Highlanders could soon be the first north of Scotland residents to be given the chance to grill their council chiefs face-to-face at top-level meetings, as part of a pledge of greater democracy.
A proposal will be discussed next week for opening the doors to people with major issues they feel the council should prioritise.
Liberal Democrat group members will raise the proposition at Thursday’s meeting in Inverness.
They have suggested allowing members of the public an opportunity, as a regular agenda item, to ask a direct question in the Glenurquhart Road chamber at full council meetings.
Such questions would need to be submitted in writing in advance, as currently happens with councillors’ questions to the leader at full council meetings. A supplementary question could also be allowed.
It is the brainchild of Lib Dem group leader Alasdair Christie and his party colleagues Alec Graham and Carolyn Caddick.
They would limit each question to a minute. It would refer to an issue affecting the council area or falling within the council’s responsibilities and not be a repeat of a question at previous meetings in the past six months.
Nothing “defamatory, frivolous, vexatious or offensive” would be admissible. And questions about individual planning or licensing matters would also be barred, along with questions “of a personal nature”.
Councillor Christie said: “Everyone’s talking about ‘localism and empowerment’, it’s a flavour of the month at Holyrood and the council.
“This builds on that, taking it to the next level, allowing them to ask a question about something that’s perhaps giving them a problem in their local area or something they simply want more information about in order to make an informed decision and to ask that question at the highest level of governance of the council.
“It may be about school mergers or road issues, for example.”
While some might consider the proposal a political gimmick, Mr Christie insisted it was a serious proposal.
No north of Scotland council currently offers such a luxury, although Aberdeen City Council expects to consider the idea in the near future.
Its finance convener Willie Young said: “There will be a report coming to council before the end of May 2017. I’m not saying we’ll do it but it’s an option that’s on the table.”