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Go-it-alone Dingwall and Seaforth committee 'will benefit local area' Highland councillors claim

By Scott Maclennan

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Councillors Angela MacLean, Margaret Paterson, Alister Mackinnon and Graham MacKenzie in Dingwall. Picture: Callum Mackay
Councillors Angela MacLean, Margaret Paterson, Alister Mackinnon and Graham MacKenzie in Dingwall. Picture: Callum Mackay

Councillors for Dingwall and Seaforth have formally won the backing of Highland Council to set-up their own area committee to better represent the ward after frustration at being “marginalised”.

All four ward representatives – Councillors Alister Mackinnon, Angela Maclean, Graham Mackenzie and Margaret Paterson – backed the move.

Following the dissolution of the Ross and Cromarty area committee, the ward joined with the Black Isle but tensions arose over how cash for one ward would be invested in another.

Some members saw a plan to help fund the Cromarty to Nigg ferry with funding meant for Dingwall and Seaforth as a money-grab that would little benefit the town or the surrounding area.

But the new committee means that local representatives will have power over where money is spent without reference to Black Isle councillors.

They will also be in charge of reviewing the road repairs and potentially direct more cash in that direction.

Cllr Alister Mackinnon argued that the move “represents true localism", saying: “We are unsatisfied with the status quo so as we move through economic recovery this action would effect more positive changes and be beneficial for our constituents.”

Cllr Mackenzie said the speed with which work can be completed in Inverness while areas like Dingwall must wait years for nothing is perceived very badly locally and one way of addressing that is retaining more powers locally.

“As Alister says, it is about localism, community empowerment and essentially bringing our constituency closer to the people we represent,” he said.

“I’ll caveat that with whether the perception is true or not there is a perception in the Dingwall and Seaforth area that they are marginalised by the current arrangement within Highland Council.

“And specifically, a lack of attention has been paid to major projects and requirements within the ward including the Kinnairdie Road link, which isn’t just about the road link but is also about the possibility of releasing additional housing around Dingwall that is very badly needed.

“It is about Macdonald tower, which we have been trying to engage with the council about for an awful long time and although we have had some offers of support there has been no tangible action.

“Finally, there was our bridge over the Peffery, our iconic bridge in Dingwall, which people associate with the town and nothing was done until a local employer came forward to replace it. That is a hot topic of conversation in light of events in Inverness.”

Recently cash was found to maintain the Infirmary Bridge across the River Ness without problem but a similar bridge in Dingwall had to be replaced by a local business when the funds could not be found.

Cllr Maclean said that Covid had proved the local community is more than willing to take part in decision-making and too many remain alienated from local government.

“What has been clear is the work of communities and the more they want to be involved and the decisions that affect them most,” she said.

“Sometimes, although we are not that far away from Inverness, people feel that what the council discusses isn’t really affecting them, that they don’t identify with some of the language we use or are not happy with the decisions that are taken.

“We want a local committee so that we, as the local councillors, are responsible for the decisions that are taking place – it is not just about spending money locally, it is about raising money too.”

Cllr Paterson said: "I am delighted that Dingwall and Seaforth is now a standalone area committee as I am fully aware that our constituents want local decisions in local hands and we will try very hard to deliver better opportunities to our people in all parts of our ward."

A standalone Black Isle committee will also be created.

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