by Colin Campbell
WE have almost lost count of the number of vandalism attacks on the Gathering Place since it opened just two months ago.
As it stood, there appeared to have been four, each more damaging than the one before, and the last a spraypainted disfigurement stretching along yards of the thing.
A concrete monstrosity to start with, it is now turning into a patched up slum.
After just eight or nine weeks since its completion.
Now we learn from a correspondent of another so far unreported attack, the most pernicious and ugliest yet.
We are told it was adorned with a swastika and “obscene comments” about “a senior council official”.
As our correspondent says, whoever was responsible would have had to go “out in the river” to inflict the damage, given its location at the furthermost tip of the slab.
No doubt given the content of this latest act of vandalism, the council acted with some speed to cover it up.
And only yesterday we heard from another correspondent: “No attempt has been made to cover up ‘male sex organ’ graffiti on the outer edge of the ‘artwork’.”
That adds up to SIX vandalism attacks on the concrete slab in two months.
This is wholly unacceptable behaviour and should be unreservedly condemned. But this is taking place in winter, which is scarcely the high season for vandals to be out and about, especially on a cold riverbank alongside the fast flowing waters of the Ness.
How much more of it is to come?
Councillors who obsessively pushed ahead with this debacle were repeatedly warned of the likely consequences, with serial vandalism of the structure being among them.
Serial and serious vandalism of the Gathering Place is becoming a regular and recurring problem.
Our anger, and the disgust of many others opposed to this £360,000 desecration of the riverside, has abated.
But it seems clear that it will continue to be targeted, for different motives.
We’ve said before, reflecting a view shared by thousands of other people who signed a petition vehemently protesting against the Gathering Place, that this has been a shambles and a riverside disaster from start to finish.
Councillors who breathed sighs of relief when work was finally completed and believed the outcry over their incomprehensible idiocy would fade away are now finding that that is not happening.
They were hellbent on building the thing at all and any cost to see through their £360,000 vanity project.
It seems others are now hellbent on disfiguring it, even if that means wading into the icy waters of the Ness.
Six vandal attacks in the space of a few weeks is evidence enough of that.
It seems probable bordering on inevitable that this will continue. And who knows what form it will take next?
Meanwhile every time it happens fully stretched council workmen who have much more pressing demands on their time are having to be diverted to patch up and repair the Gathering Place.
The scandalous amount of money being spent on this thing just keeps on rising.
The OpenNess campaign group who have led the campaign against the concrete destruction of a natural beauty spot intend to highlight the arrogance of councillors who supported the Gathering Place in the May elections.
How effective this will be remains to be seen.
However the hope must be that the most ardent ringleaders in the obsession to complete this astonishingly costly vanity project will either choose to voluntarily quit the council, or will be ousted.
And that we see an influx of fresh blood and new councillors prepared to take a calm, objective look at this hideous, vandalised, concrete slab that virtually no one in Inverness wanted to be built.
And that over time, vandal attacks or no vandal attacks, they come round to the belief which is increasingly growing among members of the public.
That this patched up riverside slum must sooner or later be demolished.