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Profile: Who is Raymond Bremner? Here’s the lowdown on the new likely leader of Highland Council

SNP leader Raymond Bremner is expected to lead the joint coalition. Picture by Sandy McCook
SNP leader Raymond Bremner is expected to lead the joint coalition. Picture by Sandy McCook

Caithness will almost certainly provide the next leader of Highland Council after a coalition deal was finally struck between the SNP and the Independent group.

It’s not official yet, but with the SNP the senior partner in the new joint administration it seems probable that its group leader Raymond Bremner will take the reins on May 26.

As he prepares to take on the role, we consider what has shaped him and brought him into politics.

Independence, debating and playing the organ

Mr Bremer is 56 and lives in the village of Thrumster, a few miles south of Wick.

First elected five years ago, this is his second term of office.

He was the leader of the opposition in the last administration.

He passionately believes in Scottish independence, once saying he “believed that bringing government as close to those it serves is the solution for the whole of Scotland but especially for those on the edges”.

Councillors Raymond Bremner and Bill Lobban look likely to take the lead of a new joint administration at Highland Council.

But, he is also a pragmatist who loves a good debate – and always tries to leave as friends – however hard fought the argument.

He was born in Edinburgh, but he and his sisters moved back to Caithness with his mum and dad while they were still young.

Both his sisters, and his dad, David,  live around the corner – and if you don’t find him at home, he will be either be out tidying a cemetery, playing the organ in the church or the piano at the bar, The Old Smiddy Inn, across the road from his house.

Gaelic maestro

Politics is far from the only thing Mr Bremner is interested in.

Not only is he a fluent Gaelic speaker, he can converse in German and will try his hand at Welsh, Irish and even Lithuanian.

Music is one of his main passions.

For many years he has been the conductor of Melvich Gaelic Choir, and he can herd cats too as he is the maestro behind Atomic Piseag (Atomic Kitten), the Argyll-based women’s choir.

Raymond Bremner celebrates victory during the 2018 Mod as the conductor of the Melvich Gaelic Choir.

He has encouraged more people into singing in Gaelic than you can count.

He has helped and tutored a number of well-known singers such as Robert Robertson from Tidelines, Alistair Whyte from Whyte and country music singer Mikie Henderson.

As well as being a renowned singer himself, he is a church organ and piano player.

During the pandemic he broadcast songs of praise from his front room almost every Sunday, taking requests from across the globe.

Entertaining tourists

In The Old Smiddy Inn, a bar he calls his second home, he has entertained coach loads of tourists in Scottish and Gaelic songs for more than 20 years, involving talented youngsters to come along to have an opportunity to sing and play the pipes in front of an audience.

He is a keen gardener, a passion he got from his parents.

His mum, who passed away during the pandemic, was his biggest fan – and would regularly go to more than one church service on a Sunday to hear her son play.

Raymond Bremner (left) with his former council colleague Nicola Sinclair and returning councillor Willie MacKay in Wick town centre. Picture by Sandy McCook

He runs a popular annual Burn’s Supper in Wick to raise money for the SNP, of which he has been a member for many years.

In the past few years, he has hosted many guests in his home, and he takes them all…you’ve guessed it, to The Old Smiddy Inn.

He was also the former site manager of Caithness Glass.

Given his place of birth, he is a keen Hearts supporter, and his other interests include local history, being perfect pitch and losing at dominoes.

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