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Wick provost election process questioned at community council meeting

By Alan Hendry

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Councillor Jan McEwan at Caithness House wearing her chain of office after being elected as Wick's provost. Picture: DGS
Councillor Jan McEwan at Caithness House wearing her chain of office after being elected as Wick's provost. Picture: DGS

The process for choosing Wick's provost has been called into question by the chairperson of the local community council.

Joanna Coghill wondered why members of the public were not given an opportunity to vote, and she also argued that the provost "should be prominent and be seen".

Councillor Jan McEwan, one of four Highland Council members for Wick and East Caithness, was appointed as provost of Wick at a Caithness Committee meeting on July 1.

She was elected to the local authority in May and replaced fellow councillor Willie Mackay in the provost role.

Councillor McEwan and Thurso's provost, Councillor Struan Mackie, now share the role of Caithness Committee vice-chair.

In an interview later in July, Councillor McEwan explained that her duties as provost include representing Highland Council at formal engagements and "taking the lead on civic matters relating to the Royal Burgh of Wick".

At Monday's monthly meeting of the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council, Mrs Coghill asked Councillor Raymond Bremner – one of the other Wick and East Caithness ward members – about the provost's position.

Councillor Bremner explained that he was not aware of "a job description as such". He understood that the role was “for doing civic things like making representations on behalf of the people”.

He added: “It's not one of the things that is at the top of my list, and I am being bluntly honest there. I know that Inverness and Nairn and Thurso and other places have provosts and they all have chains of office and that kind of thing.”

Mrs Coghill said: "What is the point in giving somebody a title and there is no job? I don't get that.

“If it is her civic duty to represent the people, why weren't the people invited to vote for the provost?

“Should our provost not be promoting our town, meeting with us as the community council and saying, 'Right, let's try and push this regeneration?'

“The provost should be prominent and be seen – that's the way I think it should be.

“If the provost is there to be a representative of the people, it's a no-brainer – why shouldn't the people vote for it?”

Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Coghill said: "I believe the provost, who represents our town, should be chosen by the townsfolk – not voted in by a few. Us townsfolk should have a choice of who we want."

Councillor McEwan said: "Willie Mackay was the previous provost. Willie and I were both proposed and seconded for provost and it went to a council vote. I am sure that is the way it is decided in other wards."

Last month, Councillor McEwan – who is originally from Ayrshire and worked at the sheriff clerk's office in Wick for 25 years – said she was determined to make a difference over her five-year tenure.

"I want to stop the drain on our population and regenerate Wick so we can all be proud of our town," she said. "This has started with amazing local volunteers cleaning up the town and villages."

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