The Tories say they will work with the council’s new leaders – but warn they won’t support “nationalist pet projects”.
The Highland Conservative group issued a lengthy statement reacting to the new SNP-Independent deal.
The Tories had hoped to form their own coalition with the Independents and Liberal Democrats.
Those hopes were scuppered in this morning’s announcement.
However, joint leaders Struan Mackie and Helen Crawford said they will work “constructively” with the new administration. They want to prioritise local issues including road repairs and school attainment.
But they warn that the new leaders could abandon Highland priorities in pursuit of a nationalist agenda.
‘Their vote for an Independent was actually a vote for the SNP’
“It is disappointing that the Independents have now decided instead to join the SNP and take the Highlands down the path of Scottish nationalism,” said Ms Crawford, who represents Aird and Loch Ness.
“I personally spoke to hundreds of voters on the doorsteps during the course of the campaign,” she added. “Voters who expressed their first preference votes would go to Independent candidates specifically because they believed that such candidates would stand up for what matters on a case by case basis.”
“I think many of those voters will be dismayed that their vote for an Independent was actually a vote for the SNP and the promotion of nationalism in the Highlands.”
Despite their concerns, Ms Crawford said she and co-leader Mr Mackie would hold the administration to account in “a respectful manner.”
They will focus on scrutinising budget decisions, particularly the council’s debts.
Mr Mackie pointed out that the previous council was highly critical of the SNP Government in Edinburgh.
“My fear is that the Highland Council will be called to heel and asked to fall into line with the separatist government in Edinburgh at the expense of the Highland people, our job creators and strategic industries,” said Mr Mackie.
Mr Mackie invited disgruntled Independent councillors to jump ship and join the Tories.
He claims many are already asking “searching questions”.
“It is clear that there are many dissenting voices already, with councillors reaching out to outline their disapproval.
“We are ready to support any Independent councillor who feels unable to support this administration and stand up to the SNP here in the Highlands and at Edinburgh.”
Stable basis, says SNP leader
On the contrary, SNP leader Raymond Bremner said the new deal would provide a “stable basis” for Highland Council.
Independent leader Bill Lobban was in no doubt of the administration’s priorities.
“This agreement will provide a settled, long-lasting administration and we will work together for the benefit of the people of the Highlands,” he said.