THE National’s first roadshow in the Highland capital of Inverness yesterday went down a storm with readers who were all very keen to tell our journalists about the issues that matter to them.

We set up our live newsroom at Eastgate Shopping Centre in the city and within minutes we were flooded with readers keen to tell us their news, and scores of new readers joined up as a result.

Over a thousand copies of The National were given away with free, mouth-watering Hamlyns of Scotland oatmeal to new and existing supporters who came down to back our roadshow.

The National editor Callum Baird wants to thank everyone who joined us yesterday and for making our first roadshow a huge success. He also says a big thank you to Inverness Common Weal’s Geoff Bush and Alisdair McKay for helping out at our busy stall.

Last night hundreds of independence supporters turned up to the evening event organised by local activist group Inveryess2 at the Spectrum main theatre to hear our columnist, the Wee Ginger Dug, give a talk and our editor speak about the future of our newspaper.

Baird said: “I really cannot thank everyone in Inverness enough, from our readers and new readers to our Inverness Common Weal helpers, for their huge support at our first roadshow. It was such a success and we were overwhelmed by the support we received. We are now looking forward to travelling throughout Scotland to meet readers from other areas.”

There were many issues irking our readers, who turned up to chat to our team of journalists at the shopping centre, not least the decision to downgrade the Caithness maternity services so all mothers at risk would have to travel 102 miles to Inverness to have their babies.

Mary Jenkins, 70, from Inverness, said: “I think what is happening with the maternity services in Caithness, that women will have to travel 100 miles to Raigmore in Inverness.

It is bad enough having a baby but putting a mother through all that stress is absolutely outrageous.

“In this day and age I think we are going backwards instead of forwards, there is supposed to be more money about than there has ever been. If it was me I would be terrified driving all that way down to Inverness, especially if the weather is bad. I think it could put lives at risk.”

Mother-of-two and former Raigmore Hospital nurse Kirsteen Morrison, 38, from Inverness, said: “I didn’t find the maternity services very good and I was actually thinking about having my children in Elgin, or Stornoway, where I am from originally, which is exceptional. The other thing is the lack of customer service in the shops. I’ve been here since 1996 and I think the service is very poor.”

Her husband Nicky Morrison, 47, also thinks the customer service in the city is a major issue and needs to be much improved. “I travel all over the world and it feels like some of the shops in Inverness take their customers for granted.”

Father-of-two Neil Budge, 39, who was born and brought up in Inverness, said: “The big issue that is really bothering me at the moment is the talk of moving the whole Gaelic school in Inverness.

“We have the Gaelic nursery and the primary in one unit and Inverness Royal Academy has the secondary unit. Now the council is saying that because of all the new houses that have been built in that area they have no schools for these new children, so they want to move kids out of the Gaelic primary school and use that for the new children.

“We have just heard it on the radio. There has been no consultation and my five-year-old son goes to the Gaelic primary. They are talking about building a new full Gaelic school but we’ve no idea when that will be so it is all very uncertain.”

Staying on the subject of Gaelic, reader Janet Baker, from Fortrose on the Black Isle, is finding it difficult to find anywhere she can go to learn the language.

She said: “I have been trying to find Gaelic classes for years and there used to be a Gaelic coffee morning and classes in Inverness but they have all disappeared. I moved here from the north east of England in 2010 and I am very keen to learn the language. It is part of the culture of the Highlands and you’ve got to support it or it will just die out.”

Retired offshore worker Roderick Martin, 68, from the Isle of Lewis, was in Inverness for Christmas shopping. He said: “I like the thought of independence but what annoys me is some sections of the media don’t report the things the Scottish Government is doing. There is a silence around it but once they get a hold of something stupid they blow it out of all proportion, especially the BBC. That annoys me greatly.”

Former Inverness Courier clerical assistant Marilyn Inch, 70, from Inverness, was full of praise for her area. She said: “I think the health service in Inverness is fabulous. I have a lot of health issues as I am diabetic and I think they are great. The council is also very good and I feel all my needs are met. I would certainly encourage young people to come here and it is a great life for families.”

Writer and historian Rob Gibson, former MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, joined us for a chat at our roadshow and had a few things to say about the £315 million Inverness City Region Deal.

“The concept of the city regions doesn’t fit Scotland’s geography because we have such small scattered populations, which doesn’t mean to say they are in any way disadvantaged, but distance makes a difference. The city deal has got to address that.”

Maggie MacDonald, 65, from Dingwall, said she made a 30-mile round trip for a free copy of her favourite paper. She said: “I have been astonished at the quality of the healthcare I have received. It has been fabulous. Privatisation of hospitals in general worries me because the standard of treatment I’ve received at Raigmore Hospital has been astonishing.”

Mary McFadyen, 67, from Inverness, is an avid reader of The National, and said: “We moved up here 25 years ago for my husband’s job. It took me a long time to settle but it is a good, safe place to live in and we had our kids here to give them a better life.

“I think the Highlands is a good place to live but there are many people who are not from the Highlands, don’t agree with independence, and have said if it happens they will go home to England.

“I also think the roads are diabolical with all the roadworks and in the city centre a lot of the shops are having to shut because of higher rates.”