Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Nairnshire Editorial “Cracks in the edifice”

Iain Bain contemplates the future of Highland Council in the light of recent comment by Dave Thomson MSP and Iain Blackford MP. They have ideas about replacing Highland Council with something smaller and although Iain doesn’t agree with their suggestions he believes this represents a crack in the edifice of “political thinking that for a couple of decades or more has been centralist in its objective.” 

Recently too we had SNP Councilor Richard Laird in a spot of bother with his group leader on the council. The Inverness Courier stated:

“THE leader of the SNP in Highland Council has distanced herself from  comments made by her deputy in which he called for the abolition of the authority and the creation of a new body for Inverness.

Councillor Richard Laird, seen as a rising star in nationalist circles, is currently bidding to become a list MSP. The Inverness Central councillor, who has been endorsed by MP Drew Hendry in his bid to become an MSP, believes the creation of a new Inverness city council would help the Highland Capital.

He wants to replace Highland Council with nine other smaller councils, one each for Caithness, Sutherland, Ross & Cromarty, Skye & Lochalsh, Badenoch & Strathspey, Lochaber, Nairnshire, Rural Inverness, and the city.”

That is a prospect that most in Nairn would welcome and many will be hoping that the young Councillor’s views find the ascendancy in coming years. Here we are promised a pathfinder area committee from the ruling Independent group. Regular readers may remember this has been one of Cllr Michael Green’s main policies for some time – previous Gurn article here. Whether this new committee will have enough powers or resources and just how (if at all) it will allow wider community involvement remains to be seen. And as the Highland Council itself tries to gather the nerve to face the oncoming convulsions that traumatic cuts to budgets might cause then observers could be forgiven for thinking that good intentions may be buried by the pressure of unforeseen events that the cuts will precipitate. 

We are moving into the realms of the Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment Act though and this is something that our community councils and the like of NICE and Nairn River Enterprise and others will be looking at. Can this legislation perhaps be used to create devices to bring power back to the community? Will the act provide mechanisms  to allow the Community to develop initiatives that will offer genuine empowerment? The Act doesn’t involve development planning though so it offers no help there in allowing Nairn to decided its own future in terms of where new housing development takes place and the type and density of such development. Most people in Nairn are not against more development but not at the scale and nature that Highland Council planners wish to see and there are serious questions about the local sewage infrastructure's ability to absorb it anyway. Just who will give powers back to communities when it comes to planning?

Iain asks: “At some stage, somebody was going to question the nature of local government and this is it. Are we at the highwater mark of the centralisation process? Is the tide turning? “

He also raises a warning: “We do hark back to the days of yore but those days actually cannot be repeated. There is a lot to be considered and changes should not be a matter of short term advantage.”

Perhaps the biggest question the editor of the Nairnshire asks this week is: “How do we put the community back into local politics.”

Are the times a changing? Will Nairn soon be able to define it’s own future, or will it be more of the same from a diminished but still centralised Inverness based authority? Get yourself a cup of tea and have a read of Iain Bain’s editorial if you have a spare moment this week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Important that we get proper local government back. All Nairn's Councillors support that. The local committees are welcome. Still hard to accept the Tories and LibDems got rid of them. But they will never have the autonomy and independence that places like Nairn need.