Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Nairn - Highland Council refuse collection schedules - 2016 to 2018

You can download a calendar of the refuse collection schedule for your street/area within Highland Council by visiting its website here. Enter your area/town by clicking on the drop-down menu in the "category" box and your town and/or street name (leave out 'street', 'avenue', 'terrace' etc, insert only the actual name) in the "keywords” box. Once you find your area, you can download the collection schedule, which will be in .pdf format. Currently available are refuse collection schedules for the period April 2016 to March 2018.

NB/ For information, my earlier articles in July 2011 and November 2014 (respective links links here and here), in particular the first linked article, has somewhat more detail about what may be put in the various bins/'wheelie bins', although of course the refuse collection schedules embedded there are now out of date. Since then, Highland Council has reorganised its website considerably and the way this information may be found has changed, as described above.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Scottish Parliament election 2016; results (constituency and regional) in Highland Region

Well, all 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament have now declared their results and as expected the Scottish National Party [SNP] have 'won', but crucially have lost their overall majority, with the principal gainers being the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party [SCUP], who succeeded even above their own expectations by pushing the Scottish Labour Party [SLP] decisively into third place.

In the 3 constituencies in the area, where the vote is 'first past the post', the results were as follows; the first shown below is the constituency in which I can vote and the other two are shown here for information:

Inverness and Nairn
- CADDICK, Carolyn Ann (SLD) - 4th (5,445 votes, 14.2%, +2.7%)
- EWING, Fergus Stewart (SNP) - 1st (18,505 votes, 48.3%, −3.2%)
- MOUNTAIN, Edward (SCUP) - 2nd (7,648 votes, 20.0%, +8.4%)
- STEWART, David (SLP) - 3rd (6,719 votes, 17.5%, −4.2%)

Caithness, Sutherland and Ross
- FRANCHETTI, Leah Esther (SLP) - 4th (3,334 votes, 10.4%, −8.7%)
- MACKIE, Struan (SCUP) - 3rd (4,912 votes, 15.3%, +5.0%)
- ROSS, Gail Elizabeth (SNP) - 1st (13,937 votes, 43.3%, −5.1%)
- STONE, Jamie (SLD) - 2nd (10,024 votes, 31.1%, +8.8%)

Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch
- CAMPBELL, Ronnie (IND) - 5th (1,116 votes, 3.1%, +1.5%)
- FORBES, Kate (SNP) - 1st (17,362 votes, 47.6%, +1.4%)
- MACLEAN, Angela Margaret (SLD) - 2nd (8,319 votes, 22.8%, −7.7%)
- MUNRO, Robbie (SCUP) - 3rd (5,887 votes, 16.1%, +7.2%)
- STEWART, Linda (SLP) - 4th (3,821 votes, 10.5%, −2.4%)

Voting also took place in a regional 'List' system under a form of proportional representation, with the regional results where I live being:

Highlands and Islands Region (showing names only of those elected as 'List' MSPs - using the d'Hondt method of voting, the Additional Member System)
listed in alphabetic order by political party or individual name
Details of registered parties and party list candidates
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
"Ruth Davidson for a Strong Opposition"
(Douglas Ross, Edward Mountain, Donald Cameron)
- 3 seats, 44,693 votes, 21.8%, +10.1%
Scottish Green Party
"Re-elect John Finnie"
(John Finnie)
- 1 seat, 14,781 votes, 7.2%, +2.1%
Scottish Labour Party
"Choose kids, not cuts"
(Rhoda Grant, David Stewart)
- 2 seats, 22,894 votes, 11.2%, -3.3%
Scottish National Party (SNP)
"Nicola Sturgeon for First Minister"
(Maree Todd)
- 1 seat, 81,600 votes, 39.7%, −7.8%
RISE – Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism
"Scotland’s Left Alliance"

- 0 seats, 889 votes, 0.4%, +0.4%

Scottish Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship”
"Christians Together"

- 0 seats, 3,407 votes, 1.7%, −0.3%

Scottish Liberal Democrats
- 0 seats, 27,223 votes, 13.3%, +1.1

Solidarity - Scotland's Socialist Movement
"Tommy Sheridan - IndyRef2"
- 0 seats, 793 votes, 0.4%, +0.3%

UK Independence Party (UKIP)
- 0 seats, 5,344 votes, 2.6%, +0.7%

Details of individual regional candidates
STOCKAN, James Wilson
- 0 seats, 3,689 votes, 1.8%, +1.8%

Turnout was 55.6%.
- full results for the Scottish Parliament election 2016 are in the BBC website here.

