Should islands stay part of Oban or go?

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Kerrera and the slate islands could see themselves split from Oban as part of a ward boundaries review.

Views on whether Kerrera, Luing, Seil and Easdale should remain part of  a single Oban ward or be linked with a new Mull, Iona, Coll and Tiree ward instead, is part of a consultation being carried out now under the microscope of the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland.

The consultation, which runs until January 26 next year, is looking at a proposed shake-up of local government across Argyll and Bute, including changes to numbers of councillors, wards and ward boundaries and their names.

Those changes locally include the possibility of Oban being placed into a single ward of its own extending southwards to Melfort represented by four councillors and including Kerrera, Seil, Easdale and Luing. That would be a departure from the current ward split of Oban North and Lorn, and Oban South and Isles which is represented by eight councillors.

However, those islands could join a newly created Mull, Iona, Coll and Tiree ward. The commission is keen to give people a say.

Zim Knight, Seil and Easdale Community Council convenor, said the general view so far, after canvassing opinion, was that its island would be ‘better suited’ to sticking with Oban.

‘We have little to do with Coll and Tiree but lots to do with Oban. The general view so far is that we are happier to be part of a ward with Oban where we are better suited. Our challenges here are different to the challenges facing people on other islands more distant  from Oban. As a community council we won’t be objecting to the boundary commission’s proposals at the moment, we are still canvassing opinions and have put it out on our Facebook page. We will officially respond to the review by the due date,’ he said.

Over on Luing, its community council convenor Mike Barlow said members were still ‘finding out about the pros and cons’ of either staying with Oban or going to an island-only tier with Mull and the others.

‘We are gauging it all at the moment, finding out what the pros and cons would be. We’d encourage individuals to look at the proposals and have their say. The more engagement, the better informed the outcome will be,’ he said.

The Commission states island-only tiers would ‘better reflect local ties for island communities’ and their ‘special geographic circumstances’.

Argyll and Bute Council is currently represented by 36 councillors across 11 wards. The commission suggests reducing the number of councillors to 34 and  increasing the wards to 12.

Argyll and Bute Council officials have already tabled a three-page response declaring itself ‘disappointed’ that a reduction in councillors is on the cards and saying the island ward proposals had raised a number of concerns about ‘electoral parity’.

The boundary commission said population changes is one of the main reasons for the review. Argyll and Bute’s electorate is expected to shrink from 66,725 in 2018 to 65,834 by 2024 – amounting to nearly 900 fewer voters.

The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 also requires the commission to review the six councils in Scotland which contain inhabited islands, including Argyll and Bute.

A series of recommendations will eventually be made to the Scottish Parliament which would then give either the final yes or no. It is expected, if the recommendations are approved, they will be in place for the next local government elections in May 2022.

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