The way I see it from Councilor Jim McGillivray
The Highland Council’s external debt this month stands at Â£ 829million. That’s a lot of money but a little less than the March figure of Â£ 963million. At times over the past year it has passed the Â£ 1billion mark. Senior council officials implemented sound financial management.
The problem is not with municipal officials but with councilors. Encouraged by debt reduction, the advisers in Inverness in particular are exploring all possible ways to remortgage our existing debt to find the funds needed to modernize and expand their Inverness secondary schools and build new ones. their new primary schools in Inverness.
To give an idea of ââthe scale, you don’t get much of a change over Â£ 15million for a new primary school, and the Culloden Academy extension is priced at Â£ 7million.
While these people want to use what is in part our money for their specific benefit, they are right. The constant expansion of Inverness continues unabated and the population is growing inexorably. There must be a place to educate the bairns.
It seems to me that this is a development that is going headlong and out of control, with the Highlands Council rushing behind the curve in reactive attempts to provide the necessary social infrastructure.
This must be contrasted with the situation in Sutherland where depopulation, although hardly uncontrollable, is pernicious and pervasive. Concerned about the Inner Moray Firth as it is, the Highland Council is aware of the plight of rural areas, but is either powerless or unwilling to tackle these issues to any great extent. It is an even more desperate hope that the national governments of Holyrood and Westminster are also greatly disturbed. We are not important.
The progress of the Sutherland Space Hub at A’Mhoine, however, is cause for some modest optimism, especially as it has moved forward without further legal challenge from the environmental lobby.
One would hope that there is an acceptance in this neighborhood of the economic needs of the local population, the people of the region who are doing their best to continue living there.
But, as was very expressly pointed out at the most recent Sutherland Community Partnership meeting, there must be affordable housing available to encourage new workers with families to come and settle in the area. .
This is a challenge that all local politicians need to address urgently, but we are faced with the problem of inflated land prices, with plots currently advertised at Â£ 60,000 and above.
The northern free property market has been distorted by an influx of money from the south, whether for retirement, lifestyle, Covid lockdown escape, second home, or short-term vacation rental .
And it brings back bitter memories. From 2006 to 2010, I helped the Embo Trust with an offer to buy the Fourpenny Plantation to create 12 woodland farms to be allocated to local youth. This ultimately failed when Alex Salmond replaced the Land Fund with BIG Lottery. Not smart. Useless. Totally disheartening.
Jim McGillivray is a Highland Councilor representing East Sutherland and Edderton.
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