The Crossing of the Three Firths
Who was the Battle Between?
Pat Hunter Gordon and Reay Clarke
Prof Robert Grieve and
The contenders were the three men who wrote the pamphlet – Reay, Pat and John, versus those behind the previous plan – The Holmes Report. This was the H.I.D.B. and the Government of the time, with Labour’s Willie Ross as Scottish Secretary.
The Holmes Report had been commissioned by the Highland Board from the Jack Holmes Planning Group, a leading consultancy firm. It was an expensive and lavish report on how the ‘Highland sub-region’, extending from Inverness to Invergordon, might be equipped with all manner of new towns and new enterprises.
The H.I.D.B. (Highland and Island Development Board) with its chairman Prof Robert Grieve, seemed to favour plans involving heavy industry, in particular a proposed petrochemical venture, which board member Frank Thomson had a substantial interest in. This would eventually cause a first order political crisis.
The Highland Whistle Blower by Phil Durham tells that story
The other enterprise the H.I.D.B. supported was an aluminium smelter.
Reay saw that although this would bring jobs, it would also take out of farming a thousand acres of the highest quality arable land in the highlands. Per acre wheat yields for that land were twice the UK national average. It was the sort of land your average small farmer would give anything to have.
Both these ventures failed after a very few years and the land ruined for farming forever.
Meanwhile, the plan included a new road dubbed locally as the ‘Dingwall Autobahn” which was to be dual carriageway for some of its length passing, straight through places like Beauly where all parking in the central square would go, and with motorway style bridges built over the River Beauly and River Conon.
The H.I.D.B.’s response to the new idea to cross the three firths was scathing and they would not change their mind. Neither would the mind be changed of Labour’s Scottish Team in Edinburgh.
Despite Pat Hunter Gordon writing to or seeing everyone he could think of (and more) who might help. Despite him gathering more and more evidence to support his case and then getting endless newspaper articles published, and then again writing to more people – nothing changed the opinion of Prof Robert Grieve and the H.I.D.B. and the Government, who took their advice.
The battle seemed to be over.
Then – to everyone’s surprise there was a surprise election and change of government. Gordon Campbell became the new Secretary of State for Scotland. He had already, in opposition, been made aware of the case for the crossing of the firths by Pat Hunter Gordon and had already agreed that it was the right thing to do.
Now – in power – he made it happen