of places, 1,2 ,3 or more then in terms of then being able to meet the needs and demands of the local population there has to be some system. Now in all the years I’ve been working in health I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a system that has ever met the needs of the population. There have been some that have been more efficient and effective than others and clearly this is an issue that has created significant concern for people and is absolutely an issue that needs to be addressed through the practice, by the practice for the practice population.”

JeanPierre Sieczkarek then added:

“When we had our last meeting, many of you were here at the last meeting that we had. We had a similar question about how do we get our points over to GPs and how do we get that system better and I think just so that we can sort of bring that part to some kind of conclusion it’s my job really now to take that back to the practice and start looking at some of the issues that you have raised there. I’m with Deborah on this really, when you listen to it, it’s like “I don’t like the sound of that and we need to sort this out”. We do have an arrangement and it’s a contractual arrangement with the practice and we expect a certain level of quality in that so I’ll take everything back but can I encourage you in the future, as part of our relationship; this is a very good example of what I described last time as a conduit between patients and the practice until we get that part of it all sorted out again. 

The meeting continued - more on the Gurn if time permits.

Also related to appointments at the practice: earlier today a local resident tweeted a complaint that there was now a three day wait for telephone appointments. The Gurn contacted the practice for a comment and we were told by Dr Adrian Baker who clarified the situation regarding telephone appointments:

“Patients can speak to a duty GP or a nurse on the day that they phone up. If they wish to speak to a particular GP or nurse then there may be a wait for a few days as the GP or nurse may not be available. This is because they may have been on call the night before, working on the hospital ward or performing other duties such as clinics or working in A&E.”

First gentle steps in seeing some democracy being returned to Nairn?

A theme running through civic life for many years in Nairn is the democratic deficit that the community suffers after years of centralisation in the direction of Inverness. It makes sense to many that this community has more of a say in its own future. The present situation has lead to much dissatisfaction being expressed to the authorities from the community councils and others even to the extent of citizens taking to the streets to protest about planning decisions implemented on the town. It may be too that the new radicalism abroad in Scotland that enabled the SNP to be the lightening rod for what Michael Forsyth has called a political revolution will also create further ripples locally with more demand for increased self-determination in community affairs. People want more say at all levels of politics now and surely change has to come in Nairn. 

Let’s consider the situation we have presently. Colin MacAulay said recently in debate in the comments section of one of our articles:

“Sadly, we do not have "local" government - the Tories and Labour Governments at Westminster in the 70s and 90s took that away from almost all of Scotland. We have sub-national government - a geography the size of Wales or Belgium.”

Nairn’s situation found itself reflected in the General Election hustings at the Golf View when Nairn Academy Pupil, Finlay Almond asked: “With the Centralisation of Scottish services in Edinburgh and British services in London – how can we trust that Nairn’s voice will be heard on a national scale?” All the seven candidates responded of course but let us consider what our new MP, Drew Hendry, had to say:

"First of all Nairn’s voice is very important. I can tell you I know all about the Big Slide and I know all about the Traffic Lights. So Nairn’s voice does get out there very well. I was part of the commission for strengthening local democracy and as a signatory a co-author to that. That was about how we actually make sure that communities like Nairn can actually participate in their own development, in their own ability to make decisions. It’s not about the gift to communities, it’s about the community itself being able to take control of its own assets and its own decision making and part of that journey is about realising how we transfer powers. Within the Highland Council I’m very pleased that we have reversed the previous situation where area committees were disbanded and actually reinstate area committees so that Nairn could have a local political voice there as well. 

There are two pieces of legislation going throw the Scottish Parliament that I very briefly will tell you about - at the moment the Land Reform Bill and the Community Empowerment Act. These are actual pieces of legislation, for the first time we are legislating to return power to communities across Scotland so that is work in progress just now. But I won’t take any lessons from Danny on centralisation when one of the issues that could have solved the ability for us to actually take more control of issues here is devolution of the Crown Estate. Something that all parties and none across the Highlands and in this constituency have agreed that we should have, yet there has been no movement there and it has been watered down through the Smith Commission to the point where it is almost worthless and it looks to be watered down even further and that is something that could be delivered very, very quickly indeed. So it is important that Nairn’s voice is heard and it is important that Nairn’s voice is heard.”

