Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hole lot of trouble on the A96 through Nairn

The dip in the road by the Rosebank School just kept getting bigger and bigger and now it has turned into a hole. Yesterday it was quite efficiently made safe by the installation of a temporary traffic light and barriers. This morning a squad of contractors have turned up so perhaps the additional hold-ups will soon be resolved. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

The week ahead - an important meeting in Cawdor Tuesday evening.

Tuesday night is a big night for meetings in Nairnshire. Cawdor CC will be holding an emergency meeting to discuss the effect the 18 tonne limit on the White Bridge will have on the local community. There will be an impact on Nairn as the heavy traffic that takes the unofficial Nairn bypass through the village will have to go via the A96 once the restriction is in place. Perhaps some of the usual suspects might make their way up to Cawdor Community Centre tomorrow night at 7.30 pm. 

Also on on Tuesday are meetings of the West CC and Suburban CC in Nairn. Not the change of venue to the Community and Arts Centre, starting at 7.30 p.m.

Thursday sees a Scam Awareness event in Nairn which Gurnites might find interesting. 

Slides and slopes - a different attitude elsewhere

A picture above from Dave Shillabeer. He tells the Gurn: 

"Popped down to Cummingston yesterday to take a few snaps when I noticed this in the children's play park. No health and safety issues here. Just different attitudes by different local authorities."

This observer still regularly hears people complaining about the removal of the big slide. The feeling that this was a massive "fail" from our councillors still persists.

Call for Alton Burn flood risk management plan

Nairn Suburban Community Council have written to the Flood Team at Highland Council’s Development and Infrastructure unit backing calls for a flood risk management plan on the Alton Burn from the railway line to Altonburn Road. The plan would involve all private owners/occupiers and Highland Council. 

The Subbies cite a recent event where a blockage was cause by children from Tradespark and Cranloch who made a dam with logs and branches. In a letter they say that one resident has spent a lot of time building up and stabilising one part of the west bank of the burn but that children have continually dislodged boulders and stones on the bank to create stepping stones. 

The Subbies continue in their correspondence:

“Upstream of the Muircote Road pedestrian bridge a lot of rubbish from gardens and bags of household waste does end up in the burn and causes blockages under the bridge. Our local TEC Services team quickly clears the blockages if local householders cannot deal with it.”

The CC states that this sort of waste has ended up in gardens of properties downstream and has led to culprits who have left identifying information in the rubbish being interviewed and warned by the police.

The Alton Burn - looking upstream from the Muircote Road Pedestrian Bridge

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Now you can put more items in the blue bin.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Driver said to have verbally abused children sought by police

Nairn River Enterpise: "That smacks of the kind of gossip that went around about us..."

As we stated in a recent article Nairn River Community Council’s Nairn River Enterprise off-shoot (a social enterprise venture) has been in the doldrums since a 12.5K ceiling  on any Community Challenge bids to take over the grass cutting was thrown at them from Highland Council. Article here. Nairn River Enterprise was allocated £10,000 from the Highland Council’s Deprived Area Fund in October of 2014 and so far they have spent £5,000 in contracting a consultant following their main aim of taking over the grass cutting in their area. 

They formed a sub-committee that enjoyed the membership of three of the town’s Highland Councillors (Laurie, Liz and Colin) plus other citizens and initially things went forward in a very positive atmosphere. At the time this observer imagined that with three local members on board, who facilitated a cash injection from the Deprived Area Fund, the River Community Councillors would see Highland Council come to invent a vehicle to transfer the town’s grass cutting back to local control, in a sort of fast-track community empowerment pathfinder mission – an extremely naive reading of the runes given what has or perhaps what hasn't happened since then. 

Further details of the current position of Nairn River Enterprise were given in the AGM report. Gurnites can read that from page three of this document here. 

At the regular meeting of River CC, immediately following their AGM on Wednesday the 17th of this month there was considerable discussion about the ongoing prospects for Nairn River Enterprise. Also present was Highland Councillor Michael Green and he was highly critical of the Community Council’s becalmed social enterprise set-up. He said:

“I feel reservations about this because it seems to be a sort of scatter-gun approach and it seemed to be focussing on doing the grass cutting cheaper than the Council. Maybe that was the primary objective but that was what seemed to be coming back is that you would provide services cheaper than the Council. [...] I never actually saw the sustainability, I never saw the social benefits of these things. There may be other things about recycling in other areas that you have alluded to but the focus about the money as far as I can see that has been spent on has been exploring the possibility of doing a service cheaper than the Council.[...]

My real concern with this is taking money from the Deprived Area Fund, we know that it is one in four children in Nairn that are in poverty. So that money could have been used...I would have preferably seen it gone to the Citizens Advice. [...] What I would have said, this is the way I would have approached this. If there was a body of work to be done and it is only now that we have employed a consultant we’re finding out this cap of twelve and a half thousand. Now I don’t know with thirty meetings, I don’t know what actually has been generated or what has actually come back out of these thirty odd meetings and everything else that has gone on but if I had been addressing it; if I had been in charge of it, I would have carried out.

There’s a body of work that needs to be done here and I and I would have done that before I went and got consultants in; because I would have done that myself and then I would have given them a specific brief. Having teased out however from the Highland Council to say well this is it, the total revenue available, this is what is achievable if we go down the grass cutting route. 

So that’s my concern I think that we engage the consultants that I would take in as an absolute last resort only where you can’t provide the expertise yourself. If you can’t do it yourself and somebody has got specific skills I would get them. Other than that I would do the work as I do with my own projects myself.”

Simon Noble of River CC responded:

“Thank you, well that’s fine, I think that’s your opinion but I think you are misinformed on a number of things. In terms of cheaper, it was never the intention to be cheaper. That smacks of the kind of gossip that went around about us setting out to put Highland Council employees out of work. Neither of those things were ever in any part of our objectives; either as the community council or as things transpired in terms of the project...”

