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Veteran Ross-shire councillors to stand down as co-leaders of SNP Highland Council group


By Hector MacKenzie

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Co-SNP Highland Council group leaders councillors Maxine Smith and Ian Cockburn, who have held the leadership post together for two-and-a-half years, have announced their intention to step down next month.

Both are long-standing councillors serving local authority wards in Ross-shire.

They plan to confirm the move at the group's AGM in September.

Cllr Maxine Smith (Cromarty Firth) is stepping down as co-leader of the Highland SNP group.
Picture: Gary Anthony
Cllr Maxine Smith (Cromarty Firth) is stepping down as co-leader of the Highland SNP group. Picture: Gary Anthony

Councillor Smith (Cromarty Firth) said: "Whilst I’m no stranger to hard work there comes a time when things change in your life and you have to re-evaluate. Last year I started a new cruise tour company and I still run two Highland beauty salons.

"Covid wiped all of these businesses out and only recently have the two salons been able to reopen. The excursion company will hopefully return next year. Covid has taken its toll and it will take many months to revive the businesses to their former success.

"This coupled with all the new and exciting things that are happening in my ward, especially in Invergordon, have made me realise I much prefer working closer to home. Several new community groups have sprung up doing garden projects and I’ve seen the community really pulling together over the [Park Primary] school fire, helping each other out. There is a real sense of community going on. There’s still much to be achieved here and I am reinvigorated by other people's enthusiasm. I’d like to help them even further.

"I’ve also now got three grandchildren who I’m trying to get more time for.

"I’ll miss my leader's role but a few weeks ago I was elected as chairwoman of the new tourism committee in Highland Council despite being in the opposition and last year as chairwoman of the board of Albyn Housing Society having served on their board for almost 15 years. This takes up quite a lot of time but it’s local to Invergordon. So I’ll still have plenty of work to do but it’ll be nearer my home town.

"I will also retain my role as chairwoman of the council’s north planning committee which I enjoy as I can help make a positive difference to our Highland economy. Our Highland planners are first class.

"I wish my successor well and I’ll still be there in the group to help when called upon.”

Cllr Ian Cockburn plans focussing on the ward he represents.
Cllr Ian Cockburn plans focussing on the ward he represents.

Councillor Cockburn (Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh), who works part-time for Ian Blackford MP in his Dingwall office, said: “I have enjoyed working with Maxine and my colleagues in this role. I have also been successful in helping, along with my ward colleagues to set up an area committee for Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh and have just been voted in as chairman. I want to focus my time on this role in creating opportunities and developing this wonderful and often forgotten part of the Highlands."

He served as chairman of the Highland Licensing Board and committee which he held for five years whilst simultaneously studying law, part-time at Strathclyde University,graduating in 2017 with his third degree.

Related: Strathpeffer could be brought in to Dingwall and Seaforth ward under shake-up

Ross ward rises to Covid-19 challenge

New chair appointed to Highland tourism committee

Councillor 'stunned' by progress of Invergordon group

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