by Colin Campbell
PROVOST Helen Carmichael said yesterday in an emphatic declaration that there will be no U-turn over the £300,000 artwork planned for the riverside at the Ness Islands and that it WILL go ahead. Is this the kiss of death for the Gathering Place? Or at least, the beginning of the end?
It certainly looks like it. This could be a turning point in the campaign against the project. Members of the OpenNess campaign group and more than 2,000 people who have signed a petition against it should be greatly heartened by the provost’s words.
Cast your mind back nearly three years ago to June, 2016.
She made the same emphatic declaration then about the tilting pier.
The provost said: “If we are going to take this forward – and we are going to take this forward – we need to be brave.”
Ms Carmichael this time left out the emphasis on the need for courage.
But the tone was more or less the same.
Ridiculous, hideously expensive and wanted by no-one, these two projects have much in common. But her determination to see them both through was and is unshakeable.
After she spoke out it was downhill all the way for the tilting pier, and the plan was finally dumped in the river under the weight of public protest.
There’s no reason to believe the Gathering Place – a £300,000 wall and concrete pathways on a natural beauty spot – will avoid the same fate.
In fact, there’s every reason to believe it’s on even shakier foundations.
A large number of councillors have expressed a virulent blend of outrage and anger over the way the Gathering Place issue has been handled, saying they were kept in the dark about what was planned.
Provost Carmichael has claimed they were all kept fully informed.
That clash of opinion is liable to inflame its council opponents and intensify their opposition to it.
Being branded lazy-minded idiots – or something pretty closed to it – isn’t going to appease anyone.
Provost Carmichael added that she has no intention of meeting members of the OpenNess group.
That kind of snub or direct slap in the face isn’t going to go down too well, either with the campaign leaders or with the huge number of people who have signed the protest petition and left comments alongside which express their feelings in no uncertain terms.
Expect the protests to redouble as a result of the provost’s declaration.
I’ve said before that Helen Carmichael is basically a very nice woman, and is not given to sounding haughty and arrogant.
But we all have our off-days and make misjudgements, and she has dropped a real clanger here.
So as things stand the provost has given the campaign against the Gathering Place the biggest boost it could have hoped for.
There is, of course, an alternative possibility.
That because THE PROVOST HAS SPOKEN the anger over this riverside ruining and shockingly wasteful disfigurement of a natural and unspoilt stretch of the riverside will dissipate and fade away, that cowed objectors will shut up shop, that opposing councillors will fade into silence and that the whole argument is now at an end.
And there’s only one thing to be said about that. Ha. Ha. Ha.