Tommy Hogg, chair of River CC then interjected: “Actually it’s the story that’s still going around Simon.”

Simon continued: “Well it is the story that is being promulgated by comments such as those that Michael has made because we have never, ever said anything about putting people out of work.”

Tommy added: “I know that, you know that.”

Simon again: “Exactly, we know that is not the case and the report spells that out again and each time we have had a community council meeting we have spelt it out. So if people choose to continue to spread that about then they have other interests in their mind rather than listening to what is being said. [...] It’s easy to take shots at consultants and it’s easy to talk about how you would have done things yourself. Michael, you are a comfortably off man, you run your own business, you have time spare to be able to do that. But members of the community council are honest engines who either don’t have the expertise or don’t have the time to do all this work. 

When you go to Highland Council and invite them to make an award you don’t actually put their arm up their back and you are very clear, as we were with them, that what we were intending to do with the funding was to employ someone who would do the work that we did not have either the capacity or the expertise to do. That’s what we have done.”

Tommy again: “That was stated at the very first meeting we had, we had got the actual project here to carry it forward and we needed help in getting it set up and running and we were assured that we would get all the help necessary, no problem, and that was one meeting, I think it was January and the last we heard was last month and that’s the first communication we had from them in nearly six months.”

Simon continued: “There are a couple of things you could say about why it has taken Highland Council so long to come up with the answers that they did. One of them might reasonably be that Highland Council is so thinly stretched because they have so few managers able to spend time on work such as this that that is why they never got to the point of informing us but my question would be, if that’s the case: how is a local council going to be able to overcome that difficulty?

The other point being made was about lots of meetings. Well, again it’s a very easy thing to say what’s happened, what’s all this meetings and so on. Michael I’m sure you’ve been to twenty meetings in the last ten days, never mind our consultant together with other members of the community council going to this number...23 odd meetings [...] over a period of nine months. It’s easy to throw these stones but actually they don’t hold water.” 

The discussion on this topic continued and River CC decided to hold a workshop as soon as possible to decide their next steps with their problematic social enterprise progeny. They may seek to pursue their other aims of creating local employment through recycling initiatives and "riverside regeneration". 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Kingsteps gate access case legal costs to date £23,297.77

Back in January the Highland Council abandoned their case against Alexander Brodie in the Court of Session over the Kingsteps gate access row. The council stated that there were more cost effective options open to them - more details here. 

Highland Council did indeed opt for another route and achieved success recently in the Sheriff Court. 

Murd Dunbar has been following the case(s) with interest as he was of the opinion that there was a moral connection here with the access issue he has been campaigning for some years on at the Firhall Bridge. Murd believes that if the Council were prepared to go to court to obtain access for cars to the Kingsteps car park then they should have been equally proactive in securing imporved access to the Firhall Bridge by providing a ramp to the bridge. With that in mind he has been trying to find out for some time the cost to the public purse of the Kingsteps Court action. Today he received a reply from Highland Council which stated:

"The total cost of the legal expenses incurred for the Kingsteps, Nairn to date is £23,297.77."

Murd told us: "It is a pity that a compromise couldn't have been reached that might have saved a lot of money. Then they would have had a spare £8,000 for the survey on the Firhall Bridge to go ahead which would have enabled the army to install the ramp."

Flashback to December 2012 and Alexander Brodie installs the gate at Kingsteps

Scams awareness month coming up - National Campaign Launch in Nairn


A national campaign is to launch in Nairn. Scams Awareness Month will run from July 2nd, kicking-off with an event on Nairn High Street that day. 

The Scotland-wide drive will see consumers reminded that scams ‘come in all shapes and sizes’ and affect everybody. Nairn has been chosen by Citizens Advice Scotland for the launch due to its outstanding past campaigning record in this and other areas.

Campaigning materials will encourage the public to ‘End the call, trash the email, rip-up the letter and close the door.’ Further, those who suspect scams are being asked to spread the word, with the hope of protecting others.

Nairn Citizens Advice Bureau manager Gill MacLean said: “People who have been scammed shouldn’t be ashamed. Many scams are extremely clever, and scammers convincing. They hit everyone, from teenagers online to pensioners at the doorstep. Scammers don’t care about feelings, and that’s why we’re sending out a clear message: hit the ‘end call’ button, bin the email and the letter, close the door.”

From 11am until 3pm at Academical Square, CAB staff and volunteers, Trading Standards representatives and Police Scotland will be available to chat over free coffee, tea and cakes. At 11.30 and 1.30, short talks will be given on topics including the history of scams and how trading standards deal with scammers. 

Gordon Robb, Trading Standards Manager at Highland Council said “We are delighted once again to be supporting Scams Awareness Month, in partnership with local Citizens Advice Bureaux. The launch event in Nairn on July 2nd is the first of a number of events to be held across Highland, during the month of July, to raise awareness of scams and how to prevent them.’

Gill MacLean continued: “We hope it’ll be a relaxed, informal affair but with interesting and serious messages. We also want the public to know that Nairn CAB can help with this type of thing, as can the Citizens Advice consumer service line [03454 04 05 06]. Scams can also be reported to Action Fraud [0300 123 2040].’

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Community Council meetings 30th June change of venue

The West and Suburban Community Council meetings due to be held in Nairn Academy on Tuesday 30th June will now take place in the Community and Arts centre. The meetings will begin at 7.30 p.m.

White Bridge weight limit " unlikely to impact on this summer’s tourism season traffic"

From a Highland Council press release:

"The Highland Council is to consult the public on its intention to introduce an 18 Tonne maximum gross weight restriction at White Bridge on the B9090 Loch Flemington – Clephanton – Cawdor – Nairn Road.

