Nationalists launch ‘engaging and listening’ charade

THE “Cross-Party Citizens Commission” set up by Nicola Sturgeon with the intent of “bringing people together” won’t be so cross-party after all. Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats want nothing to do with it. The Nats have affected dismay at such a lack of progressive thinking based on blockheaded Unionist instransigence. But why would anyone who doesn’t want Scotland dragged out of the United Kingdom into chaos over currency, confusion over trade and uncertainty over pensions have anything to do with it?

 It’s yet another blatantly obvious Nationalist gimmick, stunt and charade.

 Their new tactic is not to rant, rave and threaten but to seek to “engage” with voters who voted No in 2014 and to try and “understand” their reasons for doing so.

 This is most typically represented by the cloyingly smarmy ex-Moray MP Angus Robertson, who has set up an “organisation” – probably run by him alone from his garden shed – who now tries to come across as the soul of reason and moderation in his attempts to “reach out” to Unionist voters.

 Nicola Sturgeon’s “Citizens’ Commission” would seek us to bring us all together in only one direction – on the road to independence.

 She said when she made the announcement about the formation of this group that the SNP would play very close attention to the range of views expressed and that it would shape their future thinking.

 What would have happened if its “cross party” members had come up with the best idea of all – sidelining the damage being caused by the uncertainty and divisiveness of the zeal for independence at all and any cost – for the next few years at least?

 It’s somewhat doubtful if Sturgeon and co would have allowed that to influence their future thinking.

 Rather than engaging in yet more deception they’d be better advised trying to provide some clarity on life in an independent Scotland. They still are unable to tell us – and seemingly haven’t a clue – about something as basic as what currency we’d use.

 Maybe the “Citizens’ Commission” will come up with an answer to that little puzzler. But I won’t be holding my breath.

Has chief stepped in to bring ‘Gathering Place’ sanity?

 THE reason given for the postponement of a special meeting on the Gathering Place was that it should take place after the school holidays, which means it has been kicked down the road until August 20, at the earliest.

 No-one I know can remember a previous council meeting being delayed for weeks on end by the school holidays.

 It may well be that sanity has now prevailed in the upper echelons of Highland Council, and that the intent is to try and quietly bury this riverside-ruining travesty, involving building a £300,000 wall and concrete pathways on a beautiful and unspoilt location supposedly to enhance its “natural beauty”.

 Has new chief executive Donna Manson stepped in, reviewed the level of damage being done to the image of her council by this wretched scheme and decided “enough is enough”?

 Powerful chief executives who have gone before and whose ways I’ve witnessed over the years would have seen it wiped off the agenda long ago.

Still, there’s no room for complacency. Arts chairwoman Isabelle MacKenzie may be hellbent on driving the project forward, but all the signs are that what little council support there is for it may be fading away altogether.

The strident and arrogant Ms MacKenzie may not easily accept her prize project being dumped into the Ness. But her view is as nothing compared with the fact that nearly 3,000 people have signed a petition against it, and only three of her colleagues have publicly backed it.

 She may not yet realise it, but she should be grateful if the Gathering Place is scrapped altogether.

 That way she will not go down in Inverness civic history as the prime creator of a loathed new landmark which would become known for evermore as “Mackenzie’s Folly”.

Alba loses out to new channel with zero viewers

 BBC Alba bosses are complaining about a lack of adequate funding. This channel is not one many people view regularly, mainly because it’s broadcast in a language they don’t understand.

 Having said that, I have seen some very interesting sub-titled programmes, mainly featuring different aspects of life on the Isles, on Alba. But it’s output is erratic, frequently veering off to provide live coverage of the likes of Alloa v Stenhousemuir, or some equally minor football fixture which can’t attract an audience much beyond the players’ immediate families.

 Meanwhile a much larger amount of money is lavished on the new BBC Scotland channel, which has featured a large number of programmes watched by so few people that it has registered zero on the viewer measurement scale.

 This televisual failure was set up as a sop to the SNP, who had demanded that more licence-payers money be spent in Scotland.

 That money would have been better spent on expanding the range of programmes on BBC Alba – despite its somewhat irritating Gaelic element – so that we had more of the interesting documentaries it has featured, and less of Stenhousemuir versus Alloa.

Never mind the artwork – what about the basics?

 THERE have been consistent complains, against the background of the furore over planned vast expenditure on the riverside “Gathering Place”, about neglect of the riverside basics – like keeping it in well-groomed order.

 At the height of the tourist season it’s worth noting yet again that the riverbanks upriver from the Ness bridge alongside Ness Walk now look more like a hayfield, with weeds and grass allowed to grow almost to waist height. It looks neglected, scruffy and does no credit to this prime area of the Highland capital whatsoever.

 I’m well aware that this falls into the council category of maintenance rather than “artwork”, but if more attention was paid to the former and much less to the latter it would show priorities are in the right place. There’s no excuse for an overgrown riverbank which looks like it has been neglected for months on end.

In obesity epidemic, centre’s a vital health service

OBESITY has now been linked to more forms of cancer than smoking. That sounds dire and may be regarded by some as another health-related scare story, or at least an exaggerated one. But Inverness has not escaped the potential implications, far from it. The gross tonnage of humanity around now makes you wonder why the pavements aren’t beginning to crack under the weight, in the same way as cars are cracking up roads.

 Inverness is choked with traffic as everyone knows and that’s at last partly because there are too many people who’d rather die – and it seems they might, sooner rather than later – than walk 100 yards if they could use a car to cover the distance.

 Scoffing too much and never taking any exercise – that’s why there are so many very fat people lumbering around. Far, far more than there were in the 1960s and 1970s. But that’s just stating the obvious.

 What’s also obvious too is that without the Inverness Leisure centre things would be even worse. At least we have somewhere welcoming people can go to try and keep in reasonable trim, as thousands do.

 But in recent times this venue, always buzzing with life and energy, has shown signs of becoming a little threadbare, a little worn – at least in terms of some of the equipment available. It’s all down to those endless cuts we hear about relentlessly in relation to the funding of essential services.

 Inverness Leisure is indeed a vital essential health service, and any prospect of it going downhill must be resisted. It’s one of the cheapest – if not the cheapest –public sports centre in Scotland. I’d much rather fork out an extra fiver a month in my subscription than see it go into any form of decline, and I’m sure many others who use it regularly would as well.

 It’s long been a brilliant place for Inverness to have and it has to remain so. Otherwise we may yet see the city’s hard-worn pavements begin to develop overburdened cracks.

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