Politics of the Highland council area: Wikis


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Highland council area
Shown as one of the council areas of Scotland

Politics of the Highland council area in Scotland are evident in the deliberations and decisions of the Highland Council,[1] in elections to the council, and in elections to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (Westminster) and the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood).[2] In the European Parliament the area is within the Scotland constituency, which covers all of the 32 council areas of Scotland.


Highland Council

The Highland Council
Council area
Administrative headquarters Inverness
Control Independent Group (Sandy Park group), Liberal Democrat and Labour coalition
Convener: Sandy Park, leader of the so-called Independent Group
Council website

The Highland Council (Comhairle na Gaidhealtachd in Gaelic) became a local government authority in 1996, when the two-tier system of regions and districts was abolished and the Highland region became a unitary council area. The first general election of the Highland Council, however, was one year earlier, in 1995. Until 1996 councillors shadowed the regional and district councils and planned for the transfer of powers and responsibilities. Elections to the council are normally on a four-year cycle, all wards being contestable at each election.

The 1995 election created a council of 72 members, each elected from a single-member ward by the first past the post system of election. Ward boundaries were redrawn for the next election, in 1999, to create 80 single-member wards and, again, election was by the first past the post system. The same wards and the same system of election were used for the third election, in 2003. For the fourth election, in 2007, ward boundaries were redrawn again to create 22 multi-member wards, each electing three or four councillors by the single transferable vote system, which is designed to produce a form of proportional representation.[3]

The most recent general election of the council was on 3 May 2007, and resulted in a so-called Independent Group and Scottish National Party (SNP) coalition administration. The SNP withdrew from the coalition in June 2008, and an Independent Group, Liberal Democrat and Labour coalition was formed.

Although consisting largely of former independent councillors, the Independent Group functions as a party, with Councillor Sandy Park as its leader and members accepting what is effectively a party whip[4]. The process of collapse of the Sandy Park group and SNP coalition also produced an Independent Members Group consisting of councillors who are outside the Sandy Park group and outside the ruling coalition.

As of 4 July 2008, political representation is as follows:[5]

Independent Group (Sandy Park group) Liberal Democrats Scottish National Party Labour Independent Members Group
29 22 17 7 5

The meeting place of the full council and the main offices of the council are in Inverness[6]. Also, some powers are delegated to committees meeting in other places and designed to represented geographically defined subdivisions (management areas) of the council area. Until 2007 the management areas were the eight areas of the former districts, which were abolished in 1996 when the two-tier region became a unitary council area. In 2007 the council replaced the eight management areas with a system of three corporate management areas, consisting of groups of wards created under the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004 and first used for electoral purposes in the same year. Also, each corporate management area is subdivided to create a total of 16 ward management areas. The number of ward management areas is less than the number of wards because some wards are grouped into larger areas for ward management purposes, and one ward is divided between two different ward management areas.

The eight older management areas created in 1996 were also groups of wards, and each management area had an area committee of councillors elected from the wards in the area. When ward boundaries were redrawn in 1999, however, management area boundaries were not. Thus, from 1999 to 2007, area committees were not exactly representative of areas for which they were named and for which they took decisions.

Three of the older management areas, Caithness, Nairn and Sutherland were very similar to earlier local government counties (although the county of Nairn is often called Nairnshire). Two others, Inverness and Ross and Cromarty, had the names of earlier counties (although the county of Inverness is often called Inverness-shire) but have very different boundaries.

The new corporate management areas are named as (1) Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, (2) Inverness, Nairn, and Badenoch and Strathspey, and (3) Ross, Skye and Lochaber. Two of these names are also those of Westminster Parliament (House of Commons) constituencies, and one name is very similar to the name of another Westminster constituency, but constituency and corporate management area boundaries are different.

Like the older management areas, the new corporate management areas are represented, for some purposes, by their own committees. Also, there is an Inverness city management area covering seven of the nine wards (and thus four of the six ward management areas) of the Inverness, Nairn, and Badenoch and Strathspey corporate management area, with the city area being represented by a city committee.

