Tramping the streets in support of Helen Smith, who led the campaign against the Gathering Place, now costing even MORE money

by Colin Campbell

JUST another polling day, just another fake “mandate for independence”.

That’s what’s shaping up in the week ahead for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. Even for the most fervent diehard, the most ardent true believer, it can hardly be a very inspiring prospect.

Whether the numbers voting for them dip remains to be seen. SNP voters are undoubtedly resilient, almost to the same degree as they are gullible. Another election, and leading lights come out of the woodwork dangling “indyref2” pledges before them yet again, as they have done for the past six years, without the cause being advanced one iota.

One thing is certain about Thursday’s council elections.

It’s not going to be a record turnout.

But for the first time ever I’ve been out wearing out shoe leather leafletting in support of Inverness West candidate Helen Smith, who led the campaign against the £300,000 riverside Gathering Place.

I hope she gets elected. An unsung local hero who is now quietly involved in other highly worthwhile projects to improve life for people, especially children, on the west side of the river, she’d be an excellent addition to our increasingly out of touch council.

Yet more money is to be spent on the Gathering Place site, it has ben revealed.

She couldn’t reverse the remote arrogance increasingly evident at Glenurquhart Road, summed up by the riverside debacle of the past three years, all on her own, but she could help make a significant difference.

And I’m convinced she’s not the type of person who would end up in thrall to the highly paid officials with their fancy array of titles who are effectively running the show these days, with too many supine, nodding dog councillors just there to publicly praise their efforts and rubber stamp their proposals.

If a few more of these craven characters had stood up to them we’d never have been burdened now with the concrete slab that has replaced a natural beauty spot.

Councillors were told if it wasn’t built it would cause “reputational” damage to the council? That was the priority among officials. Never mind the scenic and environmental damage to the Ness riverside if it was built. The shining image of the council was all that mattered. It sounded like they had more affinity with the council car park than our “jewel in the crown” riverside. Too many councillors tamely went along with this tripe. And now we can see how wrong they were.

Helen Smith led the campaign against the riverside debacle.

Now we learn that even more money is to be spent on the Gathering Place site. It seems there’s no end to it.

Helen Smith and I hope a few others who are newly elected to replace the outgoing deadwood wouldn’t have stood for that, not for a moment. We need an intake of fresh blood.

But as always Nicola Sturgeon presents a bigger picture with an independence backdrop. A vote for the SNP, according to her, will provide a “mandate for another referendum”.

That would be on top of the dozen or so she claims she has already, and has done nothing with. In truth she has no mandate. The numbers voting for the SNP have never topped the 50 per cent mark. And that’s certainly not going to change this time.

For the nationalists, compare and contrast with the fervour bordering on frenzy of a year ago in the last few days before the Scottish Parliamentary elections. They were going to virtually sweep the boards and triumphantly win a “super majority” which would make Westminster opposition to indyref2 “untenable” and “unsustainable”.

In the event they failed to win any majority at all. And even with a Prime Minister embroiled in scandal and widely unpopular in Scotland Sturgeon has since failed to advance the cause of independence one inch.

She’s been heavily distracted by too many scandals of her own, supplemented with her utterly bizarre obsession with “trans rights” and enabling men dressed as women to freely access female changing rooms at venues like the Inverness leisure centre, egged on by weird little Green man Patrick Harvie.

While this fruitcake agenda hasn’t been fully hit by the public kickback it deserves, you can’t help but wonder how many people who don’t take a lot of interest in the politics rammy have noted this and wondered what on earth Sturgeon’s playing at. And whether she’s lost touch with the views of the vast majority of ordinary people who think this stuff is simply nuts.

But still she insists another referendum will be held next year, even though many nationalists don’t believe that. They’ve been assailed, particularly in the run up to elections, by too many false promises before.

Neither have Sturgeon and the SNP been helped by a requirement imposed last week that they must publish advice from advisers on whether their indyref2 plan is actually legal.

They are stalling and trying to find ways to avoid doing this. And people will draw their own blindingly obvious conclusions from that.

While leaflets from Helen Smith have gone through many a letterbox I’ve received nothing from the SNP. And one thing SNP supporters are good at is climbing lampposts. A typical scenario at election time is to see SNP placards attached to nearly every metal pole in Inverness. But this time I’ve seen in total maybe a dozen or 20 at the most. The stepladders have remained in sheds and the footsoldiers are getting weary of it all.

And no wonder. The incentive to vote for the SNP at the behest of Sturgeon and Drew Hendry and Ian Blackford and others raking in huge salaries and expenses and cashing in to the full on the lucrative “independence industry” must be wearing very thin.

Yet again at election time Nicola Sturgeon parades her ‘indryref2’ promises.

Hendry has been out and about chatting up the local candidates in Inverness. Of course he has. It doesn’t happen often and it’s a chance to burnish his local credentials before he returns to living the high life at Westminster.

Hendry, once a local councillor himself, is in absolutely no hurry to lose the perks and privileges he currently enjoys. I believe he and others like him no more want independence than I do.

Out tramping the streets it’s clear this election hasn’t set the heather on fire. The most enthusiastic response I’ve had was from a recipient in Overton Avenue in upper Scorguie. I thrust a leaflet too far through the letterbox and a dog almost took my hand off.

“Council campaigner’s hand bitten off by alsatian!” It would certainly have made an interesting headline. Probably the most interesting of the campaign so far.

I’ll have a last couple of days on the campaign trail for Helen Smith. I hope she gains a council seat. And I also think every other candidate standing for election deserves credit for doing so.

I’ve found it quite tiring and time consuming delivering leaflets. How much more draining it must be if you’re in the thick of it and it’s your name and picture that’s on them.

This will be a tough, nervous week for all of them.

Through the decades I’ve been covering these campaigns one of my core beliefs has never wavered.

It may not sound like the absolute height of ambition, and after they’re in office we can criticise those elected whenever and wherever.

But with all that’s involved, the preparation, the build up and the inevitable tension in election week, it takes guts to step forward, put yourself on the line, and stand up to try and become a councillor.

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