White Bridge, spanning the River Nairn, is one the oldest bridges maintained by the Council and is a ‘Category A’ Listed structure. It has a humped vertical alignment and carries single file traffic in both directions, subject to traffic control signals.

The weight restriction is required following the recommendation contained within a recent structural assessment of the bridge.

The bridge’s condition is deteriorating and until the Council is able to identify, and be in a position to allocate significant amounts of funding required for repair, the bridge needs to be protected. At the same time, the bridge requires to be available to most traffic normally using this route.

The introduction of an 18 Tonne maximum gross weight restriction will minimise the number of heavy axle load vehicles crossing the bridge, regardless of whether or not they are laden. The only exemption will be for emergency service vehicles attending an emergency.

In order to affect the weight restriction a formal process is followed which includes public consultation on the impact of the proposed weight restriction and alternative routes for vehicles affected.

It is anticipated that the consultation and traffic restriction order process will take some months and is therefore unlikely to impact on this summer’s tourism season traffic.

The Council is also currently reviewing alternative bridging locations of the river adjacent to the White Bridge which includes identifying the necessary funding for a replacement bridge.

The Council will publicise details on any public consultations in due course."

Gurn thought for the evening. Where will an organisation that has to make cuts totalling £46 million over the next four years find around the money to repair the White Bridge or build a new bridge alongside it (a figure of £2 million has been suggested for that)?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

All points of the compass will come to Nairn for the World Orienteering Championships on 1st August - picture

This year Keeping Nairnshire Colourful has made a design of an orienteering compass, and in collaboration with TEC Services this was planted up in carpet bedding on the circular bed near the putting green and crazy golf at the Leisure Park . 

This themed flowerbed, together with 18 hanging baskets which are to be installed along Marine Road, are part of a KNC-organised scheme to make Nairn look attractive for the World Orienteering Championships opening at the Links on 1 August. The Nairn Ward Discretionary Fund and local businesses Wetherby House B&B, The Sunny Brae Hotel, The Braeval, Robertson & Bailey Interiors, Havelock House Hotel and Howdens Joinery have all contributed to funding this special floral display.

White Bridge proposed 18 tonne weight limit crisis meeting Tues 30th June 7.30 p.m, Cawdor Community Centre

Cawdor and West Nairnshire Community Council have organised an emergency meeting to discuss the threat that Highland Council's proposed 18 tonne weight restriction on the White Bridge will pose to the rural community. Details in the poster below

The B9090 route from Gollanfield to Auldearn via Cawdor has long been the unofficial Nairn bypass route for many large vehicles. Obviously there will be a serious impact on Nairn too as vehicles go back to the A96 or seek to access the trunk road via Nairn instead of the White Bridge. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday night miscellancy

An interesting front page splash in the Nairnshire tonight. Like a bolt out of the blue Highland Council are going to impose an 18 tonne limit on the White Bridge, a Cawdor transport lifeline, from mid-july. Anyone that knows that road will appreciate what that will probably mean for lorries, farm vehicles and coaches that regularly use the B9090. Get yourself a copy of the Nairnshire Telegraph and catch up with the latest. 

We took a few pictures of the first competitors coming in on the Nairnshire Challenge yesterday but gave up as things got wetter and wetter – a few images here. 

Murd Dunbar has been picking a riverside path grass cutting bone or two with a Highland Council official. He is particularly concerned about  getting both sides of the path cut down from corner of the former Millford Hotel site to the main riverside paths (for some reason only one side has been attended to up to now), this is a major thoroughfare for walkers coming out of Queenspark. Murd is concerned that there has been insufficient maintenance of the reconstructed path over and above the grass cutting, he told us: “it was a path that was reconstructed to a D.D.A standard of 1.500m and now reduced to less than 500mm.”
The state of the Millford Path up from the Riverside, causing concern to Queenspark Resident Murd Dunbar
Echoing a sentiment made by Michael Green at a community council meeting recently Murd says: “ our money should all support a viable model that delivers enhanced value for money and better services.” Murd would like to see improvements to the riverside path cutting regime. We have asked the official dealing with Murd’s observations for comment. 

Meanwhile the thermometer drops below 10C again on another midsummer day – and an aurora alert is promising too but you’d have to get above the cloud cover tonight to get a look at the Northern Lights if they turn up.

Update: Tues 18.00. Murd is delighted the path has been sorted. 

Armed Forces Week starts in Nairn with a ceremony at the Legion - pictures Murray MacRae

Individual images here. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Nairn County Legends v Supporters - action from the Riverside yesterday - pictures Donald Matheson and Kenny MacLeod

The game between the Wee County legends  and the supporters down at the Riverside yesterday and the quiz afterwards in Uncle Bob's raised £1295 for charity. The Gurn understands that it could become an annual event too.

Donald Matheson's individual images here.  

Kenny MacLeod's individual images here.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Nairn Councillor calls for Council Tax to rise

Another day and another article in the Press and Journal about the depressing financial problems at Highland Council. Nairn member Michael Green is mentioned in dispatches:

"Nairn member Michael Green said: “Seven years on, we must increase it. If the Scottish Government cares about maintaining services, this is the most obvious way.” "

Saturday morning thought: What will Nairn's "fair share" of the Highland Council Cuts apocalypse look like?

Recently we have featured Michael Green's optimism that Nairn could more or less break away under a beefed up Nairn Area Committee set-up and enjoy its fair share of local government funding. Article here and more in this article about Wednesday night's River CC meeting.  Michael's initiative and aspiration will be very popular with many gurnites. 

Fast forward to yesterday however and a Press and Journal Article and any aspirations we might have as a community of getting a better deal from Glenurquhart Road have to be seen in the bleak midsummer crisis light of the cuts express special hurtling down the tracks: "Highland Council facing “massive cuts” as budget deficit trebles".

"The crisis could lead to jobs being axed and education services being put in the firing line after the level of savings needed from 2016-19 rocketed from £13.3million to £46.3million.

