Am Bratach No. 233
March 2011

Backcoaster’s Diary

“Gaddafi sets stage foer violent showdown” — Grauniad website, February 23.

We’re talking about an event, of may be 100 years or more ago, that took place in the North West Highlands, not a millions miles from Stoer. Poor lassie, she wasn’t quite right and was up before the elders after promising the world a bonnie baby, outside of marriage, at that time a rare falling from grace. The elders, all of the male persuasion and anxious that such an event should not occur again, tiptoed round the subject for a while before one stern gent, tired of beating about the bush, demanded in the language of the Garden of Eden: “Why didn’t you shout out?” “Why didn’t he shout himself?” rejoined the young mother-to-be.

“The idea is that whenever cuts in a department are demanded by elected ministers, civil service bureaucrats respond by ignoring the many cases of waste, inefficiency, or general uselessness in the department, and instead tell the minister that the only way to cut spending is to axe necessary or politically important services and initiatives.” — Adam Shaw, in the American Thinker.

“Go pay your chiefs a salary in line with the rest of us and apply the savings internally. Get some councillors who can string some words together and don’t need a press office to be coherent and scrap that department.” — Andrew MacDonald, Inverness, online petitioner campaigning against the closure of the Plockton High School National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music.

“Closure would strike at the heart of a whole generation of culture: better we drive on potholed roads than sacrifice the futures of our youngsters.” — Nick Reiter, Lochcarron, online petitioner campaigning against the closure of Plockton High’s National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music.

“Tavish Scott’s question to the First Minister was a green light for the Highland Council to close the [Plockton music] school, by trying to shift responsibility to the Scottish Government,” railed Highland nationalist MSP Rob Gibson in a press release on February 10. “Indeed after Education Minister Mike Russell indicated (last week) that he would be happy to discuss the matter with Highland Council there has been no indication that the Council tried to discuss the matter with him. The Council will have to explain to many musicians around the Highlands and islands why they chose to abandon them.”

But Rob had overlooked something: his own (ruling) party’s machinations to get local authorities to toe the line and freeze the council tax when they took power in 2007. The so-called Concordat between the government and councils had freed the latter from government ring-fencing of specific budgets, like the £317,000 sum allocated to Highland Council to keep the Plockton music school in business. So the LibDem-Labour council administration, on the morning when one petition website alone had just recorded the 9,000th signature opposing the cut, exercised their new found freedom, and decided to axe the annual grant to Plockton High School National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music. Long live local democracy!

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