At a personal level, I am pleased that there are now 3 'List' MSPs representing the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party in the Highlands and Islands Region, out of 7, namely Douglas Ross, Edward Mountain and Donald Cameron - congratulations! This is an increase of 1. Other changes are that the Scottish National Party have reduced their 'List' representation from 3 to 1, with the Scottish Green Party gaining 1 seat (nb/ John Finnie was a 'List' MSP in the last parliament 2011-2016, but sat for the Scottish National Party for the period 2011-2012, then as an Indpendent for the period 2012-2016).

The only other comment I wish to make here is that whilst I am not a 'vindictive' person (I do not think), I am personally pleased and relieved that one particular person standing for the SNP as fourth on their 'List' for this area, namely Nairn councillor Liz MacDonald, was not elected; my blog article written during August 2014 (see here) explains why. In my view she has no place in public life; harsh I know, but there are certain kinds of behaviour which are completely unacceptable in a civilised society for an elected official.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

UK and EU; should we stay or should we go (*)

(* - with a hat-tip to 'The Clash')

Tomorrow 5th May we will be having elections of one kind or another in every part of the UK - regional parliamentary or assembly elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and local elections in England, plus of course the mayoral election in London, not forgetting also a bumper crop of elections to select 41 Police & Crime Commissioners across England and Wales - and by Friday we will know what the immediate fallout is. The BBC has a dedicated 'homepage' for all of these elections here. I've written several blog articles recently about the Scottish parliamentary elections in my immediate area; please scroll down if you wish to refresh your memory.

However, not much more than a month from now, the UK will hold a referendum which is arguably at least as important if not more; whether to remain a member of the European Union, or not. There are two 'official' campaign groups, supporting the 'remain' and 'leave' sides respectively and you can visit their website here (for 'remain') and here (for 'leave').

Over coming weeks in the run-up to the referendum, I shall undoubtedly be writing more on this topic in this blog, but meantime I have started the ball rolling by writing brief news updates in my own personal website here in the 'homepage', with a slightly more detailed (but also completely neutral) brief section in its dedicated EU page here (nb/ this page has existed in my personal website more or less since I began the website in its current form in 2002). In that latter page I have included a couple of relevant links which I repeat here, because they will undoubtedly be mentioned regularly in passing in media reporting as the referendum date of 23rd June 2016 draws closer:
- Lisbon Treaty Article 50;
- HM Government official EU Referendum website.

The referendum question will be:
"Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"

The only other remark I wish to make at this stage is that whilst HM Government's official position is to recommend that the UK remains a member of the EU and its website linked to above reflects this, the level of 'objectivity' of the arguments advanced for this position is hotly disputed by some and I myself tend to share some of that scepticism, although I have not yet made up my mind finally how I will vote.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Inverness (INV) gets back flights to Heathrow (LHR) after a gap of almost 20 years

Whilst I think the existing flights from Inverness to London airports such as Gatwick and Luton are good, there is no getting away from the fact that flying into London or via London through Heathrow opens up huge additional possibilities, particularly as Heathrow is the UK's major international 'hub' airport. So the news that British Airways is to reinstate flights from Inverness to Heathrow after a gap of almost 20 years is unequivocally a "good thing" in my view.

I've taken a look in the British Airways website at the flights available currently (one a day in each direction) and these appear to be at pretty convenient times during the day, to suit both the business and leisure traveller. In particular, those arriving off of long-haul flights into Heathrow early in the morning will probably be able to catch the flight upto Inverness, whereas those who are leaving on a long-haul flight from Heathrow in the late-afternoon or early evening should be able to make the connection on the lunch-time flight out of Inverness in many cases. This will undoubtedly be very convenient for business travellers, but also to long-haul leisure travellers, whether travelling East or West from or to Heathrow.

The convenience for many buisness or leisure travellers of flying through Heathrow however comes at a price, so if one is not going further than London by air, or coming further, there may be little advantage in using this new service from a cost perspective, but for those coming from or going to long-haul destinations using flights via Heathrow, then the convenience of not having to transfer to/from Gatwick will be a major advantage, because it adds to be safe at least a couple of hours when a trip between the two airports is required, not to mention the additional cost, whether you travel via one of the regular scheduled coach services or take a taxi - going around a part of the M25 during working hours is unlikely to be a fast or particularly comfortable experience.

Of course some long-haul flights do go through Gatwick too, so for some travellers it may still be more convenient to take flights to/from Inverness there, but the reinstated link with Heathrow will provide much greater convenience and flexibility for many travellers to/from the Highlands of Scotland.