Proposed ward changes in Kintyre: consultees ignored?

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Most of Kintyre is to become one council ward with three councillors under plans submitted to the Scottish Government.

After a two-month consultation with Argyll and Bute Council and a 12-week public consultation between November 2020 and January 2021, Boundaries Scotland sent its proposed ward changes to Scottish ministers for approval.

The proposals also recommend combining Islay, Jura and Colonsay as one islands-only ward with two councillors.

North of Kennacraig on Kintyre’s west coast and north of Grogport in the east would join Tarbert in becoming part of a new Mid Argyll ward with four councillors.

Kintyre and the Islands councillor Alastair Redman said he is ‘very concerned’ that Boundaries Scotland has ‘ignored’ consultees as at least four community councils in his ward officially objected to the suggested changes.

‘Islay, Jura, Tarbert and Skipness, and West Kintyre community councils made it very clear that these changes would be to the detriment of their areas, yet Boundaries Scotland made no alterations to its original plans,’ he said.

‘There is confusion as to why the Islands (Scotland) Act, which is supposed to empower our islands, is being referenced in these proposed changes which will leave the islands with less representation and force many mainland areas into wards they do not want to be part of.

‘It begs the question: why did Boundaries Scotland bother to ask for our views if the ultimate decision would simply be to ignore them and do what they wished?’

A Boundaries Scotland spokesperson told the Courier that a number of responses both for and against the proposals for islands-only wards were received and all were ‘considered carefully’.

‘Those who supported our proposals were keen to emphasise the distinctiveness of the islands’ communities and a desire for councillors focused on local, islands-only issues,’ the spokesperson said. ‘Against that background, it seemed to be in the spirit of the recent islands legislation to introduce wards that recognised those distinct island communities.’

The islands legislation specifically set out in its policy memorandum that the previous requirement for three or four member wards meant that populated islands were sometimes placed in electoral wards with significant mainland populations, leading to concerns that the distinct interests of island communities may not be fully represented.

‘That is why the Islands (Scotland) Act introduced flexibility to use one or two member wards,’ added the Boundaries Scotland spokesperson.

‘It is that flexibility that has been used in developing the proposals that we have recommended.

‘In Kintyre, we amended our proposals as a result of consultation to reflect views expressed by Argyll and Bute Council on where the boundary should lie.’

Councillor Redman added: ‘Our ministers must listen to local objections from our community councils, not the whims of unelected bureaucrats, and refuse to ratify these wrongheaded proposals.’

If Scottish Ministers approve the plans, it is expected that the new wards will be in place in time for the local government elections in May 2022.