At ward level, ward forums are being held.


Management areas, 1996 to 2007

For lists of wards see Highland Council wards 1995 to 1999 and Highland Council wards 1999 to 2007.

The management areas were:

1996 to 1999 1999 to 2007
Badenoch and Strathspey consisting of 5 wards with 5 related wards
Caithness consisting of 8 wards with 10 related wards
Inverness consisting of 20 wards with 23 related wards
Lochaber consisting of 8 wards with 8 related wards
Nairn consisting of 5 wards with 4 related wards
Ross and Cromarty consisting of 13 wards with 18 related wards
Skye and Lochalsh consisting of 6 wards with 6 related wards
Sutherland consisting of 7 wards with 6 related wards

Corporate management areas, created in 2007

For lists of wards and details of how they are grouped into corporate and ward management areas, see Highland Council wards created in 2007.

The corporate management areas are:

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross 7 wards electing 23 councillors
Inverness, Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey 9 wards electing 34 councillors
Ross, Skye and Lochaber 6 wards electing 23 councillors

Westminster and Holyrood

The council area is covered by three constituencies of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (Westminster) and three constituencies of the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood). The Scottish Parliament constituencies are also components of that parliament's Highlands and Islands electoral region.

All the constituencies are entirely within the council area, but the Highlands and Islands electoral region includes also five other constituencies, covering the Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles (Na h-Eileanan Siar) council areas and most of the Argyll and Bute and Moray council areas.

Since the creation of the unitary Highland council area, in 1996, the Westminster constituencies have been altered twice, in 1997 and 2005. Neither the Holyrood constituencies nor the Holyrood electoral region have not been altered since their creation in 1999.



As a geographic area the Highland council area is the largest in Scotland. Working solely on the basis of the size of its electorate, however, it would qualify for just 2.3 Westminster seats. Boundary reviews have considered ways of addressing the area's apparent over representation, by reducing the number of constituencies to two, or by creating constituencies straddling boundaries with other council areas, but to date, for various geographic and cultural reasons, none of these proposals has been reflected in actual boundary changes.

1996 to 1997

The boundaries of one constituency had been established since the 1918 general election, the other two since the 1983 general election. There were no parliamentary elections during the 1996 to 1997 period.

List of constituencies:

Caithness and Sutherland
Ross, Cromarty and Skye
Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

1997 to 2005

All of the council area's constituencies were altered for the 1997 general election. The same constituencies were used in the 2001 general election.

List of constituencies:

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
Ross, Skye and Inverness West
Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber

2005 to present

All of the council area's constituencies were altered for the 2005 general election.[7] One, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, carries forward the name of a constituency created in 1997. This new constituency is slightly larger than the earlier constituency.

List of constituencies and current MPs (members of parliament):

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
Ross, Skye and Lochaber
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey
John Thurso, Liberal Democrat[8]
Charles Kennedy, Liberal Democrat[8]
Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat[8]


The Holyrood constituencies were created for the 1999 Scottish Parliament election, with the names and boundaries of then existing Westminster constituencies. The same Scottish Parliament constituencies were used in the 2003 Scottish Parliament election and the 2007 Scottish Parliament election.

List of constituencies and current MSPs (members of the Scottish Parliament):

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
Ross, Skye and Inverness West
Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber
Jamie Stone, Liberal Democrat[9]
John Farquhar Munro, Liberal Democrat[10]
Fergus Ewing, Scottish National Party[11]

As a whole, including MSPs elected by constituencies in the Highland council area, the Highlands and Islands electoral region is represented by:

6 Scottish National Party MSPs (four constituency MSPs and two additional members)
4 Liberal Democrat MSPs (all constituency MSPs)
3 Labour MSPs (all additional members)
2 Conservative MSPs (both additional members)

Notes and references

External links

Coordinates: 57°28′25″N 4°14′04″W / 57.47362°N 4.23446°W / 57.47362; -4.23446


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