by Colin Campbell
ONLY a third of people questioned want another referendum in the next two years, according to the latest opinion poll.
It that is even remotely reflective of public opinion generally, it makes a mockery of Nicola Sturgeon’s persistent determination to have such a poll by the end of 2023, which she doesn’t have the power to do anyway.
Arch-nationalist and serial fantasist Lesley Riddoch this week wrote one of the very few articles she’s penned I’ve ever agreed with when she said the situation in Ukraine should come first, second and third in priority over independence for now and the foreseeable future.
This should have served as a rebuke to SNP MPs Michael Russell and Michelle Thomson who both compared the plight of the Ukrainians with the struggle for independence.
Thomson apologised, but Russell dug his heels in and insisted he had said nothing wrong. Pig-headed to the last.
The SNP, including local MPs Drew Hendry and Ian Blackford, have made comments linked to Ukraine during the last week which were the usual drumbeat of reflex criticism of the Westminster Government. It is no doubt not a habit to easily give up.
Blackford tried to whip up a ludicrous row over a small private plane being allowed to take off for Moscow from Inverness Airport last Sunday. And Hendry leapt in to describe the UK Government’s attitude to Ukrainian refugees as being a “national disgrace”, when 200,000 at a minimum are already guaranteed entry.
Blackford we have indeed given up on. Who can predict what this oaf will come out with next? Hendry we would expect better of. He and his more rational colleagues should and hopefully will realise that for the time being at least, hostilities over independence should be suspended, and anything to the contrary will strike most people as jarringly inappropriate.
HUNDREDS of people in Glasgow have come forward and signed up to take in Ukrainian refugees if and when required.
That is a small number from a million population city but it is early days and the number will surely rise.
As the humanitarian crisis worsens by the day a vast number of people are liable to be coming here, and where they go will have an inevitable impact across the country, including Inverness and the Highlands.
Relatives of mine in Perth participated for years in the “Children of Chernobyl” initiative in which youngsters from that benighted region came to Scotland on holiday for up to a month. They took in two or three children every year, as did many of their friends, and retain uplifting memories and photographs of their experiences with these youngsters. A group of them travelled to Chernobyl to visit their parents there and lasting friendships were struck. I haven’t spoken to them yet since the war started but I’ve no doubt anyone in that situation is liable to feel a heightened level of distress over the dreadful events happening there now.
On a practical level we know well enough about the extreme pressure on housing and accommodation in Inverness.
I struck up a casual acquaintanceship with a pleasant woman in my neighbourhood who had been registered as homeless and had been allocated a nearby flat. At the weekend she left for a live-in hotel job and asked if I would return the key to the relevant housing agency which deals with homeless people in the city. This proved a bit easier said than done.
Despite making repeated calls there was no reply from the number she gave me so I phoned up the council housing department number. After a long, long wait, close to an hour, I got through and explained why I was calling. The woman I spoke to said she would try and put me through to someone, but no luck there either. She said the issue was complicated because some people, case workers, were still working from home. To cut a long story short the key was collected, and even as I write a large white council van is outside the property preparing it for the next arrival.
The point is the housing authorities are under huge pressure with the demand for accommodation as things stand. Calls to Highland Council are usually answered very quickly. But not to the overstretched and pressurised housing department with a high volume of applicants and inquiries to deal with.
As the Ukrainian crisis worsens and refugee numbers mount how close to home will this get?
It may be premature, but not that premature, to think about how many people in Inverness with spare capacity would be prepared to literally open their doors to Ukrainian refugees. A substantial number, I’ve no doubt.
And in these circumstances that should be without red tape and bureaucracy and background “checks for suitability”. Let’s hope those in authority who should be and probably are now planning ahead for a large influx of refugees across Scotland have the sense to set aside any needless tangle of vetting procedure which will discourage people from offering a roof to people who have undergone the most terrible suffering in Europe we have seen.
WHEN it was announced that the cap is being lifted on energy prices and bills would rise steeply those issuing the warning weren’t kidding.
I received an email from my energy supplier this week with a projection that in the year from April my bill would rise by several hundred pounds. Many other people would have got the same alert. It was a distinctly unwelcome eye-opener.
And I’m fairly frugal with electricity use, or at least I’m in an age group where I suspect many people instinctively try to be, whether they can afford it or not.
For families in larger houses who are used to being bathed in daily warmth the projected rise in bills must be close to heart stopping.
Now we may have to await the next power jolt. The latest forecasts warn that because of disruption of energy supplies caused by the war costs may have to increase by a further 50 per cent, at least.
The “heat or eat” dilemma faced by many people, particularly the elderly, is set to intensify.
And in these uniquely troubled times, what can be done about it? Complaints or representations will be brushed aside on the basis that this is a new reality people just have to deal with.
I remember the Arabian oil crisis in the 1970s which brought the three (working) day week, and the widespread closure or early closure of all entertainment venues. It didn’t seem so bad but I was young then. And nothing seems all that bad, mercifully, for most people when they’re young.
The dominant memory from those literally dark days was of a jovial mixture of hilarity and mockery caused by a government minister who suggested with po-faced seriousness that people should share a bath.
This gave rise to a wave of imaginative tabloid innuendo which actually raised the spirits of the nation.
There certainly is a dearth of good news around at the moment. And unfortunately in an era when social media nastiness and spite is the predominant response to every political utterance, no government minister is liable to blunder into giving the nation a cheering bath-sharing cause for amusement anymore.