Council relationship with public at lowest ebb in years

by a correspondent

WATCHING Prime Minister’s Question Time today I could not help but wonder if the citizens of Inverness will ever get the opportunity to question the Highland Council’s senior officials and councillors?

Not in the point-scoring, insult-hurling, truth-concealing way that makes PMQ’s sometimes seem so pointless and annoying but in a calm adult sensible sort of way.

The thought process of everybody involved with the decision to press ahead with the construction of the Gathering Place honestly explaining why they thought that it was an enhancement to the banks of the River Ness would be a fascinating exercise in local democracy.

Like thousands of folk with a genuine love of the natural beauty of Inverness, I would appreciate the opportunity of discovering what motivated so many people with a responsibility to look after Inverness, to desecrate it.

Like council leader Margaret Davidson, an Inverness area representative, who has barely ever said a word about this shameful decision “under her watch”.

And how incomprehensible it has been that having spent a vast amount of money on the concrete slab, they left it disfigured by an obscene depiction for months on end.

I went down there for a look today. The depiction is fading, not because of anything done by the council, but because it has been pounded by the rain and wind.

Council leader Margaret Davidson.

It was previously reported here that Glasgow has a policy of removing obscene graffiti within two days.

I checked the situation in adjacent Moray.

This relatively small local authority tackle the issue of graffiti head on and make it absolutely clear how they’ll deal with it.  They devote a section of their website headed “Removal Targets/Timescales” to how the graffiti problem will be dealt with in their area. They state clearly that if the graffiti is deemed to be offensive in anyway it will be prioritised and removed within 48 hours! They say all other graffiti will be removed within 14 days.

They really do cover all the bases. “If it is deemed to be offensive racist, sexist, homophobic, abusive, sectarian in nature or is liable to discriminate against a section of the community priority for removal will be given in these circumstances.”

These are clear rules/regulations and unambiguous.

And yet Highland Council were prepared to completely ignore this indecency on the riverside for weeks on end.

Sometimes their whole attitude to the Gathering Place “showpiece” that they were so determined to build at all and any costs seems unfathomable.

The fact that there is never an opportunity for Highland Council decisions to ever be reviewed in partnership with the public is a not only a wasted opportunity for vital lessons to be learned by our decision makers.

It is also a guarantee that the relationship between the council and the electorate, which some will argue has never been so damaged in living memory,  will continue to worsen at a time when it is clear that the Highland Council are going to need the support of the community in the future to deliver services with less resources than ever before.

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