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Like many others in Scotland we, on Arran, are about to go into the local authority pre-election hustings and the underlying question has to be – who speaks for Arran and on what subject? The worry is the answer is confused.
As someone who, in 25 years, has been on a number of island committees (health, education, housing, local improvements, community council, forestry and communications etc.) and in my time in four fire services in Scotland and England, and a two-year secondment to the Home Office, I believe I broadly understand organisations, their responsibilities, politics and local authority structures.
However, recent events and decisions for the way ahead for Arran on a range of topics has led to serious questions about the structures and who the lead body should be on any topics and how they communicate with others to ensure an island view and agreeable solution.
Currently that is not working, despite what certain groups may think.
In addition, Arran not being a stand alone ward has led to poor representation.
The present representative groups are ostensibly (and not exhaustively and not in any order of priority) Arran Community Council, the ferry committee, Arran Economic Group, the Local Planning Partnership, VisitArran, the Brodick Pier committee, later conveniently renamed Brodick Harbour committee, the Ardrossan Harbour Taskforce (now conveniently renamed to exclude the word harbour), the Elderly Forum, ACVS and all of the local improvement committees.
That is not to exclude North Ayrshire Council and all of the political factions and CalMac, which regularly feel inclined to ignore local advice and consultation as it suits its purpose. And there are always those who advise you behind a cupped hand not to rock the boat because ‘they are working behind the scenes’ to see what they can do, but never succeed.
We need to know who does lead on harbours, toilets, forestry extraction. There are far too many conflicting voices, vested interests and too much misinformation on too many subjects. This needs to be resolved for everyone, including visitors to and residents on Arran, including rural Arran, which for many people is the real Arran.