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As community councils across Lochaber fold due to a lack of nominations, Kinlochleven is holding elections as nine people were nominated for eight places.
At the final meeting of the current Kinlochleven Community Council, this commitment by the village was praised by chairwoman Yvonne Rosie but she wanted more constructive discussions on issues that affect everyone.
In a statement she made to the council, Ms Rosie talked about the dangers of making Facebook the public forum for discussion, especially on contentious issues such as the proposed zipwire project.
‘We no longer have timely discussions at village level,’ said Ms Rosie. ‘No, we go immediately to air points of view on social media, often to the detriment of fact and truth. Sadly, these are often an afterthought.
‘On this platform, we lose the nuance of our wording, statements taken out of context, tones misinterpreted,’ continued Ms Rosie. ‘References made about the village which are derogatory yet supposed to be amusing, all of these and more can erode the very semblance of community.’
Discussion about the zipwire has overshadowed other issues and divided the community. Ms Rosie believes this is due to the discussions happening through Facebook.
She said: ‘Social media is difficult to regulate but those who can should make an effort to nip in the bud those threads that are detrimental or scathing about any of our village organisations or individuals. We can’t battle on all fronts so it is high time this behaviour ends.’
The zipwire was proposed to be built going across Loch Leven but some residents complained due to potential impacts on wildlife and said it would obscure the view down the loch, among other issues.
An opposition group was set up on Facebook and its petition has been signed by almost 1,500 people at time of publication.
A spokesperson for the group, who preferred not to be named, told the Lochaber Times they were saddened Ms Rosie felt the need to chastise them.
They said: ‘We see our role and remit as extracting truth from fiction and keeping on point rather than making matters personal, despite receiving numerous individual attacks on ourselves.’
Project lead of the Leven Adventure Zipwire Project Stephen Connelly said their Facebook group had to go private due to similar attacks.
The opposition spokesperson added: ‘We are delighted this proposal has motivated our community and created a wonderful opportunity for people, near and far, to participate in the future of Kinlochleven. It is fantastic to have reached a point whereby the community want to work together, despite our differences of opinion over this one idea.’
Some members of the opposition group have been nominated for the community council, as has Stephen Connelly.
He said: ‘I am standing for election out of a deep-seated desire to help make Kinlochleven as good a community for the residents and as nice a place for tourists to visit as possible. I see the zipwire project and my support of village organisations/projects (the community trust, litter picks, social projects) as two separate side of my life.
‘Our door is always open for face to face discussions with members of the opposition group.’
Mr Connelly said that, while there were objections to the planning applications, the letters of support outweighed them by more than a fifth.
All those concerned made it clear that they were not joining the community council to further their agenda on this topic, but working towards bettering the village.
There are strong opinions from a small number of people on both sides, but it is hoped that having everyone working together will cool the hot heads.