Thursday, March 28, 2024

Farewell Murd Dunbar

Murd Dunbar was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a friend, a proud Shankie, a custodian of the riverside and many other things as well. But one of the main things that Murdoch Ross Dunbar was was that he was a thrawn old bugger. I'm sure that many folk within organisations such as the Highland Council and Community Councils, rued the day that Murd learnt how to use a computer and got loose on the internet. I bet you there was many a morning when some Councillor or Official opened up their Inbox and spotted an email from Murd Dunbar and then cried silently to themselves, “oh no, it's him again!”.

Murd was determined, he was tenacious, persistent, dogged, he didn't give up as many people would have done when multiple obstacles and broken promises were chucked back at him in response to his many causes and campaigns. He was never one to be fobbed off just because someone said “No, can't do that”. Dealing with officials he was a bit like Islay and Belle in the case that you can throw a ball or a stick as far away as possible but I'll be back, I'll take it back, I'll stand at your door, your door of bureacracy. His modus operandi was keep on gurning until they do something, something he lived by even in his final weeks.

He made Community Council meetings interesting, in many way's he was their nemesis, they would have their cosy agenda and he would come along and rock their wee boat. He had his opinions and views and if you didn't agree with them, tough, he just ignored them and carried on regardless.

Murd worked on many fronts and people used to go to him with issues which he would then raise at meetings or via the Gurn or the Nairnshire. He cared about our community and he set an example by sometimes doing the things that the authorities had neglected; repairing and painting benches, salting the bridges and clearing the leaves and, of course, he occasionally had something to say about the Firhall Bridge! I often feel that he was more value than some of those that are paid handsomely to represent the community to sort things out. Personally, I think he was much more in touch with folk than many of the various representatives. He got off his backside and got on with it.

Of course, Murd made use of the information super highway in other ways by highlighting issues on social media – he was a campaigner for houses to be built for the town’s young people among other things. Murd cared, he knew that a community ignores the needs of the young at its peril.

He was a contributor to the Gurn in its heyday. Our Riverside and Queenspark correspondent and often lots of other stuff. Any message left on the answerphone always went the same way, “Hi Des, Murd here, here, listen, and then there would follow something along the lines of I've just sent you, run it by you, see what you think”....

And it’s all there, the Gurn has been a bit quieter the last couple of years but if you put Murd Dunbar in the search box you’ll have a few hours reading material that will come up. The hospital bus stop, the state of the riverside paths, the state of the benches, the Firhall Bridge!

Murd, in his own way was an innovator, someone who did things before other people. He embraced his electric bikes and many a time he, tinkered. You would often see him coming hurtling towards you around the river on his bike, feet out, coming to a stop because the brakes just weren't quite working properly at that moment but that never stopped him. The craic was tremendous, pure Nairn born and bred, a priceless way of looking at the world and sharing his wisdom.

So Murd, wherever you are now I hope you're standing at that door giving them what for and not going away – just like the time an MP seeking re-election came to Queenspark with a TV camera crew and his assistants – they chose the right door that day!

They all came to him, the politicians, the high heid yins, the officials. He never asked them to but his sheer force of nature meant they knew better then ignore him.

When it’s time to put the festive decorations on your tree up the river at the end of the year, I’ll be there to raise a dram to you and the well-lived life that was yours, your achievements and your impact that made our community a better place.

Here’s to you Murd, all the best!

Soraidh slàn a charaid, clach air do chàirn.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Fabulous news for Nairn High Street - The Original Factory Shop is coming to town!

 Regular visitors to the High Street may have noticed a couple of guys working in the former McKays. And now a Facebook page has appeared: more information here.

Good to see a national store chain wishing to invest in our High Street and fill up a big gap where the former McKays was situated.

Monday, March 11, 2024

"Invitation to pay" to go ahead for Links amenity and splash pad area

Item 6.4.2 of the "Nairn Common Good Fund – 2022/23 Audited Accounts, 2023/24 January Monitoring and General Update, Proposed Budget 2024/25" which went before the Nairnshire Area Committee last Monday 4th of March read:

"Discussions have taken place during 2023/24 with Highlife Highland, #TeamHamish and THC Facilities Management, in an attempt to find a more affordable but effective method of cleaning at the Splashpad in light of escalating costs. Options are being progressed on best value principles to commission THC Facilities Management to carry out the periodic deep cleaning of the Splashpad at a cost of £2,840 per clean. The existing contract with HLH will continue with spray washing weekly and a further deep clean scheduled as required using THC Facilities Management. 

