The deaths, from poisoning, of 14 Red Kites and 6 Buzzards in the Highlands, made the national news in recent weeks and resulted in a demonstration though the streets of Inverness. Unsurprisingly, councillors wanted to express their anger that this may be occurring deliberately and condemned those that may have perpetrated a wildlife crime. There are sensitivities within the Black Isle communities, particularly amongst farmers, that they are all getting the blame for this, when many spend a lot of time encouraging wildlife on their land. Whatever the reasons, it is harming the perception of the Highlands as a haven for wildlife and a great place to come and see some of our most spectacular animals. Wildlife tourism brings in a massive £276 million to the Scottish economy. Let’s hope the police investigation is concluded quickly and any offenders prosecuted.
We’ll see some kite-flying, of a different kind, over the next few months as the council commences another consultation on budget issues. Expect to see plenty of controversial ideas flown in public, as the administration test the reaction of residents and perhaps divert some attention from the detail. Expect to see some of the controversial ideas to be dropped, as the administration claim that they have managed the process, so that some of the catastrophic things that might happen have been avoided.
I am sure one of those controversial ideas will be cutting the school day for primary school children, to reduce staffing costs. It was suggested two years ago, dropped very publicly by the Education Chairman, but appeared back on the agenda within two months of that particular announcement. I can’t see how the administration could go ahead with that proposal when they are increasing the number of hours for nursery children from the beginning of next year.
Whatever ideas we see revealed in the next few weeks, I wish Maxine Smith, the councillor who now has responsibility for the leading the budget process, the best of luck. She has a difficult task ahead, faced with the prospect of reducing the council budget by £63 million over the next four years, whilst balancing the competing demands of different communities and groups of residents.