Survey on Tiree’s elected representation in Argyll + Bute

As has been flagged up at our last two meetings and in an article in An Tirisdeach there is a consultation going on about the electoral boundaries in Argyll + Bute for Local Authority councillors.

The areas of Argyll + Bute which elect councillors (called wards) are currently being reviewed by the organisation responsible for this, the Boundary Commission.

Part of the reason for the review taking place now is that the Islands Bill of 2018 instructed the Commission to look again at the way islands were represented in local government.

Why is this important? Argyll and Bute Council spends £2,200 per head on services that include the school, the old people’s home, rubbish collection, looking after the public toilets and various other important services. Decisions on spending are made by Local Authority councillors that are elected every five years.

At present, we are part of a ward called Oban South and the Isles, which elects four members, and covers Tiree, Coll, Mull, Iona, South Oban and a surrounding area to the south of Oban. Since this arrangement began, no councillor has been elected from Tiree or Coll. There is one councillor elected on Mull, the others from the mainland.

The Boundary Commission have produced initial proposals for Argyll and Bute and want the island’s views on their proposals.

They propose a new islands-only ward that combines Mull, Iona Coll and Tiree, represented by two Argyll and Bute councillors.

An alternative proposal has been made by current and ex-councillors that Tiree and Coll should be in a separate ward of our own represented by our own councillor.

There are pros and cons which have been suggested for these two proposals. These include:

Possible arguments for the four-island option:

Tiree and Coll are so small that they may struggle to recruit someone of sufficient calibre to serve as a councillor. However, Tiree and Coll had their own councillor between 1890 and 2007 with no recorded recruitment problems.

Being part of a four-island block might help forge links between the islands that have many issues in common, and would give us twice us much leverage in the Council chamber.

Possible arguments for a separate ward for Tiree and Coll:

Stronger links to the community: a local councillor would better know their constituents, their constituents would know him or her, and the councillor would know the local issues.

Availability: because Tiree is remote from mainland Argyll, because many councillors are part-time and because they have to attend council business in Lochgilphead every week, Argyll and Bute councillors are only able to visit Tiree a few days in the year. Tiree and Coll are relatively disenfranchised within Argyll and Bute. If councillors were both based on Mull, as they would be likely to be under the first proposal (because Mull has a far greater number of voters), they would have to leave home on Sunday afternoon to get to Tiree the next morning, returning home on Tuesday evening. Proportionate to the population, Tiree could expect one councillor to spend one day a week on the island, which would mean this round trip every week on top of attendance at council HQ in Lochgilphead. This is unlikely to happen.

The added benefit to Mull and the other islands of having two councillors on Mull rather than one, as effectively at present, would be small. The added benefit to Tiree and Coll of having a councillor dedicated to Tiree and Coll would be huge.

A single councillor representing Tiree and Coll would be quite busy enough covering the two islands, which have numerous issues in common that are not experienced (or less so) by the other islands.

The absence of an Argyll and Bute councillor based here has meant that Tiree Community Council is carrying a far greater political burden than other community councils – with just £400 a year to support this work.

We have been gathering views and propose to take a position at our meeting on Dec 9th – and are making one further effort to gather opinions from the community. Please complete this short survey to tell us your thoughts: