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Independent Councillors

10 September 06
Independents in talks on joint election campaign - Scotsman

10 September 06
Independent Councillors Get Ready For Political Party Electoral Attack In May 2007

The council elections in May 2007 will be held on the same day as the elections for the Scottish Parliament.  Independent councillors fear they could be at disadvantage as the new wards will be three times larger making it difficult to get round to canvass the electorate whilst party label candidates will have the party members moving around supporting the candidates for the Scottish Parliament and will co-ordinate canvassing and leaflet drops for the local council candidates who belong to that party.  A loose association might mean that independent councillors who wish Highland to remain and independent council might co-operate in putting out information on their record even though they vote on all matters as they see fit in the best interests of their constituents and do not toe any party line as is the case in councils further south where a Labour or Lib Dem administration is formed.  Are the days of Highland independent councillors numbered or will the electorate decide to maintain a majority of independent councillors?  At present their are 54 independent councillors out of the 80 in Highland.  At present the independent councillors in Caithness are Bill Fernie (Wick West), Katrina MacNab (Pulteneytown), Donnie Mackay (Thurso Central), Bill Mowat (Caithness South East), Tom Jackson (Thurso East), John Green (Caithness North East)
Councillors who stood under party tickets in Highland are listed here.  There are three Lib Dems - David Flear (Caithness Central), Alastair MacDonald (Caithness North West) and Graeme Smith (Wick) and one Labour Roger Saxon (Thurso West).  the current convenor e of the council Alison Magee (Sutherland Central) is an independent and  the vice-convenor Michael Foxley (Ardnamurchan & Morvern) is A Lib Dem.  Political Parties have been approaching some independent councillors in Highland asking them to join them and gain the offer of assistance in election campaigns and perhaps less candidates being put up against them.  So far very few independents have joined although a couple have in other areas outside Caithness. The meeting referred to in the Scotsman article discussed the need for independent candidates to take more robust approach to getting their messages out on what an independent council had achieved over the years and to take heart that the voters in Highland have returned a large majority independent councillors over many elections.  The independent councillors who attended the meeting last week agreed that co-operating to get their message out was good thing but they will definitely NOT be forming a political party.

What difference does and independent council make?
You might think that a council made up of a majority of independent councillors would find it hard to agree on things that need to be done but that is not the case.  All councillors whether they have party ticket or are independent contribute to wide range of policies.  Some of the main ones are listed under -

Campaign Priorities of Highland Council
Would these priorities be the same under a party controlled Highland council? 

Independent councillors back people not parties

Would a council with a Labour/Lib Dem or SNP Highland administration controlling the council have campaigned to remove the Skye Bridge tolls when central government did not favour their removal?

Councillors who are members of political parties play down their party designation in an Independent council as they have no choice but to do so and in fact gain many advantages from independent councillors who select some of them as chairmen of strategic committees.  It is unlikely that the party led councillors would do the same if they were in the majority on the council.  The likelihood is that they would vote only for their own party members to the exclusion of any independent candidates who stood for any important positions.  The electorate vote councillors in but only the 80 councillors then vote for who will be in charge of all of the committees that run the councils affairs