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Newly elected Highland Council representatives pledge to 'work together' to get job done

By Scott Maclennan

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Cllr Ken Gowans.
Cllr Ken Gowans.

Two councillors elected to leadership roles at Highland Council have both said that collaboration and working positively across the chamber will be key in the next five years.

Inverness South councillor Ken Gowans was the unopposed choice to become deputy leader of the SNP group while newly elected Aird and Loch Ness councillor Helen Crawford has been appointed joint leader of the Conservative group alongside Struan Mackie from Caithness.

Their response is perhaps a reaction to how the previous administration was marred by divisive and bitter disputes that saw it accused at time of being “officer-led” and intransigent.

A frequent complaint from communities, as well as opposition councillors, was that the former council bosses were not in touch with what the majority of people wanted and took hugely unpopular and damaging decisions to save money in the short-term, like reducing the number of public toilets before then performing a U-turn.

Coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum both Cllr Gowans and Cllr Crawford said that all members would need to work together for the benefit of the Highlands and deliver for communities.

Cllr Gowans will immediately work in the short-term to support leader Raymond Bremner in the vital next few days of jockeying to establish the new political administration.

He said: “I am delighted to be elected with the full support of the group as deputy leader of the SNP at Highland Council. We look forward to working with other groups in a collective and inclusive spirit.

“I’ve been a member of the party for many decades and I am glad to see it has been recognised.

“I have always worked with people from across the political spectrum and hopefully I can use that for the betterment of our communities in order to deliver for them right across the Highlands.”

He added that his mantra is a phrase by Dundee’s former Lord Provost Ian Borthwick, who retired at this election after 60 years as a councillor, that the “most important thing is being able to provide a better future for our citizens.”

Cllr Crawford, who has a background in human rights law and experience for the Foreign Office in the Balkans, said she and her group would be adopting a “collaborative approach” that sought out “commonality.”

Cllr Helen Crawford.
Cllr Helen Crawford.

She argued that, looking at the flyers distributed by the majority of candidates, the same issues raised, like education and road repairs, were the same, so finding common ground should be possible if people put national politics to one side and focussed on what people in the north want.

“I was in the Balkans during the NATO intervention in Kosovo so I recognise the importance of reaching out and talking to others,” she said.

“We are a new group in a way, with five new members and a new leadership. We will work with whomsoever to deliver for the communities across the Highlands to find a commonality of approach – people don’t care about the politics of the chamber, they want to see results. If you look at all the leaflets from all the parties you will see common threads in each of them and that is where we can work together.”

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