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Strathpeffer could be brought into Dingwall and Seaforth ward under controversial Boundary Commission proposals; Mixed views on how local authority shake-up would impact Ross-shire

By Scott Maclennan

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Proposed new make up of Highland Council wards.
Proposed new make up of Highland Council wards.

New Boundary Commission proposals envisage a substantial increase in the size of the Dingwall and Seaforth Highland Council ward as well as the addition of one more councillor have received a mixed reception from local members.

The commission’s plans stem from regular reviews conducted every eight to 12 years which aim to ensure parity of representation across the local authority and those initial proposals are currently in the consultation period with the council.

Later this year the public will be asked for its views before they are submitted to Scottish minister for approval in May of next year and implemented in time for the 2022 local authority elections.

"I will be honest, it is like a monkey with a paint brush – they have not looked at it with any detail of distances."- Cllr Ian Cockburn

The current ward is geographically small and stops short of Strathpeffer, something critics say is strange because of the close social and economic ties between the village and Dingwall.

The new plans calls for the ward to run almost as far as Achnasheen with the SNP co-leader Ian Cockburn – currently a Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh member – likely to depart the west coast ward to join Dingwall and Seaforth as he is resident in the area. But he is not happy about the proposed change.

Cllr Ian Cockburn.
Cllr Ian Cockburn.

Cllr Cockburn said: “What it looks like is that whoever is on the Boundary Commission, I will be honest, it is like a monkey with a paint brush – they have not looked at it with any detail of distances.

“Look, my concern is that it would leave the three members in the west coast ward with too much ground to cover because though it would be smaller it is still enormous and each of us handles different parts of it.

“So just going by that, I realise that there would be democratic deficit when it came to representing the people of the ward and that just to cover community council meetings for example would be unmanageable."

Cllr Graham Mackenzie.
Cllr Graham Mackenzie.

Cllr Graham Mackenzie said that he does support the move to bring areas that have traditionally been close ties to Ross-shire’s market town to be brought into the ward as it makes more administrative sense.

“Strathpeffer sits very nicely in our ward and if I am correct the periphery of the ward up at Tore seems to be going back to the Black Isle and that also makes perfect sense to me as well.

“I have got no issues with it in so far as what they are proposing for our ward and given that I was for something like this before it would be a touch hypocritical to rein back on that now.”

Cllr Margaret Paterson.
Cllr Margaret Paterson.

Cllr Margaret Paterson, a fellow Dingwall and Seaforth councillor, said: “I would be perfectly happy for them to give us the Strathpeffer area but only of they kept four councillors in Wester Ross and Lochalsh – there are lots of people phone me from Strathpeffer because they think I am their councillor.

“But I am really concerned about them cutting down on the numbers of people in the West Coast and Sutherland wards which is a huge area to cover.”

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