Monthly monitoring of the cleaning will be done by the Nairn Common Good Fund Officer to ensure it remains in good, clean order and reflects positively on the partners and community. 

At the request of a previous meeting of Committee work is ongoing to develop an invitation to pay donation scheme for the NCGF Links amenity facilities proposals will be brought to a future meeting of the Committee."

This now goes through - you can see all this and more in the Video of the meeting embedded below. 

This item has generated a wee bit of debate on the ever popular Nairn Our Town social media page and can be seen here if you have a Facebook account.  

Friday, March 08, 2024

NCFC fans Ground Improvement Fund organises Whisky Tasting and 50/50 draw

There's a 50/50 draw taking place at the Fans' whisky tasting - you get tickets with every contribution via the crowdfunding linked in the embedded tweet below. 

"We are holding a Whisky Tasting on Saturday 6th April 2024, which will raise £750, we would like £1000!!! To help reach our target we plan to hold a 50/50 draw. £5 a square! Everyone will be allocated random number(s) and the draw will take place at the Whisky Tasting."

Monday, February 19, 2024

Gurn twitter account - usually a lot of interesting stuff

We're old media now too, most news in Nairn breaking over on Facebook these days but we still have our moments from time to time. And don't forget that the Tuesday edition of the Inverness Courier carries a lot of Nairn news too from local journalist Donald Wilson.

In the meantime if there's not much being posted here it's worth having a look at the Gurn twitter account. Quite a lot happens in the Nairn twittersphere these days and you can scroll down the wee twitter box on the right hand side as far as you like to see what the latest craic is. You don't have to have an account to look at tweets either. 

Monday, February 05, 2024

Cllr Paul Oldham continues to keep us all up to date: "Haventus are intending to create a £1,000,000 Community Fund to benefit the communities around the port over the next ten years."

Cllr Paul Oldham recently attended a community liaison group meeting down at the Haventus site. He also gives us a fair amount of detail of other information provided by the company  - for all this and more head over to Paul's weekly newsletter. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Nairn East Housing Development no more?

Before the proposed development at Nairn East goes ahead it looks very much like a bypass will have to be built. Cllr Paul Oldham outlines it all in an excellent informative article. He says:

"You may also remember that many voices in the ward, lead by Nairn River CC, said we ward councillors should reject the new Plan. We declined to do so for reasons I’ve discussed here before but instead got changes made to it to ensure, in particular, that there would be no new development at Nairn East (NA05) before we got a bypass.

This seems to have been even more successful that we hoped: the Reporters noted that:

The uncertainty regarding the implementation of the A96 dualling and Nairn Bypass project raises doubt over whether development on allocation NA05 is deliverable within the plan period."

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Nairn Common Good Fund Engagement. Provost Laurie Fraser states: "I feel the first two or three of these meetings are just going to be nothing more than an almightly bun-fight"

Our four local Highland Councillors were less than impressed with some of the comments received on a recent cosultation for a proposed "Nairn Common Good Fund Engagement Group". Here at the Gurn we had hoped the tradtional fault line that has been the Nairn Common Good Fund in our local civic life could have been consigned to history. We hope that still happens but the omens don't look good before the engagment group even starts. The conversation on this topic can be seen on the embedded video of when this item was being discusessed at Monday's (22nd January) Nairnshire committee.


In his weekly newsletter Cllor Paul Oldham states:

"Before we went ahead with creating this engagement group officers consulted with groups in the town who we thought might be interested in being involved and they reported back on the results of that at Area Committee. I was disappointed with many of the very negative responses and said as much when we got to this item.

Councillor Fraser, who followed me, said that I had summed things up very well and he wasn’t optimistic but he reluctantly said that we should go ahead with this group, and we agreed to do that for two years, with a review after one year to see if we wanted to continue into the second year."

Other topics on Pau's excellent newsletter this week include: Council budget, Area Committee, Regeneration funding, garage rent and roads. We would urge all readers with an interest in local government matters to head over there for a read.

Fines coming for pavement parking, starting February

The Highland Council’s parking enforcement team are reminding drivers that during February they will be enforcing the new pavement parking ban.

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 has prohibited pavement parking, double parking, and parking at dropped kerbs and anyone caught can face a £100 fine.

Chair of the Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Ken Gowans said: “Many people face daily difficulties with pavement parking. It is dangerous and frustrating, especially for those with impairments or limited mobility. It can force people to take unnecessary risks. For example, people using wheelchairs and buggies or prams without access to dropped kerbs can be forced onto the road, risking their safety.

