Veteran Highland councillor David Alston, has stepped down as the local authority’s Liberal Democrat group leader.
The Black Isle councillor has been succeeded by his deputy, Alasdair Christie.
Mr Alston had led the group since 2012 and had steered the council through the financial storm waters as its budget leader in the wake of the recession.
Last night, he said: “I made the decision to stand down almost two months ago and asked the group to choose a new leader. I am delighted to see Alasdair take up this position.
“I had already decided that I would not stand for re-election as a councillor in 2017 and wanted a new leader in place to take us into the next round of parliamentary and local government elections.
“By 2017, I will have been councillor for 18 years.”
Mr Alston, 63, said he was proud of his group’s achievements under his helm and of his own role in managing council budgets “in difficult times for local government.”
He intends to dedicate more time to another of his passions – historical research.
Councillor Christie, who also runs Inverness Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “It’s a huge honour to follow David as group leader. His record speaks for itself.
“As deputy leader of the council, and finance chairman before that, his contribution to our region can’t be understated. I want to build on that.
“The council and our Highland communities face new challenges to deliver the services that we all want and deserve. I will be working to ensure we have a council that is fit to meet those challenges head on.
“On the near horizon we have to work to make sure the council’s finances are in order and deliver the best budget for the Highlands.”