Islands-only ward goes for approval

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Tiree will still be left on the edge and disenfranchised even if Boundary Commission proposals go ahead for a new islands-only ward.

Under plans now before Scottish Ministers, Oban, Lorn and the Isles would see its eight councillors redistributed with the creation of three new wards – one of them would bring Tiree together with neighbouring Coll, Mull, Iona and Ulva Ferry.

But islanders on Tiree and Coll made it clear during consultations that they wanted to have their own council ward with one councillor representing them, preferably someone living in the community who experienced their issues first hand and knew the problems.

Over a century ago that was the case, according to Tiree Community Council (CC) convenor Dr John Holliday, who said they would probably lobby for ministers to listen to their argument again but accepted it was unlikely to be heard.

‘We are disappointed the proposal did not include what we wanted. Mathematically the two councillors for our new ward will be from Mull if it gets passed. It will be better that the system we currently have but it could’ve been even better.

‘The councillors we have at the moment are brilliant but we don’t get to see them in person often, even before Covid. We are out on the edge here and will still be disenfranchised. However, we are making good contact with the other four fine  communities who would be in our five-island ward. We have issues in common and share the same mindset. This is the time for the Northern Inner Hebrides to get together and punch above our own individual weights. We will be working hard to make that happen,’ he added.

A three-page letter was sent from Coll Community Council in response to consultations back in January saying 65 per cent of its permanent residents had responded to a local survey supporting the reinstating of a Coll and Tiree council ward represented by one councillor.

‘However, now that the Boundary Commission has made its decision, Coll Community Council is delighted to have the opportunity to work together with Tiree, Mull and Iona in a ward with two dedicated councillors,’ a statement from the CC said last week.

The general consensus on Mull is that the island is pleased it would have islanders representing them.

‘Currently we have one councillor resident on Mull and she works so hard for Tiree, Coll, Iona and ourselves. However she is also looking after part of Oban, so we do not get her complete attention. We struggle to get island voices heard as our problems here are difficult for non-islanders to understand. To actually have resident island councillors to plead our case would, hopefully, be a step forward,’ said Andrena Duffin from Mull Community Council.

If the ward reshaping plan goes ahead it would be in  time for the 2022 local government elections.

Consultations were carried out over two months with Argyll and Bute Council and then over 12 weeks with the public.

The proposals would also see the creation of a new single ward for Oban with four councillors. Seil, Easdale, Luing, Kimelford and down to the border with Mid-Argyll at Arduaine would be part of it.

And a Lorn ward would include Lismore, taking in Ardchattan, Benderloch, over to  Creran and Appin up to the border with Duror. It would also go back to the A85 covering Taynuilt, Avich, Kilchrenan, Dalmally and Glen Orchy.

Caption: The island of Coll.
Photo: Tony Oliver of Coll Digital