The biggest challenge is next year – when more than £21million of savings need to be found."

And here's what one of the new Independent ruling group chairs had to say to the Courier:

 "We are going to have to look at everything," he said. "Things that were sacrosanct will no longer be. Everything is going to have to come into the picture." More here. 

We might get our fair share of cuts and more. Maybe we will get the chance to participate in a renewed local democracy but will it be amidst the smouldering ruins of what we once took for granted - and you have to remember that a lot has already left Nairn in the direction of Inverness over the past 20-30 years.

Friday, June 19, 2015

NHS Highland to end Nairn Hydrotherapy Pool contract

NHS Highland has decided not to renew its contract with the Nairn Hydrotherapy pool and has instructed the Nairn Healthcare Group to stop referrals for patients from 01 July this year.

Funding for this project is not being withdrawn, but reinvested in exercise and pool access within the Nairn area. This reinvestment will increase the opportunities for a wider group of patients to access the benefits of such treatments. 

The decision comes after nearly three years of discussions between NHS Highland and the Nairn Hydrotherapy Pool Trust to agree a revised contract from 01 April 2015, however no agreement has been reached: NHS Highland had requested that the Hydropool broadened its activity protecting it from a reliance on NHS funding.

All periods of therapy that have already been requested by the Nairn Healthcare Group will be honoured until 31 October this year, allowing sufficient time for the Trust to ensure all sessions are completed.

NHS Highland area manager (south) Jean Pierre Sieczkarek said: “The decision to bring our contract to an end with the Nairn Hydrotherapy Pool is based on the need to utilise the financial resources connected with the Pool in a fairer way, allowing increased access for a larger group of patients to exercise and have water-based therapy.

“There is a small number of patient groups accessing the Hydrotherapy Pool, and upon reviewing this, we would like to encourage a wider access to therapies.

“We are in negotiation with High Life Highland to look at alternative wellbeing activity.”

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lively stuff at the River CC AGM Wednesday night.

There was a good turnout at the River CC AGM in the URC hall last night. Good to see some younger people too and by that this observer means those below the 45-50 range. There were also two people there that looked definitely below 30 years of age to this observer. With this renewed interest perhaps we will see a crowded ballot paper for the Community Council elections this November? Mabye some citizens energised into politics by the referendum last year (YES and NO folk alike) might put themselves forward for election.

Should the drift towards localism signalled by the Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill get some serious wind in its sails then a fair amount of gravitas could attach itself to these august but, presently, basically powerless organisations. Well, powerless but if you have something you wish to bring to the attention of the wider world then the Community Council is a good place to head to. So it was last night, for example, with yet another Lochloy resident turning up with road adoption and amenity area grass cutting problems.

Anyway the Chair, Treasurer and Secretary are all back in but the later, Stephanie Whittaker, has signalled that she will be standing down in November. We would urge all gurnites to read the report she prepared and delivered to the meeting last night – there’s too much in there to be selective and it outlines all the work and issues that the River Community Council have been involved in in the last year. These folk that give up their time for free have been busy on our behalf. Copy of the report here.

Chair Tommy Hogg then introduced Cllr Michael Green who spoke in some considerable detail about what he is convinced will be significant events that will return real power to Nairnshire. His double whammy included Highland Council functions and also Health Care. The Gurn spoke to him recently on how he sees a new Nairn Area Committee being formed soon and delivering real power back to the Community – article here. On Health issues he said:

“There’s a lot of changes afoot and I intend to see that Nairn is in the vanguard of these changes. Basically community empowerment made an awful lot of difference. The genie is out of the bottle and its actually looking to return the services to under local control because I think that model really, really works. I want to just announce one or two sort of ideas and suggestions and then get the feedback from folk and they can question some of the ideas that I’ve got. To a large extent as has been evidenced this week: James Arbuthnot came out in the Glasgow Herald and said we are facing very austere times ahead. There’s more cuts coming. We can argue who is causing that, what is happening, but we are where we are and there are cuts that are coming.

We have to manage the services better. The sort of delivery of the services that we have just now is ineffective and there has to be a new model. Now if you look at Health and Social Care there are going to be some very exciting announcements coming out shortly which is all about Nairn being a sort of pilot area for the sort of commissioning of services locally. What that means is that you will get enhanced value. It means it won’t be filtered through Raigmore and all the administrative costs, all the management costs, all the tertiary costs that are taken out and what we are left with in Nairnsire is our disposable income is severely reduced to deliver the front line services that we want. If you are commissioning services locally, you can buy in the services that you want. You can buy in the services that you can’t provide locally, for instance if you need from Raigmore and there are statutory obligations and that will have to be covered but to a large extent your discretional spend will be increased dramatically. If Raigmore can’t provide that you go somewhere else. We want to support Raigmore but we don’t want to subsidise Raigmore. [...]”

Michael continued on how such a health settlement could benefit Nairn. He then moved onto planning and the Nairn South fiasco and the difference and the effort that local people put in fighting the Highland Council planning department. He called the Highland wide plan dysfunctional and compared the difference between the number of houses Highland Council state need to be built over the next 20 years and the much lesser figures from Scottish Government sources; 1900 as opposed to 600.

Michael came in for considerable questioning from the floor about how a pathfinder health service area could save money when it too would have to be administered. It seemed to all have come as a bolt out of the blue to some but Michael seemed to be convinced that it was all coming down the tracks. The Q&A session was eventually wound up by Tommy as Leslie Boulton threw in a political spanner into the conversation by asking how things could be paid for without raising the council tax (he believed freezing council tax was a doctrinaire policy). A good point to stop perhaps as things moved off piste.

