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Highlanders could be 'disenfranchised' by Boundary Commission shake-up of Highland Council wards that critics say right roughshod over local connections and leave many places under-represented

By Scott Maclennan

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Loch Ness will become two wards divided up the middle of the loch.
Loch Ness will become two wards divided up the middle of the loch.

Highland Council will have one final chance to respond to highly contentious proposals by the Boundary Commission to change how political areas are defined.

Some councillors fear the changes could “disenfranchise” Highlanders.

The commission has released its completed proposals for local-level political patches, which have been sent to the Scottish Government for a final decision.

The carve-up of Highland Council wards in the Great Glen and the joining of wards within Inverness have caused dismay, while some areas have gone unchanged.

The commission said in its final recommendations that the reasons for the changes are electoral parity – getting the right number of electors to be represented by the correct number of councillors.

But that does not tally as Culloden and Ardersier would be left with just three councillors representing 54.2 per cent more electors than absolute parity would require. It is unclear from the proposals why an additional councillor was not allocated to the ward, amid a housing boom that has seen the local population rise.

Culloden and Ardersier councillor Glynis Campbell-Sinclair said: “The purpose of the exercise I think is just to reduce the number of councillors – that’s been on the cards for a while.

“If you see how that stacks up just now, it has been a completely and utterly worthless exercise because it comes out at almost the same number of councillors. For me it has been a waste of public money, there are some areas that are going to be disenfranchised.”

The other changes, if agreed, will see Inverness West and part of Inverness Central amalgamated along the River Ness from South Kessock to Torvean to create a five-member super ward.

While on the other bank of the river, Inverness Millburn ward minus the retail and business park joins Inverness Central ward and would have four councillors.

Inverness South remains largely the same while Inverness Ness-Side is massively extended to include the southern shores of Loch Ness – again creating another five-member ward.

Council leader Margaret Davidson, who represents Aird and Loch Ness, described the results as mixed bag.

“Like all reviews there is some good and there is some bad,” she said. “There is an extra councillor for Inverness – that’s good. And the Culloden one in particular really makes me ask – really, just three councillors?

“That area is obviously growing and yet they will be way over in parity and that is a long five years until the next council, so that is an odd one.

“The one I have to take really seriously to heart is to split the community of Loch Ness. Right down the middle of the loch is the boundary and I just can’t understand it.

“We are going over parity, a lot of people are moving into the area and they are wanting us to split up the ward.

“The Boundary Commission’s remit says that they take adequate account of natural boundaries of communities – Loch Ness is a community, they have many things in common, they do many things together when they get the opportunity.

“For example the Red John hydro scheme, the people on the north of the loch would be looking at it but they wouldn’t have had a say at all.

“It is a really, really unacceptable thing to do, the wind farms are all on the south of the loch and if you go up the hill at Abriachan you can see the lot.

“Loch Ness and the Great Glen is an entity. It is one glen with so many similarities.”

Related story - More than 1000 people sign a petition against a shake-up of Highland Council ward boundaries seen by critics as a 'destruction of rural democracy'

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