Women under-represented: there were plenty involved, for better and certainly for worse, in the ghastly Gathering Place

by Colin Campbell

AN Inverness council candidate in the upcoming elections said yesterday that women are under-represented on the local authority and according to wider research it would take 145 years to achieve “gender parity” in politics.

The concerns of SNP Ness side candidate Jackie Hendry are duly noted.

We don’t claim to know what the world will be like in 145 years. Many people at the moment are highly uncertain about how things will turn out in 145 days. Some people are worried about how it will look in 145 hours.

And not without good reason.

But focusing on Ms Hendry’s specific point, women are not under-represented on the council in Inverness. Ten of the 23 members are currently female.

They include Margaret Davidson, who is Highland Council convener. Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael. Depute Provosts Bet MacAllister and Carolyn Caddick, and Arts group chairwoman Isabelle Mackenzie. In other words the main positions of influence are all held by women. And the chief executive of Highland Council is Donna Manson.

So in terms of achieving “gender balance” the Highland capital must be about a century and a half ahead of just about everywhere else.

And what have this bunch given us?

Between them they hold primary responsibility for burdening us with the ghastly Gathering Place.

While other councillors kept their heads down and cravenly went with the flow, none of those named above had any doubts about what a huge asset it would be to the city, and contemptuously dismissed a mass of public opposition to this grotesque £360,000 travesty.

Isabelle Mackenzie was vehement in her support for the thing, claiming it would be “unique” and “something that can’t be found anywhere else in the world”.

Helen Carmichael was ardently enthusiastic about it.

Carolyn Caddick publicly expressed her support for it. Bet MacAllister likewise.

And last but most certainly not least, chief executive Donna Manson made an impassioned speech in support of it at a key council meeting in August, 2019, a contribution which almost certainly swung those who had serious doubts about the thing into finally deciding to back it. Manson had warned of the “reputational” demage to the council if the Gathering Place wasn’t built. Her unwillingness to take into account the scenic and environmental damage to the riverside if was built shocked and flabbergasted the multitude of opponents, running into the thousands, who anticipated the appalling impact it would have.

Thanks a lot ladies.

And what do we have now at what was once a cherished and unspoilt natural riverside beauty spot?

A patched up and already decrepit looking concrete slum, which for weeks on end was adorned with a vandal’s depiction of a giant penis, as these formerly strident supporters of the concrete carbuncle ignored the public embarrassment that caused to people walking along the riverside with children, and looked the other way and did nothing about it.

On the other side of the equality equation, however, we had women who did a terrific job in trying to block the Gathering Place from being built.

The wholly admirable Helen Smith organised a petition against it which attracted thousands of signatures. Other members of the OpenNess campaign group, mainly women, also fought tooth and nail against it, holding various public events to rally public support. They did great work and put a lot of time and effort into the campaign, all to no avail.

So we don’t know what things will be like in 145 years.

But we do know how they’ve shaped up over a very central issue of democracy over the past few years, the worst council decision in Inverness civic history, in which a small clique of female councillors simply and unforgivably ignored the broad mass of public opinion.

For better and certainly for worse, there were plenty women at the heart of the battle over the Gathering Place.

The problem was that the winners and losers turned out to be on the wrong sides.

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SNP buffoon Ian Blackford has incurred the wrath of hardcore nationalist zealots for suggesting that the war in Ukraine must take priority over another independence referendum.

For once this corpulent clown is talking sense.

His views will be blindingly obvious to those who are sane, balanced and rational.

Which of course excludes those who would still be demanding “freedom” if the world was on fire and the flames were licking at their feet.

Blackford, even more than Sturgeon, has been promising them referendums under all and any circumstances for the past five years, including during the covid crisis.

If even he is now backing off the zealots know all hopes are disappearing over the horizon.

They insist that it’s just one excuse after another to deny them their dream. First the worst health crisis in 100 years. Now an escalating and horrifying European war. Yes, just one flimsy excuse after another.

Sturgeon and her cronies like Blackford are not so stupid that they can fail to see for now and for the foreseeable future that independence is a lost cause.

Until a month ago they had to deal with a host of unanswered questions over currency, pensions, mortgages, the deficit, a hard border with England and many others besides.

Now many people, when they get round to thinking about it, will see independence in terms of an isolated and defenceless Scotland in a horrifyingly threatening world. That utterly grim perception, which none of us saw coming, is going to be around for a very, very long time.

And it will be enough to skewer the manic lust for “freedom” all on its own.

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NICOLA Sturgeon on Tuesday issued a formal Scottish Government apology to witches who were persecuted centuries ago.

She said they had been the victims of “colossal injustice”. No doubt they were. Things were different in the 15th century.

Needless to say, Sturgeon’s 500 year apology generated an outpouring of mockery and ridicule.

On social media, one sceptic asked if she’d made an additional apology to 15th century Trans witches.

Quick as a flash another contributor said they’d have been deemed guilty of the aggravated offence of “Switchcraft”.

Coming up with brilliant wordplay like that is a tabloid headline writer’s dream.

So hard luck on the witches.

And for us, another immersion in the duckpond of Sturgeon’s endless virtue signalling on behalf of the crazy, blabbering SNP.

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