There must be no more secrecy over Coronavirus Gathering Place

hole artist
Now you see it, now you don’t…the new-look Coronavirus Gathering Place plan appeared last week and then vanished without any adequate follow-up explanation.
by Colin Campbell 

A FULL week after a new-look plan emerged for the Coronavirus Gathering Place there has still been no explanation about it. It was briefly made public by the council – apparently by mistake – and was swiftly withdrawn. That’s the last we’ve heard about it. The original much-detested scheme was to build a continuous wall along the riverside adjacent to the Ness Islands. Now there apparently are plans for two walls, with a hole in the middle.

Why, where and how was this change made? Does it need new planning permission? Will there be more public “consultation” over it?

COUNCILTHINK: after lockdown subservience, the new-normal public response they may expect to all decision-making.

This remains a plan to concrete over a natural beauty spot at a cost of £300,000, whether with one wall or two walls.

Every change to it affecting the cherished and unspoilt Inverness riverside should be placed under the closest possible scrutiny. Not made public “by mistake” and then vanish from sight.

A few days ago we wondered if they planned to kill two birds with one stone and put the Tilting Pier in the middle. That seemed ridiculous at the time and probably still does. But after the disgraceful saga of secrecy that’s surrounded it, would anyone bet their life savings on ANYTHING relating to the Coronavirus Gathering Place?

And note the timing. I’m no conspiracy theorist but it’s suspicious – yet another entirely justified suspicion with regard to the CVGP.

The pretty-picture original artist’s impression of the Coronavirus Gathering Place…now completely changed without explanation.

From the council’s website:

On 17 March 2020 in light of the current COVID-19 outbreak, meetings of the Council and its committees were suspended, subject to regular review, until 25 June 2020. During this period, the Council’s Scheme of Delegation to Officers provides for the Chief Executive to exercise the Council’s powers in emergency situations, in consultation with appropriate Officials and/or Members. In order to take this forward, a Member Gold Covid-19 Group has been established, comprising the Chief Executive, Convener, the Leaders of the Administration Groups and the Official Opposition Group, the Budget Leader and attended by the ECO for Performance and Governance.

This meeting takes place twice weekly, and sometimes more frequently, depending on the issues requiring discussion. The first meeting of the Member Gold Group took place on 19 March 2020. In the interests of transparency, a decision log recording those matters determined under the emergency governance arrangements is published on the Council’s website.

This decision to limit debate, at a time when so much technology is available to enable full and open discussion, has already been strongly criticised. But something else that struck me about it is the name adopted by this new elite group of decision-makers – “The Gold Group”. One way in which modern-day councils have always been consistent is in their enthusiasm for awarding themselves ludicrously pretentious and over-inflated titles. Membership of “The Gold Group” is no doubt greatly coveted. It would, of course, have been impossible for the council to adopt a title bereft of the glint of metallic megalomania.

This smacks of the elitist, domineering arrogance which led to the Coronavirus Gathering Place being forced through against mass public opposition last August.

Three months ago when we were still in normal times folk felt free to protest against anything the council did that they didn’t like, a minor traffic change, new parking restrictions, plans to ruin a natural beauty spot on our treasured riverside with a concrete abomination costing £300,000. Anything and everything.

But times have changed. And that’s the point. We’ve just been through 10 weeks when we’ve accepted being told whether or not we can sit on a park bench, if we’re allowed out for exercise, who we can go to visit.

Any change to that, like being ALLOWED now to play golf, or ALLOWED to go for a mile drive for a woodland walk, is greeted with a rendition of the Hallelujah chorus.

Maybe, witnessing this almost unbelievable change in the public mood, elements within the council believe they now can get away with pretty much anything.

People have been turning out in large numbers for the past two years to debate and virtually unanimously oppose the riverside-ruining scheme.

And that formerly outspoken people up for a fight or a protest campaign have now become so neutered and obedient that they’ll accept anything anyone in “authority” says or does.

And that if they want to mess around with the Coronavirus Gathering Place, change its shape, make it longer, shorter, two walls, three walls, plant the Tilting Pier smack bang in the middle – well the cowed and subservient populace will nod in dumb acceptance and mumble: “Thank you very much for telling us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Such an assertion can be overplayed. But at the same, can anyone – hand on heart – entirely rule it out?

And rule out the possibility that a clique within the council – maybe some within “The Gold Group” – in these drastically-changed times now believe they have more freedom to mess about with the cherished Ness riverside with their infernal “artwork” in any way they choose, and be met by only a severely dampened down level of public opposition?

The new-look plan for the CVGP was not drawn up for no purpose on the back of an envelope. It was created for some reason.

At Inverness news and views we are neither neutered nor cowed as we put “lockdown syndrome” behind us, and we know the OpenNess group members and many other people who vehemently opposed this riverside-ruining scandal feel just the same.

There must be no new “Gold Group” or any other group outbreak of secrecy surrounding the Coronavirus Gathering Place.

Cummings may hang on, but disgraced Dom’s example is dangerous in these times

by our Ross-shire correspondent

IN an ill-judged, rambling, excruciating and calamitous press conference the Prime Minister’s right-hand-man, Dominic Cummings, has obviously made it absolutely clear he has no regrets whatsoever about traveling round the country accompanied by his family and visiting his parents. This was while law-abiding citizens followed the “self isolation” advice and remained firmly stuck indoors.

In Inverness people were banned from driving a couple of miles and parking to go for a walk in the woods, while Dominic Cummings drove the length of the country.

It became crystal clear as Mr Cummings attempted to justify his idiotic tour – “driving to test his eyes”  – that he had displayed complete ignorance. In fact a total disregard for the welfare of other road users, his family members and the general public. His words in a futile effort to of justify his actions were simply outrageous. There’s no other word for it.


As that press conference progressed it became painfully clear that for Tory toffs the objective was to set rules but most certainly not to follow them. It became abundantly clear that regulations and laws were for ordinary people only. They were certainly not for those who stalk the corridors of Westminster and ultimately wield power.   

A local man who had a long career as a high-level communications adviser told me: “Although obviously stressful and difficult it was essential that Mr Cummings display contrition. He required to make it absolutely clear he recognised his current difficulties were self-inflicted.

“In his opening remarks Mr Cummings should have apologised profusely for his actions, expressed deep regret and given a clear signal that he fully understood driving a car around the country was not something others were permitted to do and his actions were a serious error of judgement.

“However, Mr Cummings chose to do none of these things. In fact he was combative and behaved like someone who knew that whatever happened his job was safe. He had obviously intended for the press conference to ‘suck the oxygen’ out of the story. But the result was to further fuel the inferno and provide journalists with a veritable goldmine of contradictory information.

“Mr Cummings should have tendered his resignation from his current post and explained he recognised he was obviously out of step with the country and had no alternative but to depart. 

” Mr Cummings should have emphasised his deep regret and acknowledged that his actions displayed poor judgement. That would have allowed the Government to completely focus on the job-in-hand and not be distracted by the sideshow created by Mr Cummings.  

“A woman on the radio today explained that her elderly parents lived a 30-minute drive away from her. She and her children desperately missed their usual regular visits to see them. Up until now they had strictly observed the Government’s advice on restricted movement and self isolation. However, following Mr Cummings’ lead and the Government’s reaction to his travels she was going to jump in the car and head over to see them. 

“A Pandora’s Box has been opened and there’s not a chance of the lid coming down again because Mr Cummings and the Government have jammed it open. There’s no way back now.”

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