A VETERAN councillor has quit the administration in a row over how Highland Council’s shrinking budget is to be spent.
The capital plan, used to fund major projects such as new schools, roads and community facilities is likely to be halved next year meaning many projects will have to be scrapped.
Now Jim McGillivray, who has been in the independent group for 10 years, has quit in protest as he fears funding for the long-awaited Dornoch Sports Centre will not go ahead.
He said the Independent-led coalition with the Liberal Democrats and Labour is favouring Inverness over outlying areas as all available cash in plunged into easing the overcrowding crisis in city schools.
The £3.5 million sports centre project dates back 25 years, has planning permission and the site is shovel ready. But Mr McGillivray, who represents East Sutherland and Edderton, claimed he has been told new schools will be prioritised when the reduced £55 million budget is set in February.
He said: "It is with great sadness that I announce my separation from the independent group of councillors after 10 years.
"I immediately remove myself from the council administration in so doing, and will sit from now on as a Sutherland non-aligned councillor for the remainder of my term.
"With the deletion of the Dornoch Sports Centre project from the Capital Plan at the very last minute, with the contract due to be confirmed at the beginning of January, I have been placed in an intolerable position by my erstwhile colleagues.
"At time of writing, all funds in the proposed capital plan will now go towards a £55 million spending spree to build new Inverness schools."
Councillors voted against legally committing to Dornoch Sports Centre, instead agreeing to wait until the budget meeting in February.
But council leader Margaret Davidson denied removing Dornoch Sports Centre from the capital plan, saying funding will not be allocated until next year.
"Nothing is confirmed yet," she said.
"We told Jim that he is anticipating something that may never happen.
"I am very sorry to see him go, he has been a loyal member of the independent group for a long time."