I am prompted to convey my thoughts on the current dog free beach trial in Inverloch after some reflection over the summer on both its success and the division that has resulted.
Firstly, let me state that I am an Inverloch resident, a dog owner and beach walker with a young family who is grateful for the opportunity to live in such a place.
I try to walk my dog early morning daily and the trial has not proven any obstacle to our routines or routes.
By choice I keep my dog on a leash at all times on our walks on the beach so as to manage better when we meet other dogs and people, and also to avoid disturbing nesting birds. My dog seems happy with the council’s trial.
Three weeks ago my family was enjoying an evening dinner of fish and chips with two other town families and gaggle of 11 kids under eight years.
The conversation turned to the dogs on the beach and the council’s trial.
There was clear consensus between everyone that it had been a surprisingly great initiative and acknowledgement of how more enjoyable and relaxing the summer had been without the need for constant vigilance around any dogs on the beach and our kids.
The truth is, when the trial was announced, I was fairly ambivalent about it – sure it might mean I was going to change some of the times and where I walked my dog, but that wasn’t going to be a big deal.
But as this summer closes, I can say unequivocally that Inverloch beach had been a cleaner, safer, nicer and a more family friendly place than previous years because of the absence of dogs on the beach (both on and off leash) during the times when the vast majority of people are using it.
When I talked to a neighbour recently about the trial and my positive experience of it, they suggested that there was “probably quite a few like you, but who would want to put their head up to get it shot off?”
Delving deeper and with further conversations with others I was told that people were being openly intimidated and aggressively confronted should they be actively supporting the trial or express an alternative view to the voices against the trail.
Unfortunately, the ‘no campaign’ appears to have created a situation where you are either ‘with us or against us’.
I am told there are local businesses that don’t want to be seen to be publicly in support of the dog trial or even oppose the ‘no campaigns’ tactics for fear of a backlash in the form of a local consumer boycott or even a shop front picket.
Some Inverloch residents associated with the council have been singled out in what I can only describe as intimidatory behaviour.
If we have got to a situation in the community where the voices of support are not willing to suffer the negative consequences of contributing to the constructive conversation about the merits of the council’s initiative, then we have the engine of our local little democracy skipping some gears.
The beach is for everyone. I personally support the trial and results it has delivered for families.
I think there is also quite a sizeable chunk of residents of the town that does also, or is at least ambivalent to it.
But I also respect that others in the town have a different point of view, and their view needs to be heard also.
I will await the outcomes of the trail and its recommendations. We are so fortunate to have a choice.
L Wilkinson, Inverloch.