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More people turn out to decide Black Isle bottle bank location than for last local council election

The North Kessock bottle bank saga has rumbled on for nearly five years.
The North Kessock bottle bank saga has rumbled on for nearly five years.

A Black Isle bottle bank will be on the move again after more than 800 villagers voted to decide its fate.

Banners have been draped over roundabouts, there have been claims of social media censorship and even the police have been called to intervene.

It may have only been to decide whether a bottle bank should be located in North Kessock’s main car park or half a mile up the road in Ferry Brae.

But the dispute has got people very hot under the collar indeed.

It divided people in the village for nearly five years, prompting Highland Council to hold a ballot to finally bring it to an end.

That vote has now been completed and the car park option has swept to victory, by 586 votes to 288.

All this over a bottle bank?

Remarkably, those 874 votes represent 60% of the 1,446 electorate.

At the last Highland Council election in 2017, the Black Isle ward had a turnout of 54%.

In fact, none of the council’s 21 wards had a higher percentage turnout.

It appears that reports of democracy’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

In North Kessock, at least.

The bottle banks have been moved several times around North Kessock

John Stott, chairman of the local Knockbain Community Council, said in the aftermath of the result: “Regardless of how you cast your ballot, you have participated in the democratic process.

“I would now call on everyone to allow the process to continue.

“I will work hard to minimise the impact of the bottle bank’s return by ensuring that the screening is tasteful as well as effective.”

Questions raised over cost

Given the huge fallout we’ve seen from the independence and Brexit referendums in the UK, it’s a small mercy that this one has been so decisive.

The car park gathered 67% of the votes.

The cost of holding the vote in the first place though, is what many people will be wondering about.

A video of the result was tweeted by the council and proceedings were even available to watch on Youtube.

The use of a ballot – which has already cost Highland Council more than £900 – was decided by its communities and places committee in November 2020.

Councillors described the measure as the “only conclusive and democratic way to resolve the situation”.

That decision has been criticised by people accusing the local authority of wasting funds as it hikes council tax.

The background

At present, the bottle bank is located in Ferry Brae.

It was previously in North Kessock’s main waterfront car park.

It was removed as the pier ticket office underwent refurbishment in 2018.

At a community meeting in 2017 it was agreed that the bank would be relocated during work.

A coastal garden was also created as part of efforts undertaken by the North Kessock Ticket Office Project (NKTOP).

A coastal garden was created as part of the efforts by North Kessock Ticket Office Project

The bottle bank was returned on two occasions but was then moved by “persons unknown”.

The dispute seemed to be resolved in 2019 when Highland Council chief executive Donna Manson wrote to the community signalling that the bottle bank was to return to its original location where it had been for more than two decades.

However, despite the chief’s intervention, the bottle bank remained in Ferry Brae.

Councillor Gordon Adam.

Local councillor Gordon Adam warned before the vote that whatever was decided, the result needed to be respected.

He said: “There can’t be any Trump-like shenanigans. In other words, we can’t have people not respecting the outcome of the vote.”

As council staff prepare to move the bottle bank again, they’ll be hoping it is for the last time.

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