“I can’t believe it’s only Tuesday. I feel like we have been on the road for weeks”
– John Sturrock
With a million impressions from the previous day still fresh in mind, the Better Conversations Bus Tour 2017 team woke up in Wick yesterday morning. We started the day having fascinating conversations with representatives from local businesses, touching upon issues and challenges from a business perspective as well as issues facing their community more generally. The division of these two types of issues is artificial and we quickly discovered that neither can be seen in isolation from the other. Many of the points made seemed to come from a place close to the heart of participants.
In Thurso, we were made aware of the consultation fatigue some communities in the area feel, but also the vibrancy of discussions driven by young people that took place across generations around dining tables at the time of the independence referendum in 2014. Meetings in Thurso developed more into private surgeries where it became clear that communities in the North Highlands will be faced in the future, if they are not already, with some difficult conversations about their future. Conversations to find common ground seem to be key to creating sustainable solutions.
Three main themes emerging from Tuesday were:
- Connectivity between communities in the North Highlands
- The challenge of retaining and, especially, attracting skilled staff for specialist positions
- The apparent gap between decision-makers and the public, leaving a sense of alienation locally.
The Better Conversations Bus Tour has now moved west, and starts out today in Tongue before heading to Durness and Kinlochbervie this afternoon and evening. It will be interesting to see what new perspectives on local issues our meetings today will bring.