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Row brewing over ward changes across Highland Council, slammed by some as 'attack on democracy'

By Neil MacPhail

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A public consultation has been launched by the Boundary Commission for Scotland to redraw Highland Council wards – proposals described as an “attack on democracy”.

The commission’s plans were unanimously “rejected in their entirety” in September after the council agreed they were so bad that they could not be responded to, and instead would approach the Scotttish Government directly for a solution.

Under the proposals, the local authority would lose two councillors overall, Inverness would be divided into four wards with two extra councillors and the Great Glen would become two wards. That led to significant concerns that councillors would have to represent unmanageably large populations.

The public has until January 26 to voice an opinion before Scottish ministers make a decision. Commission chairman Ronnie Hinds said: “We consulted the council for 11 weeks over the summer but we received no response. Our proposals are therefore unchanged from those we put to the council and we now look forward to hearing the public’s views on them.

“It is important that electoral arrangements for Scottish councils are effective and that our proposals provide for electoral fairness, while taking account of local ties and special geographical considerations as far as possible. Hearing local views on these issues is vitally important as we develop our final recommendations.”

Council leader Margaret Davidson said: “I wrote to MSP Kevin Stewart, the minister for local government, housing and planning on October 5 informing him of the position of the council and that ultimately, the council did not accept that the number of councillors should be reduced at all and indeed, in some wards there was a very strong case to increase the numbers.

“I explained in my letter that, as things stood, there was no way that the Highland Council could engage in the detail of the commission’s proposals when the overall approach and outcome of the review is wrong in principle.”

She sought a meeting with Mr Stewart, but has not yet received a reply.

Related: 'Attack on democracy' warning over boundary change proposals

Ross councillor's 'monkey with a paintbrush' jibe over proposed line changes

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