North MSP says Inverness should have its own council
North MSP Gail Ross has suggested that Inverness should have its own council so the rest of the Highlands can get the representation it needs.
Speaking during a debate in the Scottish Parliament, Mrs Ross put the matter to local government minister Aileen Campbell.
She suggested to the minister that a division of the current Highland Council – to create a separate Inverness body – would allow the rest of the Highlands to "get the representation more suited to the communities' unique needs".
The response from Ms Campbell was that there were no plans to review council areas but that an ongoing local governance review was aimed to "rebalance delivery and power" for those living in rural communities.
Speaking afterwards, Mrs Ross clarified her suggestion made in parliament.
"There has been talk for many years of returning to a more localised model of local governance," the SNP MSP said.
"It seems to be uncommon to have a city without its own council but that’s the current situation with Inverness.
"I also don’t believe that many of the areas outside of Inverness benefited from the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal.
"I asked the Scottish Government to look at the situation and I will be meeting the cabinet secretary to discuss options in the near future.
"I don’t know what a future structure of local government in the Highlands would look like or how it would be funded, but the conversation definitely has to take place."
Caithness civic leader Willie Mackay backed Mrs Ross's suggestion, saying it was "a splendid idea".
Councillor Mackay, who represents Wick and East Caithness as an independent, said: "This idea of two separate bodies with one serving the Highlands and the other serving Inverness on its own was first mooted some time ago.
"For various reasons it never came to fruition but it is a fantastic idea. Most people would love Inverness to have a council to itself.
"The same set-up is in place in the north-east of Scotland and has worked with the city of Aberdeen having its own council while the rest of Aberdeenshire has its own body.
"There is a sense of disconnect between Caithness and Inverness with the feeling of centralisation coming into play.
"The current set-up is not working – you only have to look at the city-region deal to see how that in particular is not working for Caithness.
"Around £300 million was given to the Highlands as part of that deal yet Caithness has only seen around one per cent of that."
However, Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson was unimpressed with the proposal.
Councillor Davidson, who represents the Aird and Loch Ness ward, said: "It is not always you will hear me agree with the Scottish Government, but Aileen Campbell got this absolutely right in saying that there is no call for this at the moment.
"She acknowledged that this would leave about 80 per cent of the population of the region in one council area.
"What we need to do is improve our relationship with communities and we are doing that.
"Currently, there are eight or nine local area communities to focus on local issues and it would be good if Gail Ross could get behind them."
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