by Colin Campbell
DREW Hendry, glorified ex-councillor, Inverness MP, and the SNP’s “Shadow Trade Secretary”, has now bestowed another title on himself, or had it bestowed on him.
He has become chairman of a newcomer to the scene, “The Inverness Futures Group”.
This comprises a group of “prominent people” who have got together and laid out “a vision for the future” of how they’d like Inverness to be in 2035.
Before you immediately give up on the subject matter of this article crying “not more bloody visions for the future”, hear the case for the defence.
The Inverness Futures Group has been set up on a voluntary basis and the folk involved are not consuming any public money.
They are well intentioned and would like to do their best for the city.
Grand plans for the future, no matter how hopelessly vague, idealistic and waffly they seem now, could conceivably by 2035 materialise into something which is actually real. But when your “statement of intent” is that by then Inverness will be a city welcoming to all through seamless transport links and beautiful clean streets and the warmth of a Highland welcome, you’re not exactly painting yourself into a corner in terms of coming up with clear, identifiable results. By 2035.
However, if I had a pound for every “vision” that has been produced for Inverness over the past 40 odd years, and was never heard off again, my retirement funds would be swollen by a very considerable degree.
My favourite, from a choice of many, was Academy Street as a tree lined boulevard. That, on schedule, should have happened several years ago. There are no trees, there is no boulevard, and if any greenery had been implanted it would have already been killed off by fumes spewing out of cars in what has officially been ranked one of the most toxic streets in Scotland.
Highland Council used to be a prolific producer of visions, but are less so now. Maybe because of council cuts their Visions Department was disbanded and its dreamy occupants were seconded to doing something worthwhile like filling in potholes in the roads, although if that did happen, they haven’t exactly been making a great job of it.
The other golden rule is that the longer the timescale for this kind of thing – in this case 2035 has been plucked out of the air – the less likely anything is to come of it. No one can tell what life will be like in Inverness in 2035, or years before it, for a host of very obvious reasons.
For example we might be independent by then. In which case most English people resident here will have left. And far from being welcoming, once they’ve got their visas to get to Scotland, the great mass of English visitors we currently enjoy will have been reduced to a trickle, venturing hesitantly into a potentially hostile foreign country.
And we won’t just be needing foodbanks, we’ll be needing food kitchens.
However, for now all we can say without dwelling too much on this is good luck to The Inverness Futures Group and whatever notions they come up with. Although, without even being particularly sceptical, I think it’s likely that long before 2035 they’ll have got fed up producing visions that never amount to anything and will have vanished without trace.
But whether we hear or don’t hear any more from them, we’ll certainly be hearing again from their chairman.
This is an ideal role for Drew Hendry, for as long as it lasts. All talk and no action, and that’s very familiar territory for him.
As SNP “Shadow Trade Secretary”, I doubt if he could successfully run an ice cream stall in a heatwave, but what does that matter?
He doesn’t have to actually achieve or accomplish anything, all he has to do is talk.
He’s not very good at that either but he has the necessary brass neck to give it a go, whenever and wherever required.
Remember when academics from the London School of Economics produced a detailed report on the cost of independence that the SNP didn’t like? He was on the airwaves within hours trying to trash it. I heard him, and his contribution was largely evasive, vacuous drivel, but at least he gave it a go.
He currently produces podcasts on his Twitter site in which he blathers away to other SNP freeloaders. “I’m no economist” he said on one. But in typical SNP style, that didn’t stop him from trying to take on the world renowned economists of the LSE.
As chairman of The Inverness Futures Group Hendry will spout out as and when it suits him with the reassuring certainty that he’ll have to come up specific answers and solutions about precisely nothing.
That won’t matter to anyone.
But as a leading light with the SNP at Westminster, which says about all we need to know about the quality and depth of the rest of them down there, he should be able to provide answers on what independence would mean Scotland.
On the currency we would use, on the impacts on pensions and mortgages, on the inevitability of a hard, passport controlled border with England, on the soaring deficit in Scotland, on how we would make up the loss of the extra £2,000 per head in public spending we get compared with people in England, and much else besides.
All of that matters very much indeed. And Hendry hasn’t a clue about answers to any of it.
Becoming chairman of this new Inverness group will be like water of a duck’s back to him.
All talk, and no action or answers necessary.
There’s no denying he’s the perfect choice.