Will 2021 REALLY be the year of the reviled Gathering Place

by Colin Campbell

WILL the new year finally see the dreaded day when a natural beauty spot adjacent to the Ness Islands is ripped apart and covered in concrete described as artwork, at a cost of £300,000.

The destructive and despised Gathering Place has been postponed so many times before in a tortuous three year saga that it’s impossible to say.

Council faces a budget crisis, but the £300,000 riverside ‘artwork’ is still planned to go ahead.

The council, led by arts group chairwoman and Gathering Place obsessive-in-chief Isabelle Mackenzie, sounded determined, following the last postponement announced three months ago, that it would go ahead in the spring.

But they sounded determined last January when they announced it would go ahead last spring, but that didn’t happen either, and it had nothing to do with the coronavirus.

As 2021 will be the last full year of the council before fresh elections and hopefully a good number will then quit or be cleared out, the sensible, face-saving course to follow would be to stall and prevaricate over this hugely unpopular act of riverside vandalism.

I believe only three people in the entire city now really want this thing built, chief executive Donna Manson, who has expressed her concern over the “reputational risk” to the council if it’s not built, while ignoring the damage it would inflict on the riverside, Isabelle Mackenzie, and perhaps to a lesser extent Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael.

Donna Manson sooner or later will no doubt move to another job elsewhere, and Isabelle Mackenzie will fade into obscurity.

But for the provost, who will have the appallingly embarrassing role of formally opening this thing, it will be different.

Whatever else she’ll be remembered for – and she has performed quite well in her role – she will be undoubtedly be remembered for this.

I suspect there is among several councillors an enthusiasm for taking revenge on the public who thwarted plans to build the “tilting pier” in Ness Walk. They want the Gathering Place built as a vanity project to satisfy their egos.

But they will be forgotten too.

For the provost, the Gathering Place, which thousands have expressed signed opposition to, will have been built on her watch against the wishes of so many people.

It will be her lasting legacy. And a more detested, mocked, and wasteful legacy to carry as a burden when she leaves office is difficult to imagine.

Let’s hope, even at this late stage, that she decides to use her influence to avoid such an ignominious outcome.

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