Published: 10/12/2017 19:00 - Updated: 08/12/2017 11:49

Leader asks for breakway plan to be shelved for now

Written byEmma Crichton

THE leader of Highland Council has not ruled out giving more powers to four Ross-shire councillors as they bid to form their own area committee.

The four members of Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh, the largest ward in the Highlands, want to break away from the Ross and Cromarty area committee, as going out on their own will give them more of a say over budget decisions.

Conservative councillor Derek MacLeod mooted the idea and he has the backing of his fellow ward members Ian Cockburn, Kate Stephen and Biz Campbell.

The Wester Ross ward is geographically the largest in the local authority at just under 5000 sq km, with a population of almost 10,000.

Council leader Margaret Davidson did not rule out the idea but asked for it to be postponed until the budget is set next year.

She agreed that seeing the ward break away from its current area committee, shared with Cromarty Firth, Tain and Easter Ross, Dingwall and Seaforth and the Black Isle, could form part of the council’s plans to devolve more powers to communities.

"I just want to get to the other side of the budget so we can give this the attention it needs," she said.

"There are some issues about re-basing our budgets and looking at what we spend but we’re only six months in [to the term] so give us a chance."

But the independent Aird and Loch Ness councillor pointed out having its own budget may not result in more money for Wester Ross.

"People in Wester Ross want their own roads budget but Inverness has 36 per cent of the Highland population and only 14 per cent of the roads budget so be careful what you wish for.

"We have a huge debate to have about localism and I think we need to be far more radical than we have been.

"What I don’t want to do is just jump in and have a bun fight because that is just ridiculous."

The ward covers a large area from Strathpeffer, south to Glenelg and up to Achiltibuie and includes Garve, Kyle of Lochalsh, Lochcarron, Torridon, Gairloch and Ullapool but the councillors do not think budget allocations, particularly in relation to roads, reflect its area, population or geography.

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