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Council / ‘Fairly logical’ to move Gulberwick to south end ward, community council hears

Gulberwick. Photo: Shetland News

THE CHAIRMAN of Lerwick Community Council has suggested that Gulberwick could move council wards in a bid to address voter representation.

Jim Anderson suggested at a meeting of Lerwick Community Council on Monday that Gulberwick could be better off joining the south mainland SIC ward instead of remaining part of Lerwick South.

It came during a discussion about the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland’s ongoing consultation into electoral arrangements in Shetland.

The commission has suggested increasing the number of councillors in Shetland from 22 to 23 amid an imbalance in voters against the number of councillors in some parts of the isles.

Its proposals include increasing the number of councillors in the south mainland from three to four, and reducing Shetland West from three to two.

Anderson pointed to figures which said the forecasted electorate in Lerwick in 2023 will continue to be above parity – meaning there are more voters per councillor than the average – while in the south mainland it is estimated to be over eight per cent below parity after a fourth councillor is added into the mix.

At the moment the south mainland has a very high positive deviation in electoral parity – 17 per cent – which has led to the commission’s suggestion to increase the number of councillors in the ward.

The commission aims to achieve electoral parity of within 10 per cent for a ward.

Figures from the commission also reiterate that the electorate in Lerwick is set to increase at a greater rate than in the south mainland.

Anderson said it could be “fairly logical” to include Gulberwick in the south mainland ward should there end up being too few electors per councillor in years to come.

“Gulberwick is a more rural community – we’ve got the Gulberwick, Quarff and Cunningsburgh Community Council etc,” he said.

“Would it be more logical and fairer as far as the voters are concerned to draw that line at the Observatory?”

Lerwick North councillor Stephen Leask said he had previously suggested Gulberwick could be more aligned with its community council area when it came to its SIC ward, but nothing came to fruition.

Lerwick South councillor Peter Campbell commented that the commission was an “organisation besotted with numbers”.

“They are trying to get everything as close to parity as possible,” he added.

Campbell said that Gulberwick is included in Lerwick South as much of the amenities used by locals, like schools, are in the town.

Caroline Carroll, however, said that having previously lived in Gulberwick for 20 years she felt many of those in the community – especially the older generation – aligned themselves more with the south end than Lerwick.

The community council agreed to write to the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland regarding the Gulberwick suggestion.

The commission does state in its guidance that when designing wards it aims to reflect “local ties”, such as school catchment areas.

Any changes to the number of councillors, however, would only be in place for the next local government elections in May 2022.