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Here are some of the new faces elected to Highland Council – and what they hope to deliver

older people's champions
Highland Council will have dozens of new faces in the chambers on 26 May. Picture by Sandy McCook.

On May 26, 35 brand new members will join the Highland Council chamber for the first time.

It’s the end of an exhausting campaign period and the beginning of a five-year stint serving their communities.

We asked a cross-section of new members the same question: how did you get here and what do you hope to achieve?

Here’s what they told us.

Chris Ballance, Green, Aird and Loch Ness

Green councillor Chris Ballance

“I was an MSP for the Greens from 2003 to 2007 so I have a background in politics, but being elected to the council is still a complete change of routine, instantly, overnight.

“The urgency of the climate crisis is such that we really need to have Green voices at all levels of government.

“I hope to push the council to be more environmentally-minded and to address the climate crisis faster.

“We must look after our most vulnerable people better, particularly given all of the financial crises being imposed on us by Westminster. The fuel bills, the rising cost of living, the lack of any support for pensioners and people with disabilities.

“And we want to kick-start the new economy, which has huge potential but needs to speed up.

“At a local level, we must ensure our housing stock is properly heated and insulated to reduce fuel bills.

“And we need more affordable homes so our young people don’t feel they need to leave Highland. There’s also lots of money coming from Holyrood for active travel so we should get our ducks in a row for that.

“I’m really pleased with the results for the Greens at the election. It’s so disappointing to lose Pippa Hadley but it’s great to have a Green group at Highland Council.”

Patrick Logue, Conservative, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh

Conservative councillor Patrick Logue

“It was a delight and a privilege to be elected last week. I believe that younger people bring a different perspective to politics and that is something I am keen to represent over the coming years.

“My main first impression in these first few days was being informed by the chief executive that the Highland Council election results were the highest viewed on any local authority count in the UK.

“At a time when local democracy should be forefront of our priorities, these levels of engagement are very encouraging. It demonstrates the level of interest residents have in improving the relationship between the council and the communities it serves.

“As an electric care driver, a personal interest of mine is how we transition away from petrol/diesel vehicles and I will hold the council’s feet to the fire in this regard.

“More generally I hope to work with colleagues to challenge the status quo a little. For an organisation covering a land mass around the size of Belgium, we need to work to improve the accessibility of the council and bring it closer to the concerns of local people.”

Morven Reid, Independent, Culloden and Ardersier

Independent councillor Morven Reid

“I was late to the party with my campaign because I was committed to a production at Inverness Musical Theatre and then laid up with Covid. I managed just 10 days campaigning, so if I can get elected, anyone can!

“It was an amazing experience, people were brilliant. The hardest bit is putting yourself out there.

“Being an Independent candidate was really important to me. Very few people refused to speak to me when I said I was Independent. I don’t think people are interested in party politics.

“I passionately believe that local politics is about the right person, in the right place, doing the right things.

“For me, education will be a big focus. I’m a child minder and provide respite care for children with additional support needs. I love it; it’s my life.

“Over the pandemic I also got involved with the parent council as my two eldest children go to school at Culloden Academy. I feel that the communication isn’t right, and Highland Council needs to be much more open. There’s also a lot of work to do in attainment, ASN and mental health.

“People are contacting me already for help, and that feels great.”

Marianne Hutchison, SNP, North, West and Central Sutherland

SNP councillor Marianne Hutchison

“I have been a teacher for the last 30 years, so it was quite a shock to have to resign with immediate effect, but I was ready for a change. I was thinking about standing for election for a while.

“Being from a small community, you inevitably get pulled into every committee! I’ve also served on the children’s hearing panel for 15 years.

“As an SNP councillor I want to give the best representation up here, and I’m really excited about our Highland manifesto.

“Social justice is my main motivation –  we need a fairer system. We must look to the most vulnerable in our communities, and campaigning confirmed that for me.

“I really do care about my area – I’ve lived here almost since I was born. I’m very grounded here and it’s an amazing place to live but there are lots of challenges too.

“We had a very inspiring presentation from the chief executive at the new member induction and I actually felt quite emotional. I’m looking forward to the first full meeting of the council on May 26 and meeting my colleagues. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported me, everyone who voted for me, and the council officers for making it so exciting.”

Ron Gunn, Lib Dem, Thurso and North-West Caithness

Liberal Democrat councillor Ron Gunn

“I thought about standing for election five years ago when I was retiring from the Police, but I decided I was too old! However, I got involved with Caithness Health Action Team, my local community council and lots of other local causes, and this seemed like a natural next step.

“I always thought I’d be an Independent councillor but the Liberal Democrats were a good fit for me.

“They reassured me that while they’re a national party, they’re mainly concerned with local issues and I don’t need to give those up. They told me to keep doing my bit for my community and they’re with me.

“My priority will be to get all the councillors working together to put Caithness back on the map. People I spoke to had a few major concerns – potholes, obviously, and the lack of services locally. There was a general feeling that Caithness is forgotten about.

“My dad was actually a Caithness county councillor and then a Highland councillor so I got my grounding there.

“I saw what he used to do – back in the days before mobile phones and computers – when people came to our door. People always seemed to call at dinner time!

“Mum would put his dinner in the oven and he’d disappear. He said ‘If they come, I’ll try my best to help them’. I thought that was pretty good.”

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