Final Proposals For Councillor Numbers And Wards For Na H-eileanan An Iar, Orkney Islands And Shetland Islands Council Areas Submitted To Scottish Ministers
28th May 2021
Boundaries Scotland has submitted its final proposals for councillor numbers and wards in Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands council areas to Scottish Ministers.
The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 required the Commission to review the six councils containing inhabited islands (Argyll and Bute, Highland, North Ayrshire, Orkney, Shetland and Na h-Eileanan an Iar) as soon as practicable. The reviews formally commenced in January 2019 and the Commission has submitted its proposals on a timescale that would allow them to be in force, if accepted by the Scottish Parliament, in time for the local government elections in 2022.
Ronnie Hinds, Chair of the Commission, said:
"We are very pleased to submit to Scottish Ministers our final proposals for electoral arrangements for the three wholly island council areas. We believe these are in the interests of effective and convenient local government, reflect the legislative requirements governing our work and respond constructively to consultation responses.
We recognise the unique, distinct character of each of Scotland's island council areas and the challenges, and opportunities, these present. We are grateful to the councils and to the public who responded to our consultations. Their input has been invaluable in shaping our proposals and while we must take account of our obligations under the legislation and consider the interests of the whole council area, we have been able to take on board many of the views expressed. Using the new flexibility offered by the legislation our proposals include six 2-member wards in Na h-Eileanan an Iar and one in Shetland."
The Commission conducted two stages of consultation during the Reviews, consulting with each Council for two months before consulting with the public for 12 weeks.
We conducted this review as the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland but have submitted our final proposals and report to Ministers as Boundaries Scotland following the commencement of the relevant section of Scottish Elections (Reform) Act 2020. Part 4 of the Act amended our name to reflect our added responsibilities for reviewing Scottish Parliament boundaries.
Under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 the Commission is required to conduct electoral reviews of each council area every 15 years. One of the main reasons we undertake reviews is that the population, and therefore the electorate, of any local authority area is constantly changing, with migration into or out of areas as well as within the same area. As a result of such changes, some councillors may represent considerably more or fewer electors than other councillors in the same council area.
When reviewing electoral arrangements the Commission is required to take account of the following legislative factors:
the interests of effective and convenient local government
within each council, each councillor should represent as closely as possible the same number of electors
local ties which would be broken by making a particular boundary
the desirability of fixing boundaries that are easily identifiable
special geographical considerations
The Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004, as amended by the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 and the Scottish Elections (Reform) Act 2020 allows use of two, three, four or five councillors per ward across Scotland and single councillor wards only where such a ward contains an inhabited island.
Our final proposals for Argyll and Bute, Highland and North Ayrshire council areas will be submitted to Scottish Ministers in early June 2021. Under procedures introduced by the Scottish Elections (Reform) Act 2020 Scottish Ministers must lay the Commission's reports before the Scottish Parliament and the Order to implement the proposals is subject to affirmative procedure.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar Council area
We propose that in the interests of effective and convenient local government the future electoral arrangements for Na h-Eileanan an Iar council area should provide for a Council of 29 councillors in 11 wards, comprising six wards each returning 2-members, three wards each returning 3-members and two wards each returning 4-members
reduce the imbalance in the number of electors per councillor throughout the area. Three wards have forecast variation from parity of over 10% compared to six wards at present;
reduce the number of councillors from 31 to 29 while increasing the number of wards from 9 to 11;
retain the existing boundary of the An Taobh Siar agus Nis ward;
retain five ward names: An Taobh Siar agus Nis; Loch a Tuath; Sgìre an Rubha; Steòrnabhagh a Tuath; and Steòrnabhagh a Deas;
adopt the recognised Harris-Lewis boundary as a ward boundary; and
take account of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2020 by using the flexibility offered by 2-member wards to better reflect local ties throughout the council area and present 2-member wards in: Barraigh agus Bhatarsaigh; Na Hearadh; Sgìr' Ùige agus Carlabhagh; Sgìre nan Loch; Sgìre an Rubha; and Uibhist a Tuath.
