It beats hunting for a space in the council car park
THE COLIN CAMPBELL COLUMN
AFTER being re-elected as MP for the Inverness constituency Drew Hendry lost no time whatever in insisting on the need for another independence referendum to escape from being “imprisoned within this Union” as he hailed the fact that the SNP gained 13 extra seats.
“We achieved this by standing on a manifesto to reject Brexit in Scotland and to give the people of Scotland a choice over their future in a referendum on independence,” he declared.
With these words Hendry strayed from being, as I described him after the election, “a decent, hard-working MP”, into the realms of a Christmas chancer. I hope the aberration is just temporary.
While there may be some literal truth in what he says about the SNP manifesto, it doesn’t have a shred of credibility in relation to his own campaign.
He never mentioned “independence” or “referendum” in his campaign literature, not once. There wasn’t even a hint of it. As far as anyone reading it might have known, the issue didn’t exist.
Now he’s wielding a megaphone on it. That’s what I call trying to con the voters.
But I wonder if he’s also conning himself.
For all his talk of being “imprisoned”, here’s a man who has freedom to fly here, there and everywhere at taxpayers’ expense, and also to rake in a huge salary while doing so.
And, for all his talk of being “imprisoned” by Westminster, doesn’t he just love being part of it? When people arrive there for visits or to meet him he doesn’t tramp around sullenly pointing out the confines of his “prison”. From what I hear he positively glows with delight at having the right to entertain local folk in world-famous, historic and opulent surroundings. He revels in being part of the Westminster scene.
Don’t forget, this is a man who not so long ago had to drive around Glenurquhart Road trying to find a space in the council car park.
Now he enjoys the pomp and ceremony and trappings of history which define the Mother of Parliaments.
And at each election Drew Hendry is desperate – truly desperate – to get back there.
If the SNP ever do get their second referendum, will he have the courage of his convictions to resign his seat and campaign full time for the nationalist cause?
That would be some sacrifice for an ex-councillor who now has full and ready access to the Westminster high life.
I suspect having to give up his seat there would be close to his worst nightmare.
Imagine losing the huge salary, the vast expenses and the perks, prestige and privilege that goes with it.
At being right there are at an international centre of power, as opposed to sitting in a seat at the council trying to work out the cheapest way to fill in the potholes.
Hendry has risen so fast from virtual obscurity as a local councillor that it would almost be surprising if it hadn’t gone to his head.
Now he feels so loftily self-assured that he feels able to proclaim he’s actually a “prisoner” of Westminster.
I suspect he is indeed conning himself.
As he surveys his glorious surroundings and his privileged personal position, he wouldn’t be human if a nagging fear didn’t surface that it could all suddenly vanish and he’d find himself back where he was just a few very years ago.
With the “freedom” to go around knocking on local doors, trying to scrape a few hundred votes together to get a seat back on the council.
Council falls short as Inverness is icebound again
TWO years ago at this time Inverness and the Highlands endured the worst spell of icebound danger I can ever remember.
It lasted for around 10 days, a truly perilous period when skating rink conditions across the Highland capital resulted in countless falls and injuries. One elderly person who fell reportedly died as a result of the effect of their injuries.
It went on and on, and as each day passed questions were more urgently raised as to where was the salt, where were the gritters, where were the council workmen expected to render pavements even reasonably safe?
In the end, all too belatedly, the council lumbered into action and staff were deployed to try and ease what had become a civic emergency.
A few days ago we had a mercifully brief repeat, which lasted around three days, before the arrival of milder weather prevented what could easily have turned into a full-scale re-run of that icebound disaster.
Nevertheless, the council, which had indicated that it was ready for anything, came in for widespread public criticism for another episode of salt-free, grit-free “failure” affecting swathes of Inverness.
That more temperate breeze – rather than the local authority – saved the day.
Unless you fell and were hurt, there probably has to be acceptance that they can’t be expected to be everywhere, covering every inch of footpaths and roadways. But did they do enough? In my area main roads were generally clear but many stretches of footpaths and roads sloping down to the city centre were left completely untouched and highly dangerous. For example the main bridge crossing the canal, used by hundreds of people each day, was potentially lethal. Short concrete ramps leading up to it on either side were covered with sheet ice, meaning you had to virtually negotiate it on your hands and knees.
One man I met there angrily told me that when he worked for the council that was always a spot that was treated as an access priority. Not any more.
Lack of funds and council cutbacks will be blamed, of course. We are constantly reminded of the financial realities facing the local authority. But year after year, the annual survey of its 2,000-strong “Citizen’s Panel” finds that the need for adequate winter treatment of dangerous surfaces is the number one priority among members of the public, above all else. And no wonder. It’s the one sphere of the council’s operation where failure directly puts lives at risk.
That milder twist in the weather made all the difference last week. Next time we may not be so lucky. Treatment of dangerous surfaces may have been improved marginally from the dangerously negligent nadir of two years ago.
But in preparing for it and preventing it, the local authority fell short again.
One year on, look out for any new ‘surprises’
IT’S a year ago at this time that the council submitted its own planning application for the Ness riverside wall and concrete pathways notoriously known as the Gathering Place.
The timing, late on the very last working day before Christmas, was, we were told, a complete coincidence. No-one noticed and as a result virtually no-one objected to a plan for a massive transformation of a cherished stretch of the riverside.
After the turbulent events surrounding the Gathering Place travesty for much of the past year – when people did become aware of what was proposed – this kind of “coincidence” probably won’t be repeated.
Even so, would someone keep an eye out for any new proposals emerging from Glenurquhart Road HQ at this time of year – maybe a waste incinerator, or some new dumping ground, or, heaven help us, yet another hideous adornment intended to “enhance” the riverside.