Minutes of the Executive Committee meeting held at the Spectrum Centre, Inverness on the 22nd November 2004 at 11.00 am. Richard Ardern (RA) welcomed Ron Stevenson (RS), Roger Piercy (RP) and Angus Stewart (AS) and an apology was received from the Rev. Alistair Roy. (AR)
Interest in co-option had been received from John Moore (JM), Ian Macdonald, Les Turner, Keith Tyler (KT) and Stewart Campbell (SC). The committee decided, in private, to co-opt Stewart Campbell, Keith Tyler, and Ian Macdonald. John Moore was told that Alistair Roy's request for him to act as his proxy could not be granted as it was unconstitutional but he was invited to stay and observe. John Moore thanked the committee for their consideration.
Alistair Roy had submitted three suggestions for consideration by the Committee:
- the formation of a northern sub-committee of FoFNL to reduce travelling distances for participants and to encourage more active involvement by the member Community Councils. He asked that it be given powers to lobby independently of the main committee. The area covered by this sub-committee would be north of Dornoch;
- the definition of family membership should be clearer;
- the introduction of a Youth scheme.
It was decided that items 1 and 3 would be added to the agenda for the next meeting to allow time for members to give them some thought. Item 2 would be dealt with in this meeting.
The minutes of the previous executive meeting of the 21st September were accepted as an accurate record of the meeting.
It was decided that RP would act as Minute secretary and RA would take care of any correspondence and be the point of contact in the interim period. Every effort must be made to recruit a secretary.
The chairman expressed disappointment that Rob Gibson MSP had used the name of FoFNL in his press release that was broadcast on Monday 22nd November. It stated that "he had told FoFNL that a 2 hour journey time from Caithness to Inverness was perfectly feasible." Our own press release was discussed and RA and RP will finalise and issue it. The submission on the Highland Counties Rail Track Scheme that RA had prepared for Nicol Stephen, Scottish Executive Transport Minister was discussed.
KT reported on a meeting of the Highland Railway Heritage (HRH) that had taken place in Aviemore on Sunday 21st November 2004. HRH has now decided that it needs to re-organise itself after the AGM in January 2005 when KT will announce his retirement as a Director leaving FoFNL member Keith Harman as our sole representative. FoFNL member Adam Gordon was suggested as a possible successor to KT as a representative of the Friends.
RS reported on the finances to date which continue to be healthy. RS was instructed to make a payment of £200 to Highland Rail Partnership. RS went on to give details of the Bond; the previous investment plan has expired and the £5000 is in the current account. Using the interest accrued, it was agreed to invest £5400 on best terms available for two years.
Membership stands at 168 including 8 Community Councils. The format of the membership application form was discussed and it was decided to remove the Introductory membership rate of £5. The word "Family" will be "Household" with no definition. The 'bonus' of up to 6 months extra membership by joining from October onwards is very confusing. It was decided that anyone joining the Group will be entitled to the 3 issues of the newsletter and that all members will be expected to renew on 1st April. Reminders will be sent with the May issue, and lapsed members will be further reminded with the September issue. The application form will be redesigned. The offer price for the Iron Roads book will be standardised at £4.50.
Highland Region Councillors relevant to the Far North Line will be sent a copy of the Policy document and Press Release.
SC spoke of plans for Alness which include the collation of reminiscences of the Line plus the building of a model railway where it is hoped that there will a youthful participation. A plea was made for the general installation of Tannoy announcements plus CCTV and the installation of top quality plastic instead of safety glass in station shelters that are prone to vandalism.
RA had prepared a paper on Station improvements which will be submitted through Frank Roach. Improvements asked for include, better information screens at Inverness, better TV monitors, information screens at the car parks, more ticket sales windows with differentiation between 'today's sales' and others, pocket timetables on display, better use of the Sleeper waiting room, louder Tannoy announcements to overcome the noise pollution. Elsewhere we asked for a working phone at Brora, following the withdrawal of the nearby BT facility and a properly tarred access to Golspie.
An evening meeting will be planned and a Saturday will be chosen for the summer excursion which is likely to be to Dunrobin.
The committee decided that we have an adequate relationship with MPs and MSPs and the Press and we are sufficiently active not to resort to 'banging the drum' to draw attention to our activities. It was acknowledged that we do have a perception problem in the far north but this is steadily being addressed through the Community Councils and Alistair Roy as a committee member. RP with assistance from RA will continue to be the contact with the Press.
The date and time of next meeting was not fixed. It was felt that with the next RPC (Scotland) meeting being in Dingwall on 23rd and 24th May we should meet in the south and hold the next meeting in Sutherland/ Caithness. Various locations were briefly explored taking cognisance of the possible bad weather conditions and the effect on travel arrangements for us all. No firm decision but Helmsdale is a possibility and KT is to check likely venues.