A controversial shake-up of council ward boundaries in the Highlands has been pushed back until after next year’s election, it has been confirmed.
Boundaries Scotland said no fresh review was planned in Highland or Argyll and Bute before voters go to the polls next May, with the process to restart after the local government elections instead.
Arrangements for the ballot were plunged into doubt in the two local authority areas in September after MSPs voted to reject proposals to redraw the electoral map.
The Scottish Parliament’s local government committee had previously been urged to dismiss the plans by Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson, who said the recommendations had left elected members “deeply unhappy and dismayed”.
One of the concerns highlighted by Ms Davidson related to a plan to reduce the number of councillors in the North, West and Central Sutherland ward from three to two, and in Wester Ross, from four to three.
The council leader suggested it would undermine efforts to tackle depopulation in the north.
She also criticised a move to cut the number of councillors in tourism hotspot Skye.
Ronnie Hinds, Boundaries Scotland chairman, wrote to the committee to say the commission was “deeply disappointed” by the rejection of the proposals, while accusing Highland Council of making requests that were “beyond the scope of the legislation”.
But Ms Davidson welcomed the confirmation of the decision to carry out a new review after the election.
“They were asked to work with the council after the local government election next year, and come to a closer agreement, a more appropriate boundary review for Highland,” she said.
We are extremely pleased with that outcome. We were very, very unhappy with the proposals that they had on the table.
“We are extremely pleased with that outcome. We were very, very unhappy with the proposals that they had on the table.
“This gives both the commission and ourselves time to breathe, time to pick it up and say, ‘where do we go from here?'”
Ms Davidson acknowledged that Boundaries Scotland had “parameters within which they work”, including the need to have “parity” in terms of the population size of council wards.
She said: “We want them to go beyond that, because we do not believe, one, that our islands are well enough represented.
“I mean, for instance they were going to take a councillor out of Skye. What?
“And there is also that we have special circumstances in some parts of Highland, such as declining population in the north, where reducing the number of councillors really does not help, when we are trying to focus massively on repopulation, and providing services and some economic growth to those areas.”