It was a lively session – a pity it wasn’t webcast as there are many gurnites out there that would have perhaps liked to have watched. Time doesn’t permit us to write it all up but the Leopold Street Courier will perhaps include a fair bit next week. Also lively was an exchange between Simon Noble and Michael Green over the performance or lack of it from the Nairn River Enterprise body that seems to be in the doldrums just now. The River CC members are to shortly have a workshop meeting to see what they should do next with the nascent social enterprise vehicle. 

There was a fair bit on AOB too including reports that displacement of traffic from Harbour Street has meant that the speeders and bad drivers have been going through other parts of the Fishertown. Andrew Purkis was worried that there might be a serious accident.

Chair Tommy Hogg told the meeting that there were 13 applications planning applications that he had looked through and didn’t see any problem with any of them (River CC are statutory consultees) and his fellow councillors were content with that. The meeting closed closer to 10 pm than half past nine. 

And don't forget, get a cuppa or pour a dram and have a read of the River CC AGM report, good reading. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Nairnshire Challenge 2015 - this Sunday June 21st

The 2015 Nairnshire Challenge takes place this Sunday (21 June). Held annually since 1997, it has become a well-established event in the Nairnshire calendar. Participants are bussed to Auchterteang on the Ferness-Carrbridge road at the south end of the County. They set off at 10am, covering the 12.3 miles on foot over the Cawdor Estates to Drynachan, where they pick up their bicycles and make their way by road over 17.7 miles to the Links in Nairn.

The first to finish is expected there just after noon and the best view for spectators will be as the cyclists come through the town, and when they finish at the Links.

Bill Robertson, the Challenge Co-ordinator, is at pains to stress that it is not a race, “It’s a personal challenge to each participant. Those who do it quickly miss out on this unique opportunity to see parts of Nairnshire not readily accessible.”

The numbers taking part this year are disappointing low. At 170, this is the least there has been in the event’s history. Bill explains that this trend is shared by many other similar events. “It’s either that it has gone out of fashion or that there are so many held each week. When we started in 1997, we were one of the few.”

The event has been organised annually by the Rotary Club of Nairn and the funds raised have allowed grants to be made to support many local voluntary groups, as well as national and international causes.

“The Challenge relies annually on the generosity of so many different organisations and people,” says Bill. “Lord Cawdor and his staff continue to be fully involved in making it possible, as have the many groups who man watering stations and steward the route. We are so grateful to them all, and I’m sure that together we will make this another memorable day.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"Talkin' bout a revolution" with Michael Green 2 - "I want the people of Nairn to engage as they did during the referendum"

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.”

Lost dog Archie found

Relief for Archie's owners tonight. They are on holiday in Spain, yesterday
was day one of their break and their family getaway was shattered with the news that their dog was missing in Househill woods. He's been found apparently almost 36 hours after he went missing. Nice happy ending for a Tuesday night. 

Tonight a delighted owner said on the Highland Dog Blog facebook pages:

"Thank you all so much everyone... As you all know being guardians of such loving souls we have been heartbroken thinking the worst this last 24hrs"

Tuesday miscellany

Archie the 2 yr old Labrador cross is still missing, last seen in the Househill woods. He went missing yesterday in the Househill woods while being walked (his owners are in Spain, it was the first day of their holiday). More details here if you want to help in the search for him. 

£3,600 was raised at the 10 mile road race and Fun Run on Sunday. Danny Bow told the Gurn:
“Thank you everyone for participating and contributing, in all ways, to Nairn Charity 10 Mile Road Race & Fun Run. 

We are overwhelmed by your generosity. The amazing sum of £3,600 was raised for Yorkhill Children's Charity & Calum's Cabin.”

A few minutes here from the 10 miler and the fun ran as those taking part came home. 

Murd has a few thoughts about the recent court decision concerning the Kingsteps car park. He told us: 
“The firhall Bridge has been a public right of way A long time before the access for cars to a car park was even built - by the way cars were the only thing that was denied access. As you can see only people able to access the steps can cross the bridge. A walk that is advertised as a circular walk!

The Highland Council could have resolved the problem if they had taken up the offer from the Army to install the ramp plus the offer from Gordon Timber to provide materials but said they had no money for a £8.000 survey? But the Council could pay thousands in court action for cars to have the right of way? The steps at the bridge are in need of repair at the moment but that appears to be on the back burner. It's only pedestrians and the disabled that would benefit from and a ramp would save money on the repair.

So the moral of this is if you require access for your car. The ward councillors will be delighted to help you but if you can't access the bridge find some other way.”

And the crazy golf is back, thanks to Murray MacRae for the picture

Monday, June 15, 2015

Lost Labrador Cross - Househill woods Nairn

Lots of Gurnites will be familiar with the Househill woods area and the spot where Finn the Scottish Terrier went missing earlier this year. Today an eighteen month old Labrador cross went missing in the same area.  Pictures and latest updates on the search here and here. 

The owners are in Spain at the moment and thus are asking folk that can to have a look if walking their own animals in that area etc. 

If anyone would like to go up but isn't sure of the area here's an image that was used before for Finn. The X marks the spot of the layby car park. 

More from the car boot sale at Sainsbury's yesterday - store staff raise £145.80 for sight action

Highland Council secures access to Nairn public right of way

Highland Council Press Release:

"The Highland Council has welcomed the recent decision at Inverness Sheriff Court securing access rights for all who enjoy the countryside.

The decision has resulted in the declaration of a public right of way for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and motor vehicles on the private road to the council-owned car park at Nairn’s Kingsteps where people park to visit the beach and the RSPB’s Culbin Sands reserve.

When access to the car park was obstructed by the installation of a gate over 2 years ago, the Council took appropriate steps, in the public interest, to uphold access rights and raised court action against Mr Brodie who had put himself forward as owner of the access track and installer of the gate.

Members of The Highland Council’s Nairn Ward are very pleased with this positive outcome to secure a public right of way and access to a local beauty spot. Members wish to thank all those who supported the Council’s case and provided evidence to assist the Sheriff Court proceedings."

