We have been meaning for some time to catch up with Michael Green to get down to the specifics of how he feels local democracy could be restored quickly to Nairnshire. He told us earlier today:
“These are austere times and we are facing more cuts. The current set up does not deliver on any of the services. The top down centralised approach does not work and we need localism from the bottom up.
He referred to current Community Empowerment proposals going through the Scottish Parliament and quoted the theme from a 2009 Scottish Goverment Community Power Action Plan:
‘Community Empowerment is a process where people work together to make change happen in their communities by having more power and influence over what matter to them.’ Michael is convinced that that can happen through the existing powers available to Highland Council via a restored Nairnshire area committee with input from the town’s community councillors plus the four Highland Councillors.
Michael complains that Nairn doesn't get its fair share and to give an example he bemoans the largesse that other communities seem to receive from the powers that be an mentions the Forres area Community Trust that secured £175,000 in 2011 to employ two full time development officers. Michael subscribes to the theory that the present 32 council arrangement in Scotland was set up for ideological reasons and finds himself in agreement with those that feel that this was the time that Scotland moved from local government to more remote regional government. He feels that the momentum is there for change and that somewhere down the line there will be a new set up and he wants to see a new Nairnshire Area that will lead the way using existing structures and resources to create the new structures that can take our community forward and release the positive energies of people - energies that are presently so often taken up fighting a rear guard action against initiatives that are imposed on Nairn.
He says that the current area committee of Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey is too large and has no powers. He told us that Nairn needs a devolved fair share locality budget. He aligns his thinking with that of the likes of Lesley Riddoch who is keen to see the Nordic model of local government introduced to Scotland where the administrative units have populations of around 14,000. To Michael Nairnshire with Cawdor returned or Ardersier added on or both would constitute a workable unit of local government with control of planning, development and housing as well as roads and health and social care.
That is the vision and Michael thinks the new minority Independent administration will be able to deliver a package for Nairnshire at a time where he sees community empowerment legislation coming down that tracks that is telling councils to get on with it and create new structures anyway. He has faith in Margeret Davidson the new leader of the Council and her commitment to localism; new area structures with better delivery of services and decision making powers. There would also be a review of the partnership agreement with NHS Highland and renewed emphasis on moving the balance of care into the community. (more on this in another article when time permits).
He believes opportunity also presents itself with an enlightened Chief Executive Steve Barron who Michael says has challenged councillors to come up with new structures and who knows that there is no “one size fits all” and will support a viable model that delivers enhanced value for money and better services.
Michael says that he will be going round the Community Councils (including Cawdor and Ardersier), starting with River CC tomorrow night (Wendesday), getting their feedback and answering questions they may have. He will also go to the Rotary and the Association of Nairn Businesses, the CAB and other groups and organisations that need to be part of the new structure he envisages for the Nairnshire Area.
He returned to a quote from a speech he made in the Council chamber recently:
“As the Great and the Good from across Scotland depart for Westminster, to be followed by the Brightest and the Best to Holyrood next year, I can’t help but think the Revolutions, the Real Game Changer in Community Provision is happening not in London, not in Edinburgh, and maybe not even in Inverness, but in Nairnshire.
Michael finished with an appeal to the Community:
“There is a lot to do over the coming months and I want the people of Nairn to engage as they did during the referendum and lets all work together to get the Nairn and Nairnshire that we all want.”