Wednesday, 14 April 2010
Since the start of the week, the local news has been dominated by Highland Council’s proposed programme of cuts to local services, including the Nairn Swimming Pool. There is a Facebook campaign to save the pool here.
As I have no direct connection with Nairn, I’ll avoid the easy option of signing up for the campaign as if the Nairn pool is a facility I have used and loved. I do however, fully support what local community campaigners are trying to achieve.
The Labour party is making the case at this election for protecting front-line services whilst we secure the recovery. That’s not easy, but local services, and the jobs that depend on them, should not be paying the price for the excesses of the banking system. And if a much-used local swimming pool is not a front line service, I don’t know what is!
I am hugely concerned about the consultation process currently being undertaken by Highland Council. We face difficult financial times, but asking communities to compete with each other about what services should be cut and which should be saved is not how I think things should be done.
Earlier this week I visited Hilton Community Centre, in Inverness, who are also on the list of potential closures. Should they have to argue why they should be saved rather than Nairn’s pool? Setting community against community is no way to do things. It’s an invidious process.
Elected politicians are there to make the difficult decisions, not absolve themselves through a flawed process of consultation.
Highland Council - like all Scottish council - is facing a truly difficult financial situation as a result of the tight budgets set by the Scottish Government.
The elephant in the room, however, is the unwillingness to consider raising more income by breaking out of the straight-jacket imposed by the Council Tax freeze. The combination of additional income with the savings that could be made in administrative areas, could provide a life-line for the Nairn Pool as well as Community Centres.
I will do all that I can to save Nairn Swimming Pool and Hilton Community Centre – as well as the many other vital community facilities across the constituency - as part of my campaign priority of protecting vital front line services whilst we secure the recovery.
Despite saying at the start that I had no direct connection with the town, I learned at the weekend that my wife’s great uncle, Donald Finlayson (her family are from the Ardersier/Inverness area) drowned in the River Nairn in 1896. I am trying to find out under what circumstances.
I hope it wasn’t because he was a non-swimmer!