‘World’s best marchers’ are aiming to break records


THE “world’s best marchers” believe they will break records at a nationalist parade in Glasgow this weekend where 300,000 people are projected to take part. The 300,000 projection from organisers All Under One Banner is based – somewhat flimsily – on the  number of supportive comments the event has attracted on social media. This is no ordinary march but is an “emergency march” – the emergency being the outcome of the General Election on December 12.

 It’s the first in a series of such events planned for 2020 by AOUB, now bringing out raucous hordes of flag-waving supporters with a regularity that almost certainly does give them the right to be regarded as the world’s best marchers.

 At least six are due to be held in towns and cities from Edinburgh to Elgin in the next two or three months with more in the pipeline.

No date has been pencilled in for Inverness yet.

 When these events first began they had a novelty value which enabled those with no affinity to the nationalist cause to view them favourably, embracing to at least some extent the noisy, colourful enthusiasm of those taking part.

 Now they have become routine and remain hugely disruptive. And the underlying question is still: What’s the point?

 Undoubtedly they give those taking part a feelgood factor, but the chaos they bring to busy Saturdays is liable to be much more of an irritant to everyone else.

 The notion that any non-believer is liable to be converted to the cause by yet another nationalist parade is hopelessly unrealistic.

 Those taking part are being spurred on by the “Indyref2020” belief that this will be the year of independence and “freedom”.

 However, newly-elected SNP MP Kenny MacAskill – who was previously the party’s Justice Secretary – said the chances of a referendum being held this year are negligible, “bordering on nil”.

 Nicola Sturgeon will continue to stoke up Indyref2020 zeal but with Boris Johnson pledging to refuse to grant a Section 30 order for another referendum “in all or any circumstances” Mr MacAskill’s assessment is the only realistic one around.

So from now until December will be follow-up parades here, there and everywhere.

 Events which gain not a single new supporter along the way.

Castle revamp presents a huge challenge

WORK is due to begin this year on transforming Inverness Castle into a “must see attraction” that will celebrate the “spirit of the Highlands”, when court services finally move out of the building.

 The planned revamp includes a museum and art gallery.

 Let’s hope high expectatations for this development are fully justified. We’ve been waiting decades for the courts to depart and the opportunity to arise to give the castle the prestigious role it deserves.

 A year ago Inverness news and views repeatedly urged that the iconic building should be fully lit up at nights and not left virtually shrouded in gloom, illuminated by what appeared to be torchpower, as it was at the time.

 This winter it has been fully lit and what a magnificent sight it is, a world-class spectacle.

 But after some of the development foul-ups we have seen in recent times councillors and officials will know there is no scope for misjudgement or blunder in the revamp of Inverness Castle.

 This is one massive challenge they cannot afford in any way to get wrong.

Ace photographer from a different era

THE funeral has taken place of Ian Jolly, a Daily Record photographer in Inverness for 20 years. He has died aged 77.

 A fine photographer and proverbial “colourful character”, he was one of the leading figures in what many who remember it will regard as a golden era for journalism.

 He also had one of the best journalistic jobs in Britain.

 With the Record in his heyday selling close to a million copies he and its Inverness-based reporter Bill Mowat had an all-expenses paid remit to roam the Highlands and Islands in search of stories. They had to come up with the goods to broadly satisfy their Glasgow newsdesk, but given the wealth of material available, they were eminently capable of doing that.

 For most the rest of us around then – I joined the trade in 1975 – lunches were long and often liquid, hours were flexible, pressure was minimal, job insecurity was unheard of and people bought papers as a matter of routine.

 In Inverness the Courier sold more than 20,000 copies on a Friday in a town with a population of less than 50,000, which meant it entered virtually every household. The Highland News, where I started out, sold more than 10,000.

 Today, relentlessly declining circulations caused by the Internet and social media explosion mean that many newspapers at all levels are entering the last decade of their existence and many will be gone long before the end of it.

 Ian Jolly belonged to a different era in journalism and, like his contemporaries, had the best of it.

 There were a multitude of staff journalists in Inverness when I began in the mid 1970s, and most lunchtimes many were to be found in the packed surroundings of the Gellions Hotel. Names (virtually all male) may bring back memories. The Highland News had Willie Wilson, Reay Mackenzie, Darry Mackay, Mike Hurry, Morris Grant, Max Tickner and Iain Macdonald. The Courier – usually with one page of inside news and edited by Eveline Barron – had Alex MacEwan, soon to be joined by Ian Ross. The Daily Record had Bill Mowat, soon to be joined by Alan Dow, and Ian Jolly. The Sunday Mail had Nick Hunter. The Daily Express had Alex Main. The Glasgow Herald (as it then was) had Mike Allan and Stuart Lindsay. The Scotsman had Tony Pledger. The Press and Journal had Jim Love, David Love, Bill MacAllister, Ron Lyon, Gordon Fyfe, Helen MacRae, Neil MacPhail, and David Murray. The Aberdeen Evening Express had Hamish Black. The Sunday Post and People’s Journal had Campbell Gunn, Willie Morrison and Harry McClaggan. The most active freelance journalists were Alex Fraser, with Jimmy Cruickshank and Reggie Mackay. The leading freelance photographer who contributed to most papers was Ken Macpherson, soon to be joined by John Paul.

 The opening of BBC Highland for a time brought north Alastair Hetherington, editor of the Guardian for more than 20 years, to run it. Mr Hetherington, widely regarded as one of the greatest newspaper editors of the 20th century, often used to appear with pen and notepad at meetings of Highland Council then held in a cramped backroom at Glenurquhart Road, an unusual presence for some of us who were there. Mr Hetherington did not, however, regularly partake of liquid lunches in the Gellions Hotel.

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