Issue 208
May/June 2019

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Jul 18, 2019

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Editorial Comment

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The train now standing…

OVER THIS summer a quiet revolution was supposed to be taking place with the iconic West Highland sleeper service.

Several months late, admittedly, a set of brand new state of the art sleeper ‘train hotel’ coaches was due to be introduced.

Guess what? The introduction has turned out to be a fiasco.

The coaches – offering a range of options from reclining ‘airline’ type seats to luxury suites with proper beds and showers – guess what? They never arrived.

So it was back to the old sleeper trains once more. And guess what has happened to them? Yes, they have had a nasty habit of breaking down in the most inconvenient places – like miles from anywhere in the wilder parts of the magnificent West Highlands.

The service has, of course, been out-sourced to one of those marvellous service providers who all too often turn out to be Jacks of all trades and – yes, Masters of very few.

You might have thought it would be a good idea for a rail service to be run by a railway company with long experience of trains and tracks and signals and breakdowns and that sort of thing.

You might also have thought it might have been an idea for the rolling stock to be made in Britain by a long established rail engineering company with an intimate knowledge of Britain’s rail system.

Thanks to privatisation of the system you can forget about ideas like that.

Thanks to the zealots of the Tory party who insisted on the break up of British Railways and the consequent loss of skill centres such as British Rail Engineering we no longer have these centres of excellence. The experienced staff were dispersed. Brilliant.

Does this fiasco by any chance bring to mind another set of possible consequences of Tory party zealotry?

Something to do with those Trust Fund gurus who have quietly moved their own money pots out of the country (to Ireland possibly?) to avoid another, greater bout of chaos while they gaily advocate a macho No Deal Brexit.

This paper unashamedly agitated, via its STORM campaign, to STOp this Railway Madness.

We are now faced with an even greater madness: being led to the brink of economic suicide by a bunch of zealots who have blinded themselves to economic reality and have conveniently lost the ability to tell the difference between the truth and fantasy.

It is time for sane people to make sure this time we DO stop this impending madness.

Capital city!

THE FAIR CITY of Inverness has once more come top of the class.

What for this time?

As the British city (outside of London) offering the best concentration of cultural attractions within its ‘city walls.’

Anyone familiar with the Highland capital will not be at all surprised by this news.

From the vibrant arts complex of Eden Court, to the lively Museum and Art Gallery, to the endlessly stimulating Castle Gallery, the city has it all and all the attractions within easy reach one of another.

At one time the city was ringed round by a chain of buzzing art galleries, all of them strangely contained within converted churches.

Sadly, their number has declined as owners have moved on but one at least survives and travel a little farther North, East and West and you will find many more. The visual arts at least are alive and well in the Highlands.

No reasonable offer refused?

IN THESE worrying times for the future of our planet posititons are being taken on a number of deeply held beliefs.

We are all becoming more aware of our own contributions to the problem and in our own small ways trying to make a difference.

Some activists are going further and making a very public stand.

Events are being disrupted, traffic is being halted: the intention is to make us aware of the impending dangers we all face.

In the arts world some well kent public figures are calling for close scrutiny of the sources of support for some of our major institutions. A popular target of many activists are the oil companies – and in particular the international energy company BP.

The millions they pour into bodies like the Tate should, we are urged, be refused.

Understandable as such a principled position may seem, it has its dangers. With many libraries, theatres and arts companies all facing the threat of imminent closure we need to be very cautious about turning down assistance from any quarter.

And are there really very much ‘cleaner’ sources of financial support we can turn to?

On close inspection, many of the wealthiest city funds may turn out to have some rather murky aspects to their activities.

Ideally, of course, public funds should flow generously into the coffers of our arts institutions, but support is being cut almost across the board by all funding bodies.

As with climate change itself, there are no easy answers.

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