Orkney Islands Council area
We propose that in the interests of effective and convenient local government the future electoral arrangements for Orkney Islands council area should provide for a Council of 21 councillors in six wards, comprising three wards each returning 3-members and three wards each returning 4-members
retain the same number of councillors as the existing arrangements;
retain three existing wards unchanged: North Isles; Stromness and South Isles; and West Mainland; and
make changes to ward boundaries by Kirkwall. The boundary between Kirkwall East ward and Kirkwall West and Orphir ward is to be amended by Kirkwall harbour to create a more easily identifiable ward boundary and the Kirkwall East ward boundary is to be extended southwards to better reflect local ties by placing Kirkwall airport and neighbouring local communities within a Kirkwall ward.
Shetland Islands Council area
We propose that in the interests of effective and convenient local government the future electoral arrangements for Shetland Islands council area should provide for a Council of 23 councillors in seven wards, comprising one ward returning 2-members, three wards each returning 3-members and three wards each returning 4-members
retain three existing wards unchanged: North Isles; Shetland North; and Lerwick North and Bressay. Lerwick North and Bressay, previously named Lerwick North, was renamed to reflect the Shetland Islands Council Locality Lerwick and Bressay;
address the imbalance in number of electors per councillor in two of the existing wards, Shetland West and Shetland South. This was achieved by adjusting ward boundaries and increasing the overall number of councillors in the whole council area from 22 to 23;
take into account Shetland Islands Council's Localities and the local ties and communities that they represent;
use the flexibility introduced by the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 which allowed us to design a 2-member Shetland West ward to reflect local ties and recognised boundaries in the area; and
make changes to the ward boundary south of Lerwick by placing Gulberwick within a Shetland South ward to better reflect local ties.
19 January 2021
Highland Council formally rejects Boundary Commission's proposals
Following discussions at the recent Council meeting, the Council Leader has formally written to the Local Government Boundary Commission on their proposals for councillor numbers and ward boundaries in the Highland Council area.
She advised the Boundary Commission that the Council rejected the Commission's proposals in their entirety and formally requested that they halt this process immediately and review the whole issue of remote and rural area boundaries and councillor numbers in consultation with the Highland Council and other local authorities who have mainland councils with inhabited islands.
Commenting on the proposal, Cllr Margaret Davidson, Leader of the Council said: "The Council is deeply unhappy with the Commission's proposals. They totally contradict the ethos of the Island (Scotland) Act, which was to enhance the democratic process and increase representation of remote and geographically disadvantaged areas. Much of our mainland areas are more remote and have far fewer transport links than many of the islands who have quicker and more reliable links to Scotland’s major cities. The parity level for the islands is one to 800 electorate. In Highland the parity level is a staggering one councillor to 2,800 electorate.
"There is simply no justification to subject our remote and fragile communities to an undemocratic and unwanted boundary review on the back of the Islands Act - particularly in the middle of a national pandemic. If our mainland ward structures are being altered then, it should be the case that the whole of Scotland’s local authorities must also be looked at. If not, it appears clear that Highland is being unilaterally singled out for a reduction in the number of councillors and that is wholly unacceptable. We are receiving a remarkable degree of support from our Community Councils and individuals across Highland."
She ended by saying: “The Commission’s approach to determining fair representation for geographically sparsely populated areas is profoundly unfair, contradictory and undemocratic and should be subject of a fundamental review. We have approached out local MSPs and the Ministers with responsibility for the Boundary Commission to register Highland’s concerns."
The plans envisage a new Caithness ward with three members, while new Wick and Thurso wards would get two councillors each - in total the county would lose one councillor.
The changes in neighbouring Sutherland would be more drastic with the creation of one ward where previously there were two and the loss of two of its current six councillors.