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A fast-track method of returning local democracy to Nairnshire?

There seems to be a universal acceptance now across the political spectrum that local government as it is presently set up in Scotland doesn’t work, it just doesn’t allow communities  to run their own affairs and improve their circumstances. It just isn’t any good to have people and officials that live and work in other towns and cities running your affairs – it holds communities back from realising their potential. Things have got so bad in recent years that Nairn folk have even taken to the streets to protest about the situation. Many, many times over the years of this blog we have recorded the struggles of many of this town's citizens to get a better deal for Nairn from the Highland council. Colin MacAulay refers to the present set-up as regional government rather than local government.
What can be done to quickly return democracy to communities then?  Recently there was a conference in Oban entitled “The People’s Council” which looked at practical ways of doing something about the democratic deficit that communities across Scotland face. There is a three hour video on youtube available for any serious students to browse.

Speaking at that gathering in his personal capacity as the local MSP for Argyll and Bute Mike Russell said on the need for change in local government:

“There is a legislative possibility for the next parliament which would change Scotland’s map of authorities, the way in which authorities operate in the way which Lesley has been suggesting. Power very much devolved down to the lowest possible level in Scotland – the power and budgetary control and exercised well and I’m very enthusiastic about that. But that is going to take a while: an election, consultation and the preparation of a bill; at least the work of a single parliament.

We could make a difference in Argyll and Bute tomorrow and we could do it within the existing legislation which is to take the five area committees which exist, each of them which are roughly the same order of numbers as which Lesley was talking about at 14,000 more or less. The Council could decide to devolve all its power to those area committees. Those area committees could be enhanced by the addition of members of community councils. again perfectly legitimate in terms of the existing legislation and you could create strong localised decision making in each of the five areas of Argyll and Bute within a matter of months. It could certainly be in place by the end of this year.”

Highland Council too has five committees, some of them would have to be broken down a bit further though; Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey is criticised by many as an absurd shotgun marriage and should be split accordingly. So perfectly legitimately a way exists to quickly restore local democracy in Nairn. Incidently the Gurn understands that this area committee empowerment is also the way Michael Green would like to go by effectively using the existing structures to redress the balance in the interim. We had a chat with him recently and hope to follow that up this week with another wee blether to find out more about how he envisages returning power to Nairnshire.

*Mike Russell was referring to Lesley Riddoch who is  a proponent of the nordic style of local government where communities of around 14,000 people have control of their own affairs. 

Charity car boot sale Sainsbury's - picture

Things looked very busy in Sainsbury's car park this morning.

Larger image here. 

Sneachd air culbaibh Inbhir Narann - dealbh

Bho taobh an ear cha bhiodh sibh a' smaoineachadh gu bheil Linne Moireibh eadar Inbhir Narann agus Beinn Uais.

Fungi on the beach

Someone will be coming back to Nairn

Green MSPs from the list in May 2016?

With LibDems slipping further in the opinion polls and Labour continuing to slide too could we see Green MSPs elected on the list for the Highlands and Islands at the Holyrood elections in 2016? According to a TNS poll support for the SNP is at 60% in the constituencies but on the lists things are slightly different:

"The survey shows that 50% intended to back the SNP across the eight regions, followed by Labour (19%), the Conservatives (14%), the Greens (10%), Liberal Democrats (5%), UKIP (2%) and others (2%). In 2011 the distribution of votes in this section of the poll were SNP 44%, Labour 26%, Conservatives 12%, Liberal Democrats 5%, Greens 4% and UKIP 1%." 

The Greens are certainly hopeful locally. Could it be Greens and Tories making up the biggest opposition groups in the Scottish Parliament next year if the LibDems and Labour continue to fade?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

County Legends v Supporters - 2pm Saturday 20th June at the Riverside - plus cowshed no more and signings at Station Park

Roll back the years on Saturday the 20th this month

Meanwhile at Station Park the Cowshed is no more. It has gone to be replace soon by a state of the art enclosure, Cowshed 2 coming soon! See picture below we have received this morning. 

In other County news, Andrew Skinner has signed from Clach. We heard last night too from a very proud player's auntie of her nephew also signing for NCFC. No doubt another official statement from the club soon. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Nairn Town Centre regeneration - "crumbs from the table"

The Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Area Committee met in the Courthouse earlier today and they had an update on the Nairn Town Centre Action Plan. 

There was another bit of consultation recently, organised by an organisation called HISEZ. Here’s how it all appeared in the document that went before the councillors today (warning if you don’t like reading councilspeak then just zip down past the next two paragraphs:

“The follow-up meeting led by HISEZ was held on 12 May 2015 and was attended by representatives of all three Nairn Community Councils, Nairn Improvement Community Enterprise (NICE) and Nairn Economic Initiative (NEI) as well as Elected Members and residents. The event looked at ways of developing more effective partnerships to improve the prospects of seeking and securing funding for regeneration. It highlighted that there was a major opportunity for the various community groups in Nairn to work collaboratively to deliver improvements and these groups are understood to be considering how to put in place the appropriate arrangements for partnership and governance.

In terms of the TCAP document, feedback from the consultation and follow-up events are now being considered and later this year the Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey Area Committee will be asked to consider a final Nairn Town Centre Action Plan for adoption as non-statutory Supplementary Guidance.” More here on a Highland Council PDF document. 

The agenda stated “The Committee is invited to note the position” and they duly did so, that is really all the Area Committees can do, they have no executive power or budgets of their own. There was some debate however. Michael Green said:

“We’d a very positive meeting, we had NICE which is the social enterprise; we had the Nairn Economic Initiative which was led by Sheena Baker and for an individual to achieve so much she’d done remarkably well. We’re now coming together with the Town Team which is superb and we can address all the problems as they come up, short term problems like the seagulls and various things that will need done longer term: we can address the town centre regeneration and the harbour which are the main projects for Nairn. 

