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I recently had a conversation with certain people regarding the Skye airport project in the letters section of this newspaper.
The gentlemen concerned questioned Acharacle Community Council’s (ACC) ‘right to object’ to a request for additional funding from Highland Council.
Although I was clearly writing as a private individual, they chose to ignore that, since I referenced my support of a similar objection by ACC.
Every community council and every resident of the area has a right to comment on Highland Council (HC) spending policy and should be encouraged to do so.
Highland councillors are elected by us, Highland Council acts on our behalf and everything Highland Council does is funded by our (taxpayer) money.
So it is relevant for us to participate in discussions about how funds are attributed across the area.
In this particular situation I argued that the need to rein-in use of air travel should be prioritised over local considerations.
I would have held the same opinion even if Skye were in need of an economic boost or lacked adequate connectivity.
This is a difficult issue for councillors to balance – area, national or even global considerations against the needs of a particular community.
We should be doing everything we can to help guide them. Our occasional opportunity to vote in elections is not enough – we need to be willing to speak up, correspond and comment.
The trend for determining spend through public vote may be a step in the right direction for encouraging community engagement, but I am instinctively nervous about it.
Monies will inevitably go to the group that can rally the largest number of supporters – the process is too simplistic. And we all need to guard against squeaky-wheel syndrome, whereby he who shouts loudest gets most attention.
In the letter referenced above, I was accused of having based my opinion on social media comments, which is fast becoming the favourite way of slinging mud when you don’t like what someone has said.
This is hardly surprising though when so many people seem willing to share and comment without checking facts and simply shout ‘I am right, you are wrong’ as if everything in life is black or white.
Social media provides us with an incredible platform for grown-up objective debate, but we are missing an opportunity if we abuse the system.
We have the technology to make contact fast and easy. We should use it rationally and encourage more people to share and discuss their views, even when we do not like them.
All our elected representatives have tough decisions to make and we ought to be helping them by providing constructive input and reasoned consideration, not just hurling abuse from the sidelines when they do something we do not like.
Once we are willing to do that, we will have earned the right to expect better decision making from them.