So what next, are we really on the way to a better deal or will any real attempt at giving back some power to Nairn find itself side tracked as it makes its way through officialdom towards the community? Tomorrow at Glenurquhart Road the Highland Council will discuss a document entitled: “ Up-date on the Review of Area Committees and Local Community Planning Arrangements”. Obviously the forthcoming Community Empowerment Act is focussing their minds.   Here’s a paragraph relevant to our community from the document going to the Council meeting:

Feedback from the conversation with Nairn Members 

Members felt that for Nairn to be a shining example of local democracy, they needed to make sure that: 

• They get positive relationships with the community; 

• Public agencies work together with the community; 

• They lead on projects and push on ideas and strategies – linked to priorities; 

• They scrutinise the process for all public services; 

• They make decisions for things they are elected for; 

• They facilitate the community to deliver for the town; 

• They address inequalities and include the harder to reach communities; and 

• They build trust with community groups. "

And the document goes on to outline some mechanisms the local members would like to see implemented. The first steps on the road to getting real power back to Nairn? The meeting will be webcast should any Gurnites have some spare time tomorrow, this item is well down the agenda though so it may be discussed in the afternoon. More below

To achieve this vision, Members propose:

1. Taking forward participatory budgeting in 2015/16 so that people in Nairn decide how 50% of their ward discretionary budget is spent. The plan is to run a community event in early Autumn 2015 to distribute the funding. Members were open to identifying other potential discretionary funding to be distributed in this way in the future, possibly including the Nairn Common Good Fund. Lessons from the first event will be identified for any future roll out.

2. To no longer have the Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Area Committee, District Partnership and Locality Planning meetings. Instead the governance model proposed would be a local community planning partnership model. Potentially branded as the Nairn Community Partnership it would cover the issues of local importance (i.e. health and social care, transport, economy, town centre regeneration, community safety and possibly arts and culture) along with any other Council business. Meetings of the Nairn Community Partnership would be themed to make workload manageable and to encourage community interest and involvement. Ideally the resource for running the partnership would be shared across the partnership.

In developing this model, Council business would have to be dealt with appropriately with the right governance arrangements in place. This would include being clear on the respective roles of members and of partners during partnership meetings, making sure e.g. that Members know when they alone are responsible for making decisions.

Following the workshop Cllr MacDonald shared the idea of the new model with some of those involved in locality planning and has received positive feedback so far. Conversations are underway with NHSH regarding the potential changes to the District Partnership."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Eilean Dubh Fine Foods Nairn High Street

The premises formerly known as Brown the Butchers takes a new identity.

A site for comparing Nairn with other Scottish Towns (Understanding Scottish Places)

Thanks to Georgina Bower of the Carnegie Trust who sent us a link to the "Understanding Scottish Places" page for Nairn. The page was created last month.

"The Understanding Scottish Places platform was commissioned by the Scottish Government and was launched in April 2015. It offers a mechanism for understanding the similarity of places across Scotland. Deliberately designed to avoid a simplistic ranking of places as better or worse, USP focuses on the shared characteristics of towns."  

Here's Nairn's page - you have to scroll down for a range of statistics and a button you can click to compare Nairn with other towns.

Mike Vass's album "In The Wake Of Neil Gunn" is being streamed live today on the Scottish Album of the year site

Unroofed records very kindly tweeted us with the info. This observer is listening right now and enjoying the music very much. 

"The Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award is a prestigious and exciting arts prize developed by the Scottish Music Industry Association to celebrate, promote and reward the most outstanding albums released by Scottish artists between (for this year only) January 2014 and March 2015. Inaugurated in partnership with Creative Scotland, The SAY Award promotes a longlist of twenty albums which, in turn, is reduced to a shortlist of ten in advance of the award ceremony when the winner is announced."

Best wishes to Mike Vass as the award progresses - Gurnites can listen here

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Housing on Sandown - should we follow the Helmsdale and District Development Trust example?

At some point in the future there will be housing development on Sandown. As the land is owned by the Common Good fund this observer imagines that this would potentially make it easier to enable public housing to be built there. Wouldn't it be nice if the community had more say in how that housing was shaped and what happened to that housing when built? Nairn Common Good owns the land so why can't it own any houses that get built? 

"Community owned projects are helping increase the number of affordable homes in the Highlands. Helmsdale & District Development Trust (HDDT) is spearheading a new community led housing development having built four new homes in the Highland village of Helmsdale, backed by £110,000 of Scottish Government investment. Local people have also been heavily involved in shaping plans within the development, as well as the overall priorities the Trust has for the area.

During her visit to Helmsdale, the Housing Minister Margaret Burgess met with one of the new tenants Mrs Amy Withey at the Rockview Place project. Mrs Burgess said “Housing is at the heart of this Government’s ambition to create a fairer and more prosperous country. In the Highlands, Helmsdale and District Development Trust is an excellent example of housing development led by the community for the community. It is great to see not just homes being built, but a wider community being invigorated too."