But the point I want to make about this is that there is something intrinsically unfair about what is happening because we set up a town team with a lot of individuals and officials are putting an awful lot of time a lot of time and resource into something which is not resourced. We’ve all these great ideas and we have to wait for, I quote, “funding windows to open” or not or largesse from Leader 2 and Europe. We have to wait. Now I look about me and compare and contrast with the vibrancy of what is going on in Inverness. Now it’s fabulous and I take my hat off to Inverness and I think what is going on there is superb and we should take as a template, as a role model. Academy Street, there’s many, many projects going on there and they do not seem to have had to wait for funding windows as we are. I look east and I see money being poured in there almost non-stop. They are very, very well resourced and this is coming through HIE. I asked the question why HIE are so involved in Moray but that’s another question. 

The point I’m making which is a valid point: is that we seem to be getting, you can effectively say, crumbs off the table. We are not getting from HIE what I would say is our fair share. What we do receive, which is very little, is completely arbitrary and there is no rhyme nor reason, It’s completely, as I say, completely arbitrary. What we need to be able to take these projects forward is a commitment from HIE, which I will be discussing elsewhere, a commitment from HIE over several years to resource the projects that we have got. We are entitled to our fair share and unless we have a mechanism where we are getting our fair share then I don’t think the system is going to work. And I wrote down there just before I started to speak that “taxation without representation is what led to the US revolution”. Now I’m not advocating a US revolution but the same spirit is abroad in Nairn and change is afoot. So unless we can get a commitment to resource these projects I’m afraid there’s an awful lot of hard work going on from people for very little result. 

Liz then said:

“Thank you for your comments Michael, I do think, we had a presentation from HIE at a previous area committee and I think that perhaps we need to have an update to see what else they are doing. I’d like to thank the Highland Council officers and all the staff for their involvement in Nairn over the last year. They have facilitated some events that have brought the community together and we’ll hopefully have more positive working in future and break down some barriers that we’ve had in the past. So I think, moving forward we’ve got to do all we can to involve our community andI accept what you say, your criticism of HIE but I think if there were community groups and we can work together then I think we will get a better outcome for Nairn. That’s the bottom line for me.”

Cricket in the evening sun

Tonight the Nairn Cricket Club U-16 have a fixture against their Huntly counterparts. Lots more information about the Cricket Club on their website here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Biomass district heating scheme for Cawdor Village?

Cawdor Estate floated the idea of a biomass district heating scheme for the village at the Community Council meeting in the Community Centre last night. Rachel Bromby speaking for the estate told the meeting that they were assessing the appetite locally for such a scheme and  anyone interested should contact the Estate office.

Whilst basically still a "back of an envelope" idea the estate want to get the message out there and were circulating the proposal through the meeting rather than formerly consulting at the present time. The heating scheme would primarily be for estate properties with other local residents being invited to participate. The estate would also hope to use their own wood to provide power for the district heating scheme. 

Monday, June 08, 2015

Tim Smith, Chair of Cawdor Community Council, steps down at AGM - also as a member of the Council

The Community Centre meeting room at Cawdor was quite packed tonight, there was quite a programme on the agenda, over and above the AGM. A contentious planning application had brought in a number of residents from Culcharry. A bright airy evening which saw the committee lined up in front of the windows with the colourful oil seed rape in the field between the school and the road through the village as a backdrop. Tim delivered his chairman's address in which he announced his intention to stand down. Replacing Tim in the chair is Meg Robertson but only on a reluctant temporary basis until the elections in the autumn.

Tim's reflections are worth a read and he doesn't limit himself to parochial affairs but analyses the bigger picture for community councils and local democracy in Scotland and also what restoring the Nairnshire ward link with Nairn in boundary changes might mean for Cawdor and the western parts of the County. 

Here's what Tim had to say:

Cawdor and West Nairnshire Community Council
Chairman's Report 2015

We come to the close of another interesting and varied year for the Community Council at Cawdor and a time for all of us to reflect and absorb the events of the last 12 months.

In that time we have all gone through a Referendum, a once in a lifetime event or not dependent who on the political map you listen too. We have also just gone through the General Election process which saw sweeping gains for the SNP and fundermental changes to the political map here in Scotland.

On a more local level we have seen the impact locally that Community councils together with the general public have been able to achieve when they work as a cohesive body, such as the planning or indeed not at Nairn, together with a greater public image. Finally the advantages of some Councils combining and aligning themselves as one body and the benefits that scale bring to a local issue and resolution.

I mention all of the above in my opening statement as all will have to a greater of lesser degree an impact on the way Community Councils do business in the future. Hopefully as a result of the political change in Scotland there will be more devolution of powers to a local level allowing Local Community's to effect change and be in charge of their respective destinies when dealing with local issues. That too brings more accountability and responsibility and Community Councils need to reflect on that in any decision making process.

On a local level we are currently debating the Ward boundaries of the Highland council to which we have aligned ourselves to Nairn, given the benefits that delivers regarding schooling and local healthcare. It's not all win win, as we may as a result lose some local discretionary funding and perhaps focus as Nairn Councillors will be predominantly promoting Nairn issues as opposed to the more rural ones.

This year we were able to deliver various projects to the community. Flowers to the village, and some more Christmas lighting. We also managed courtesy of Steve, Mark Lewis and Derek to deliver a more balanced lighting on the village Christmas tree.

We also contributed to the Memorial Bench around by the village pump. It is a tranquil area that enhances the centre of the village and gives many the time for quiet reflection. 

Whilst talking of lighting. In November in conjunction with the Community Centre we managed to light up the whole of the village and surrounding areas with our bonfire event which was very well organised by the team and supported by local farmers. It was very well attended and received very positive comments from the community.

