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Who will lead new Highland Council? Bids to thrash out deal continue as possible political permutations pondered


By Scott Maclennan

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A fresh intake of councillors representing Ross-shire will also want their say on how the power balance shifts.
A fresh intake of councillors representing Ross-shire will also want their say on how the power balance shifts.

Horse-trading is under way as top councillors bid to thrash out a deal to form the new political administration of Highland Council.

The newly elected leaders of each of the political groups were remaining tight-lipped yesterday as negotiations took place behind closed doors.

Privately some members have expressed misgivings about the SNP and Independent groups' talks to form an administration.

But a number of Independent councillors are so unhappy at the prospect of joining the SNP in a coalition and could leave the group if a deal is struck.

See tomorrow's Ross-shire Journal for a rundown of the new faces in Ross-shire and the tasks they face

That complicates negotiations as any arrangement would need to reach a minimum of 38 for a working majority in the 74-member council chambers.

There was no detail of when a deal might be struck to form a coalition in the wake of last Thursday’s local authority elections.

One of those heavily involved in the discussions is former council convener Bill Lobban, who has been elected as Independent group leader.

He will be keen to secure a high-profile role in the new administration if the Independents can thrash out a deal.

The SNP, led by Councillor Raymond Bremner, is the largest single group with 22 members.

Independent councillors number 21 but not all of them have signed up to be led by Councillor Bill Lobban.

That raises the stock of the Liberal Democrats, with Inverness Ness-side member Alasdair Christie at the helm, and the Greens led by Aird and Loch Ness councillor Chris Ballance.

Both could hold the power as potential king-makers, with the Liberal Democrats 15 members and the first ever Green group emerging with four members.

The Conservatives have 10 seats in the chamber and are looking to cooperate with other groups under the joint leadership of councillors Struan Mackie and Helen Crawford.

An announcement could come at any time but the talks could run well into next week before any deal is struck.

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