Well, I can wish for the thought of a bottom-up view of all sections of society in Inverness, from the Police to the remnants of the working-class to political canvassing to the education system to… I am not yet at the fifth season… like Balzac, but with more swearing. Corrupt sheriffs, skulduggerous local councillors and the scene of urban decline in Nigg: and, hopefully, McNulty back on the sauce and not acting like Jack Nicholson after the lobotomy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Asda has been granted permission to construct a new supermarket at the Slackbuie site, its first in the Highland Region. I have a very narrow interest in certain political machinations, such as the Islamist scene in Britain, and have to admit that I have not been following local news as much as I should have; although I do know this has been causing some consternation, with permission apparently been awarded 18 months ago prior to a public enquiry, I do not know why local residents and councillors may be opposed to Asda per se. Bill Cameron offers few further clues.
The Aberdeen Press and Journal is reporting plans by a group of local councillors to challenge the decision by the Scottish Executive to countermand misgivings by the Highland Council planning permission committee. It appears to hinge on the dropping of an agreement by Asda to fund £1.5 millions in public road improvements, which was dropped during the aforementioned public enquiry.
Despites its rhetoric on progressive politics and civic nationalism, the minority SNP administration at the Scottish Executive has previously attracted accusations of a wide-eyed keenness to court corporate interests and single-minded capitalist endeavours; natable the decidedly Blairite attitude of Alex Salmond in countermanded established protocol and separate conclusions, such as with Donald Trump.
If it does turn-out that a welcome opportunity to receive £1.5 millions of investment in public roads was squandered, either through oversight or to maintain Asda interest, I would be highly disappointed. As the LibDem MP for Inverness/Nairn/Badenoch/Strathspey, Danny Alexander has outlined in a letter to Asda UK, public roads around the Slackbuie site are in a parlous state.
I do not know of the make-up of the dissenting local councillors, but it is true that Highland Council is LibDem controlled. A point which SNP list MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Dave Thompson thinks is significant. The P&J article reports him as saying:
SNP Highlands and Islands MSP Dave Thompson yesterday accused Lib Dem councillors who support the legal challenge of “flying the flag for Tesco”, which dominates the city’s retail sector.
“There now seems to be a concerted effort by Lib Dems to prevent Asda from coming to Inverness,” he said.
“Firstly, Danny Alexander has mounted a challenge on road funding.
“And now we see Lib Dem-dominated Highland Council considering a legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s decision to back Asda.”
This is quite a serious allegation. I would hope that Thompson is able to present evidence that representatives of two other arms of government are engaged in disreputable deals and favours for a private company. It is true that there are currently three other Tesco stores in Inverness, but I can see no reason why Alexander or Highland Council members prefer it over Asda: all appears to hinge on the loss of £1.5 millions to improve public roads around Slackbuie.
As Clay Davis would say, sh-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-t.
UPDATE – Bill Cameron has updated his missive with a local-eye view of the proceedings. It now looks as if Invernessians were largely in favour of the Asda deal, not least because of the competition it would present against Tesco. The tin-lid, though, was the promise of £1.5 millions for public roads, which was withdrawn after Scottish Executive lawyers advized that it would be unenforcable in law.
To my mind, this is still rather a poor show, as securing such investment for public developments and working hand-in-hand with large businesses seems to be a basic tenet of civic responsibility in which the state is not expected to micro-manage public life. And that still leaves Dave Thompson’s petulent comments, and Asda’s bad faith in withholding funds.