Only four homes but a great boost for Helmsdale. The potential surely exists for us to do something on a bigger scale in Nairn on the Sandown Lands that can benefit those in Nairn who are in need of housing? 

The article goes on: 

"Ruth Whittaker, Chairperson of HDDT, commented: “We are delighted and honoured to welcome Mrs Burgess here today, to perform the official opening ceremony of the Helmsdale & District Community Owned Housing Project. Although the homes were actually completed in perfect time for local families to move in just before Christmas 2014, we see the Minister’s visit as an acknowledgement of this community’s tenacity in addressing its housing needs.

“It is significant that our success with this innovative project is now inspiring similar community groups to emulate our pioneering delivery model.”  "

Now wouldn't it be amazing to see Laurie out on Sandown  one day wearing the municipal bling welcoming the Housing Minister to perform a similar opening in front of a brand new scheme of  20, 30, 40 or as many houses as we had the vision and drive to achieve? An impossible dream? If they can do it in Helmsdale why not here? As well as The Scottish Government, HIE were involved along with a bank who provided finance. More here.

I'm sure there are many, many people in Nairn who would love to see similar happen. Could NICE and other local bodies such as the community councils get together and step forward? Would the Scottish Government also offer backing to Nairn? Most importantly, would the Highland Council be prepared to offer real support and assistance given the crucial role that it plays in its control of Nairn's Common Good Fund?  As "local people have also been heavily involved in shaping plans within the development" in Helmsdale can we have some of that here too please?

A walk in the sun beside the A96 - ducking the traffic

Thanks to our regular reader Wanda for these pictures. Spring again and the first ducklings are appearing. Wanda told us: 

"A mother duck takes her new family for a walk along the A96 - pleased to say she successfully guided them all into the river below the bridge - although they needed some help in climbing over the high kerb!"

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Decision to remove Big Slide and brae "taken by council officers in good faith"

Late Thursday morning the Gurn received an answer to a Freedom of Information request concerning the big slide. As everyone's minds were occupied with election affairs we thought we would wait until this morning before posting. To read click on each image to enlarge. 

Friday, May 08, 2015

SNP candidate Stephen Fuller has been elected as Nairn Ward Member on Highland Council

The by-election for a councillor to serve the Nairn Ward (No 19) on The Highland Council has been won by Stephen Kenneth Fuller - Scottish National Party (SNP).

Stephen Fuller was one of six candidates, who contested the vacancy, created by former Councillor Colin Macaulay stepping down in March.

The other Ward members are Councillors Laurie Fraser (Independent), Michael Green (Independent) and Liz MacDonald (SNP). Voting was by the single transferable vote and Stephen Fuller emerged as the winner at the 4th stage of the count.

The turnout was 71.44% there were 6601 valid papers and 149 rejected papers. The other candidates were: Ritchie Cunningham - Scottish Liberal Democrats, 2406 votes. Stephen Kenneth Fuller - Scottish National Party (SNP), 3135 votes. Chris Johnson - Scottish Labour Party, 455 votes. Mairi MacGregor, 893 votes. Paul Carlo McIvor - Independent, 1440 votes

Stephen has a wee blether with former Councillor Colin Macaulay

Stephen being interviewed by the Press and Journal

Drew Hendry our new MP - but more later as the Council byelection count commences in the Nairn Community and Arts Centre at

There's the Highland Council byelection - Nairn (ward 19) boxes in Dingwall

And later they will be on their way back to Nairn for the count starting at 2 p.m. in the Community and Arts Centre

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Gurn exclusive: "polling station signs are printed by a company set up by a Nairn ex-pat in 1750"

Thanks to Jane Falconer for the link:

"The UK’s main supplier of printed election paraphernalia is Shaw & Sons, established in the City of London in 1750 by Henry Shaw, a native of Nairn. The majority of the Polling Station signs you see today as you cast your vote at a local school, town hall or perhaps even the St Bride Foundation (we are a City of London Polling Station today) were almost certainly printed by the company at their works in Crayford, Kent." More here.

"Highland Council chief to be paid £9,000 extra to oversee election"

More on the Highland News site in an article by Donna MacAllister.

Albyn Housing Society Ltd are taking possession of eighteen new homes at Lochloy later today

Highland Council taking possession of six hooses too. Details and images on the KLM Partnership Facebook page. 

Sunshine greets the steady stream of early bird voters in Nairn - pictures

Business started brisk at the Seaman's Hall polling station this morning as a steady stream of voters appeared just as the doors opened at 7a.m.

A fresh morning but a sunny one in Nairn as the General Election polling booths open

One voter stops off on the way home from work

Another pair of early bird voters
This pair were in no rush to head over to the polling station however