SHETLAND could have one extra councillor in the future if proposals for new electoral arrangements are approved.
Under final plans drawn up by Boundaries Scotland in a bid to rebalance the number of electors per councillor in the isles, Shetland could end up with 23 elected members instead of 22.
It proposes to decrease the number of councillors in the Shetland West ward from three to two, and reduce its size, and add one to Shetland Central and another to Shetland South.
This would include Gulberwick moving from Lerwick South to the south ward party to “better reflect local ties”.
Under the plans Lerwick North would also be renamed Lerwick North and Bressay.
Proposals for councillor numbers for Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles have now been submitted by Boundaries Scotland to Scottish ministers.
If they are accepted by parliament, they could come into force in time for the next local government elections in 2022.
The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland (LGBCS), which conducted the reviews into the councillor numbers, consulted with both local authorities and the public.
At the moment, Shetland’s 22 elected councillors are spread across seven wards and while the North Isles has its own ward, the remote Fair Isle is submerged into the south section and Foula and Papa Stour are represented by west side members.
The 2018 Islands Act required the commission to review the six councils containing inhabited islands.
The plan to reduce the number of Shetland West councillors is to “reflect local ties and recognised boundaries in the area”, according to the commission, and address a voter imbalance. Shetland Central would have four councillors instead of the current three.
But the idea for the west proved unpopular among existing west councillors when initial proposals were discussed by elected members in 2019, with workload one concern.
Among its other initial proposals back in 2019, the commission suggested altering the North Isles ward, but this did not attract support from councillors and constituents and has not made the final cut.
There has been support in the community in taking Gulberwick and its 400-plus electors into Shetland South, partly due to the anticipated volume of new housing set to be built in Lerwick which would skew voter balance in the town.
There are also local ties between Gulberwick and the south end, such as the local Up Helly Aa, football’s Parish Cup and the community council it shares with Quarff and Cunningsburgh.
In the last SIC elections in 2017 there was no contest in the south ward because only three people put themselves forward for the three seats, so there would be a hope for more willing candidates next time round.
There are other ward boundary changes proposed, including in the central and west areas. A full report can be found online.
Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell said: “The council engaged with Boundaries Scotland’s consultation that took place in 2019 and I note the final proposals that are being put forward to Scottish Ministers.
“Having a strong representative democracy is so important to Shetland’s future, and we will soon be starting our work to encourage candidates to stand for election. So, this report comes at an important time, with the local council elections now less than a year away”.
LGBCS chairman Ronnie Hinds said: “We recognise the unique, distinct character of each of Scotland’s island council areas and the challenges, and opportunities, these present.
“We are grateful to the councils and to the public who responded to our consultations. Their input has been invaluable in shaping our proposals and while we must take account of our obligations under the legislation and consider the interests of the whole council area, we have been able to take on board many of the views expressed.”
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