THE COLIN CAMPBELL COLUMN
IT was held on a wild, wet, filthy day when venturing much beyond the garden gate left you looking as soaked as if you’d just emerged from the bathroom shower. Talk about the blossoming arrival of spring. It calmed down a bit in later on but it still wasn’t an evening when many would choose to venture out without a darn good reason. But venture out many did, to the Spectrum Centre for a well-publicised public meeting on the planned riverside Gathering Place.
Many of the folk who went to that event were elderly, some clearly in their 70s and even in their 80s, several hirpling along on sticks.
Leave aside for now the rights and wrongs of the Gathering Place issue.
The fact that the audience was mainly in the 50-plus bracket – although there were other younger people present – was no surprise.
It’s a fact of life, a generational reality, that the older you get the more you care about issues like this one – protecting our riverside that we’ve known and loved for so long.
That has nothing to do with a curmudgeonly opposition to change. It’s to do with the fact that you have more time and space to assess and reflect on something that is just plain wrong. Younger people leading more hectic lives are liable to be much less concerned about issues like the Gathering Place – they’re too busy bringing up children and building careers, which is perfectly understandable.
But the point is some very elderly folk took the time and trouble to go to the Spectrum Centre, regardless of the weather. But far too few Inverness area councillors didn’t.
Only four were present, Ron MacWilliam, Bill Boyd, Ken Gowans and Andrew Jarvie. Where were all the others? A few sent in apologies but others didn’t even bother doing that. Even though they must have known the meeting would be taking place.
So old folk on sticks made it through the cold and rain to the Spectrum Centre but active councillors either stayed at home watching the telly or were “otherwise engaged”.
A few of them may have had legitimate reasons for their absence – but certainly not all.
And those in the latter category – our “elected representatives” – are guilty of a snub that was a damn disgrace.
Tom Prag retains his capacity for entertainment
WHEN I stood up at the Spectrum meeting to make the point outlined above, I paid tribute to former councillor Thomas Prag for putting in an appearance at the event.
A few minutes earlier he’d had his say as a lone voice in support of the Gathering Place, saying he’d stepped into “the lions’ den”.
That was a bit melodramatic. A lions’ den well equipped with dentures, that’d be.
But Mr Prag had made his point and the meeting carried on without any great drama.
But then – to the surprise of just about everyone I’d say – he suddenly rose to his feet, said he wasn’t being allowed to speak, and rather noisily headed for the exit, loudly saying he wasn’t going to waste his time remaining.
It’s fair to say that he left people bemused by his departure.
On the lighter side, it did add a bit of colour to the event. Tom Prag was for many years in charge of Moray Firth Radio and was to a considerable extent responsible for making it the success it is today.
He left as boss of the station some time ago. But clearly he hasn’t lost his capacity for providing public entertainment.
Despite Brexit, SNP remain stuck in the mire
WITH a great deal of focus on the Gathering Place scandal in recent weeks, this column has barely mentioned another favoured topic – the SNP.
But what’s to mention? What’s new?
And the short answer to that is – not a lot.
Is their Westminster leader Ian Blackford still blustering on about Scotland “being disrespected” and “being dragged out of the EU against our will” (ignoring the many here who voted to leave)? Yes.
Is Nicola Sturgeon doing the same? Yes.
Are the polls shifting one iota in favour of independence as a result of all the Brexit huffing and puffing? No.
Are the more strident nationalists still vehemently insisting that “now is the time” to strike for another independence referendum? Yes.
Is Sturgeon going to grant them their wish? No.
The only minor development is that rival factions within the nationalist movement seem to be more frustrated and divided than ever about what to do next.
So that’s that done and dusted. No prospect of indyref2. Nothing new for those of us who want to remain in the UK to worry about. Despite the Brexit difficulties, essentially, no change.