Stewart’s Inverness Courier column, published October 11

I think there might have been a little misunderstanding around my campaign to save The Ironworks. It’s great to see that there are several petitions on the go – same goal, different strategies – but I would like to take this opportunity to explain the motivation for mine. There is real anger at the prospect of losing the Highland’s only purpose-built live music venue – which coincidentally has last weekend played host to more than 1600 people, with many bussed in from Wick and Aberdeen-shire, – to make way for a new hotel. This is being seen as a David v Goliath contest and people are being called on to side with the underdog and fight some immoral plan to cash in on the surge in demand for city centre property. I must admit when I first found out The Ironworks might have to shut down I got upset too. And that’s why I’ve decided to use those three initials after my name to try to save it.
As most people know, The Ironworks leases the building on Academy Street and I suspected the owner would have a hundred reasons to be upset by moves to sell it to a developer who plans to build a hotel. However, when I met up with the Ironworks’ venue director to discuss the problem her tone was not what I expected. “This building is bricks and mortar” she said. “The heart and soul of the Ironworks is transferrable – all we need is a new base.”

She said she was touched by all those caring people who had signed a petition calling for The Ironworks to remain in its current building. However, we agreed the business had to be prepared for the worst-case scenario and the wording was approved for another petition that I offered to publish entitled: Help Find A New Venue for The Ironworks.

A day after the press reported on my scour for names for my petition a constituent rang me up bristling at its title – Find a New Venue for The Ironworks.  “Was this fancy hotel build a done deal?”, she asked me. And, more importantly, why on earth was I not standing behind the other petition which vowed to fight against the demolition of the building that is home to The Ironworks? I explained my stance and she went away contented (and has in fact been back in touch with more support so thanks for that.) She understood. But I am worried that there are other supporters of The Ironworks who are not completely in the picture. And I fear this might hold them back from signing my petition which would be a disaster because it needs all the support it can get to show the Scottish Government and other stakeholders how precious The Ironworks is to the people up her in The Highlands.

I’ve had some success so far in terms of raising this vital issue in Holyrood at a debate and I have held talks with Highland Council and Highlands & Islands Enterprise and others. I have secured a meeting with the Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop later this month – and the owner fo The Ironworks is also invited to attend – and I’ve managed to get key players together at The Ironworks in Inverness today for a roundtable meeting. This is being followed up on November 8.

I call on everyone who has not already done so to please sign the petition at www.bit.ly/2ZukZm0