“Since December our parking enforcement team have been issuing warning notices to drivers caught breaking the law but during February 2024, they will be taking full enforcement action. Anyone parking on a pavement risks a fine of £100 or £50 if they pay it within 14 days.

“Details about the new regulations have been provided on the council’s website so I urge all drivers to make themselves familiar with the information. We hope everyone will consider others and there will be limited need for enforcement.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Progress on a community newspaper for Nairnshire

Following the well-attended meeting in the main hall of the Community Centre towards the end of last year the Steering Group of the proposed Nairnshire Community Newspaper have been meeting regularly to progress the initiative and are now close to achieving charitable status. The Gurn understands that once this happens then working groups will be set up for various aspects of the Paper - there are already many people willing to offer their skills and experience but there's still room for more as the steering group want to have the widest community representation possible in the administration of the paper.


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Community Regeneration Funding awarded to Nairnshire organisations

Nairnshire Committee Members considered and assessed applications submitted to the area’s Community Regeneration Fund.

The successful applicants were the Nairn Improvement Community Enterprise (NICE) (who secured £11,000 for their TeamHamish Nairn Links Regeneration project) and Nairn BID (who secured £5,093.53) for the Nairn Heritage Trail project.

Community Regeneration Funding is an umbrella term for a number of funds that are available for communities/organisations to access in Highland.  It comprises elements of the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund along with the Highland Coastal Communities Fund and the Place Based Investment Programme, both of which are Scottish Government Funding streams to support economic regeneration and sustainable development in Highland.

Councillor Michael Green, Chair of the Nairnshire Area Committee, congratulated the successful applicants and said: “We are delighted to be able support NICE and Nairn BID – these organisations have sound plans in place to deliver projects for the benefit of the local community and have a great deal of backing from residents throughout the area.

“For NICE in particular, today’s award marks the completion of their fundraising for this phase of the project and will enable this to get underway during the Spring.”

£11,000 was awarded to the Nairn Improvement Community Enterprise (NICE) for the second phase of the TeamHamish Nairn Links Regeneration.  This project, which is due to commence from March 2024, will involve redevelopment of the area of the Links currently occupied by the existing putting green, crazy mini golf and adjacent banking and grassed areas.  Through a holistic approach, NICE aims to revitalise the existing area and utilise the natural environment to enhance how these areas are currently used, encouraging a more integrated and cohesive purpose for both individual contemplation and social interaction through the creation of a journey of connecting spaces and places.

Meanwhile, Nairn BID was awarded £5,093.53 for its Heritage Trail project, which will replace and augment Nairn’s heritage interpretation boards and create a Heritage Trail, backed up by online resources and interactivity.  The project is designed to help visitors to the area learn more about Nairn’s heritage, while providing local people a sense of ownership and input into the way in which the town’s heritage is presented.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

"A perfect storm for charities and voluntary groups" SCVO outline serious issues facing the third sector

Just before the end of 2023 the Gurn received two press releases from the SCVO, (Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations). Many readers will know just how much charity and voluntary group work makes up part of the fabric of life in Nairn, and may wish to read the following:

"Finances proving biggest challenge to charities as rising costs bite
Research also found a third of organisations were dipping into reserves.

An overwhelming majority of charities in Scotland have reported financial challenges as their biggest source of concern.

The Scottish Third Sector Tracker has found 7 in 10 charities cite financial challenges as their biggest challenge, up significantly in just two years.

Data from the tracker observes the emergence of the sector from the Covid-19 pandemic through 2021, followed by the development of the cost-of-living crisis and associated organisational concerns during 2022 and 2023.

Throughout the waves of research, the frequency with which organisations have reported financial challenges has hugely increased, and in the most recent data collection (April 2023), these were the most frequently reported challenges (71%), compared to just less than half of respondents (47%) just two years ago.

It is concerning that a third of organisations reported having made use of their financial reserves in the 3 months leading into April 2023, an increase compared to the same period in 2022.

Almost half (44%) of the organisations using their financial reserves believed that this situation is unsustainable.

Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said:

“Charities, community groups and social enterprises can be financially fragile at the best of times, and the Tracker research clearly demonstrates that we are currently far from the best of times. We are seeing that voluntary organisations are experiencing more financial challenges now than they did during the pandemic due to rising costs, particularly of energy and wages.