The natural light of the bonfire would have assisted when we all suffered a number of power outages earlier in the year as a result of the extreme weather. The event and the mechanics of how to respond to such an event and what support the community and indeed companies can supply was highlighted and various work streams are on-going as a result to give greater resilience should a similar event happen.

As I write this report various work streams are being undertaken regarding planning, safer routes to school and recycling to names but a few.

Whilst an independent body the Community council by default works quite closely with Cawdor Estates. Rachael Bromby from the estate has engaged very positively with the council and has bought a new pair of eyes to the proceedings. Very helpful and pragmatic I am sure her presence at the estate has allowed us to collectively move forward on projects quicker than in the past.

The assistance we have received from our local councillors Kate Stephens and that stalwart of the community Roddy Balfour have been second to none. They have both worked tirelessly behind the scenes to assist the council in projects and provide valuable advice. It is slightly unfortunate that by aligning ourselves to Nairn we will potentially lose their valuable services so I would like to thank them for all the work they have done, both current and historical.

Looking forward the main item on the agenda will be the commission of the Tom Nan Clach wind farm and the community benefit that will bring. Whilst it is not set to start generating until 2018 there is a lot of work to be carried out in advance of that, together with the mechanics of how we deliver and use the financial benefit to the community from it.

All the current Community Councillors will have to stand down this year as they have all completed the statuary four year term and then look to seek re-election if they want to. There is some new much needed blood coming into the community so I'm sure that will add another dimension to this process with the benefit being the community.

I have served as chair for the last four years and have thoroughly enjoyed that time. It has allowed me to gain more knowledge of the local community and those who live in it.

What their issues and aspirations are. I have always been somewhat frustrated by the number or rather the lack of number, of people who attend our meeting. However the last couple have had better attendance and hopefully that will be a continuing trend. I, as the others will step down but won't be standing for re-election as chair. I have a number of work commitments that I feel impact on my ability to devote the time needed to be a chair of the council. Another perhaps younger set of eyes is probably required. I also feel that my sense of humour might impact on the proceedings if I was chair for a further four years.

In closing I would like to thank my colleagues on the council for the support they have given me, together with the hard work they have put in to promote and undertake projects for and on behalf of the community over the last four years. In particular I would like to thank Fred Treadgold who stood down from the Council this year after ten years valuable service, and Tommy Fraser who has stood down due to work commitments. Finally to Jenifer Walker who as secretary has kept things on an even keel and taken on various work streams to successful conclusions. It makes the chairs job so much easier.

Thanks once again Regards
Tim Smith 

A vintage bus to the wedding

Quite a few people saw the vintage Caledonian MacBrayne bus parked in beside the A96 in the town centre on Saturday.  Murd tells us it was there to take a bridal party to a wedding at Brodie Castle. 

Below an image of The bride and groom,  Kythie Dunbar and her new husband Calum Sturling, plus their assistants.  Murd tells us that Kythie is his oldest granddaughter and the other girl in white in this image is his youngest, Lena who is four years of age. Kythie is Lena's godparent.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Alcohol and drugs survey - what are the public's priorities?

The Highland Alcohol & Drugs Partnership (HADP) are launching a survey to consult with the public on what they think the priorities around alcohol and drugs should be in their area. The results will be used to update the HADP strategy.

You can complete the survey online here. 

Pictures - Nairn 10 Mile Road Race & Family Fun Run 7th June

Third year of charity event for Yorkhill Children's Charity & Calum's Cabin Sunday 7th June 2015.

Full screen slideshow here individual pictures here.

Glenurquhart Road Politics – 8 days from coup to political car crash?

Eight days are a long time in politics. In an article entitled “A very Scottish coup as SNP lose Highland Council” the Scotsman focused on Highland politics on Saturday 30th May:

“The SNP has lost control of Highland Council after the Lib Dems walked away from their coalition partnership.

The Lib Dems are now in discussion with the Independent party at the local authority, claiming they had found it increasingly difficult to work with the Nationalists.”

It looked as though a new LibDem/Indy ruling group would see the light of day by the Monday morning with the possibility of the Labour group on Highland Council being involved too. Events dragged on though obviously with many comings and goings and even defections from the Independent Group. Again from the P&J:

"Inverness member Jim Crawford stormed out of a meeting with colleagues saying he could not do business with either Labour or the Lib Dems, who he described as “political prostitutes who will sleep with anyone at all for a share of power.” "

Eventually, surprise, surprise, however as the Independent Group are to go it alone in forming a minority administration but it looks as though there will be plenty of background discussions between the Indies and the SNP:

The Press and Journal stated yesterday: The SNP has pledged to “work constructively” with the new set-up.

The 21-strong nationalist group will form the largest group in opposition.

Recently elected SNP group leader Maxine Smith said: “We look forward to working with the new administration in order to do what is best for the Highlands.

Is it all over now or could there be a few more twists and turns in the Highland Council political pot? The LibDems and the Labour party councillors have tipped the SNP out of power but it was a three-party ruling coalition so they have also managed to evict themselves out of administration roles too without involving the electorate -  no mean feat perhaps that leaves the SNP out but with considerable influence for the remaining two years of this Council term? Events that have generated a few headlines but goings on that don’t seem to have occupied the minds of many people outside the Glenurquhart Road bubble.

Perhaps voters should pay some attention however as it seems a Council Tax rise could be on the way - more in this P&J article by Iain Ramage. Locally, here in Nairn, we still have a balance of 2 Indy councillors and 2 SNP and now with the Indies in the driving seat will we see action on Michael Green’s Nairnshire “fair share” concept? Michael told the Gurn that he would not be taking a major role in the new administration, he said:

“I have refused all post at this point in time as my main priority over the coming months will be to push for the new ‘Fair Share ‘ locality model for Nairn and that will require a lot of time and commitment.”

Interesting times ahead? Although does anyone really care as long as the bins are emptied and the streets swept?