Friday, November 20th, 2015
Next May’s elections, and the following year’s local elections, offer significant opportunities to get across to ‘the masses’ our green vision for the H&I, and so hopefully help realise that vision through the election of Green MSPs and local councillors.
That vision describes where we Greens believes society need to get to, but what is not evident to the H&I electorate in particular is the significant unsustainable direction the present national and local governments are taking us all.One dire economic forecast for the Highland Council area is an expected widespread depopulation across much of the Highlands, and a continuing expansion of ‘honeypot’ Inverness and its immediate surrounding area.
The population of the Highland Council area is forecast to grow by 34,000 between 2010 and 2035, with two-thirds of that growth in Inverness alone. The population of Sutherland is expected to actually fall. Perhaps even more worryingly, only in Inverness, and Badenoch and Strathspey is the population of working-age people expected to increase; all other areas will witness a decline in numbers of working-age people, with significant falls in Caithness (-12%), Ross & Cromarty (-11%), Skye & Lochalsh (-15%) and Sutherland (-23%).
We also hear that Inverness primary schools are bursting at the seams, whereas across the wider Highlands higher school rolls could easily be accommodated.
The Branch has long-recognised this depopulation threat, and has sought to tackle it, primarily through responses to development plan consultations, including objecting to the concrete jungle expansion of Inverness Eastwards through Tornagrain to the airport.
The Branch has also vigorously voiced its concerns about the wasteful (combined) expenditure of £120m on the Inverness West Link road, and also the A9-A96 ‘mad mile’ link road. This planned expenditure, together with the much-vaunted Inverness ‘city-deal’ – which is just a loan to the Council – will do nothing for the Highlands outwith Inverness, and will only add to the Council’s current £800m mountain of debt.
All this has to change. In the run-up to these forthcoming elections, we need to root our vision in the fundamental green principle of focussing (public and private) investment in existing communities.
This means re-directing public funds from vastly expensive vanity projects into better local facilities, including schools, libraries, sports centres, parks, allotments and cycle routes.
In this way we can help create communities that are more self-sustaining with local, long-term satisfying jobs, and consequently minimise the need to travel, and overall to provide better quality of life.
Neil Hornsby, Inverness Greens.