“Voluntary organisations make an invaluable contribution to Scotland’s social and economic fabric and the people, communities and causes they support are experiencing more pressures than ever before. Public giving of money and time have been hit by the cost-of-living crisis and we are seeing many organisations having to dip into their reserves just to keep going. Reserves are there as a safety net and are not meant to prop up business as usual. It’s akin to households having to buy their groceries on a credit card, simply storing up more problems for the future and threatening their medium to long-term viability.

“Everyone can play a part in supporting the sector, whether it is government and councils ensuring there is fair and sustainable funding in place, philanthropic funders investing their money wisely and the public giving when they can. A good start would be Scottish Government passing on the money that the UK Government allocated for energy bills relief to see charities through the winter months.”

The Scottish Third Sector Tracker is a growing research community made up of representatives from third sector organisations based across the whole of Scotland, who are willing to share their experiences, views and concerns as the sector faces both new and ongoing challenges.

The Tracker is run by an independent research company called DJS Research on behalf of SCVO, the Scottish Government, the William Grant Foundation and the National Lottery Community Fund.

Those involved in the running of a third sector organisation operating in Scotland are invited to represent their organisation as a member of the Scottish Third Sector Tracker.

Charities face staff and volunteer crisis

A third of organisations reported this as one of their top challenges.

Third Sector organisations in Scotland are increasingly facing shortages of staff and volunteers, a new report has warned.

The Scottish Third Sector Tracker has found that issues relating to staffing and volunteers are one of the top challenges for a third of voluntary sector organisations.

Data from the tracker observes the emergence of the sector from the Covid-19 pandemic through 2021, followed by the development of the cost-of-living crisis and associated organisational concerns during 2022 and 2023.

In August 2021, 35% of organisations reported a significant concern about staff and volunteer numbers. Just two years on, that figure has now risen to 65%, with only finances currently proving a bigger challenge for the sector.

While staff and volunteer support remain a growing concern, third sector groups report an ongoing increase in demand for their core services and activities over the six waves of the tracker. In Wave 1 (Aug 2021), 56% of organisations reported an increased demand, rising to 63% by Wave 6 (Apr 2023).

These factors, on top of growing financial pressures due to the rising costs crisis and public sector funding cuts, are leading to a perfect storm for charities and voluntary groups, with strain put on already stretched teams.

Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said: “The Scottish voluntary sector is a significant employer, providing jobs for 5% of the Scottish workforce. At a time where many organisations are facing recruitment challenges, the funding environment means that many voluntary organisations are struggling to keep pace with salary increases needed to attract and retain staff.

“Existing staff and volunteers have been working flat out since Covid, helping organisations and communities to weather the cost-of-living crisis. We can no longer afford to rely on their goodwill to go the extra mile. The invaluable services and supports provided by Scotland’s voluntary sector need sustainable investment to ensure their survival.”

Volunteer Scotland are also concerned by the staff and volunteer crisis facing the sector, highlighted by the Third Sector Tracker. The recent release of the 2022 Scottish Household survey results reinforces the volunteer crisis, with formal volunteer participation rates falling by 4 percentage points since 2019 to 22% - this equates to less than one million Scottish adults volunteering.

In light of the current crisis, the actions that can be undertaken by volunteer involving organisations include ensuring that volunteer expense policies are clear and considering how roles can be made more flexible to fit with the decreased time volunteers have available.

Alan Stevenson, CEO of Volunteer Scotland said: “The many impacts of the cost-of-living crisis on volunteering has meant that we can no longer take for granted the contribution of our volunteers. While recruitment and retention issues are being felt more acutely by some, the first step for all must be the focus on good volunteering practice, appropriately supported.”

The Scottish Third Sector Tracker is a growing research community made up of representatives from third sector organisations based across the whole of Scotland, who are willing to share their experiences, views and concerns as the sector faces both new and ongoing challenges.

The Tracker is run by an independent research company called DJS Research on behalf of SCVO, the Scottish Government, the William Grant Foundation and the National Lottery Community Fund.

Those involved in the running of a third sector organisation operating in Scotland are invited to represent their organisation as a member of the Scottish Third Sector Tracker."

Friday, January 12, 2024

"Nairn West & Suburban Community Council in Abeyance - Seeks Additional Members in Upcoming Nominations Process"

 "NWSCC fell into abeyance in October 2023 for failing to meet the minimum number of six nominations to form a council.  The former members are presently meeting as an in formal 'community group' until a second opportuntiy is provided by Highland Council to form a council in January 2024.

Between 15-30 January 2024, Highland Council will be seeking online nominations from residents in the catchment area to form the Community Council."

Want to get involved? More information here.