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Shock at plan to amalgamate Sutherland's two Highland Council wards


By Caroline McMorran

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A BOUNDARY Commission proposal to amalgamate Sutherland’s two Highland Council wards into one super ward and reduce the number of representatives from six to four, has caused shock waves locally.

The county currently has two wards – East Sutherland and Edderton along with North, West and Central Sutherland. There are three councillors for each ward.

East Sutherland and Edderton councillor Richard Gale has said the proposed boundary change in Sutherland is “totally unacceptable”.
East Sutherland and Edderton councillor Richard Gale has said the proposed boundary change in Sutherland is “totally unacceptable”.

Under the latest Boundary Commission review, the suggested single ward would not include Edderton, which would be lumped in with Tain, and would follow the geographical county lines.

The move, which is understood to have been driven by population figures, would make it one of the largest local authority wards in the country.

A consultation period is currently under way to ascertain what councillors think of the plan.

However, Sutherland County Committee chairman Richard Gale, one of the East Sutherland and Edderton representatives, has already made it clear that the proposal is “totally and utterly unacceptable” as well as “undemocratic and unworkable”.

“Sutherland is always last for any investment and first for any cuts and that seems to be a constant situation,” he said. “There has been a severe lack of investment for about 10 years – this is just another nail in the coffin.”

North West and Central Sutherland councillor Linda Munro said: “It just shows that the Boundary Commission really has no understanding of what we do, who we are and how our communities function – not a scooby."

Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP Gail Ross said the proposed changes made a “complete mockery” of democracy in remote rural areas.

“Once again it demonstrates a complete disregard from the Boundary Commission towards the communities of the far north,” she said.

“Making Sutherland one ward is absolutely ludicrous and quite obviously done by someone who has never visited the county. Rural proofing now needs to be front and centre of every single decision that affects our area if we are to thrive and grow.”

Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson said: “I am very unhappy about a lot of what they are proposing. We will need a very strong response.

“We had a meeting with the Boundary Commission late last year and we said to them to please be very mindful of communities, community loyalties and geography and not to get dazzled by the numbers game.

“I am very sorry but this is what has happened yet again.”

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