The Highland Council

The Highland Council (Comhairle na Gaidhealtachd in Gaelic) comprises 22 wards, each electing three or four councillors by the single transferable vote system, which creates a form of proportional representation.[4][5] The total number of councillors is 74,[5] and the main meeting place and main offices are in Glenurquhart Road, Inverness.[6]

The Highland Council
Full council election every 4 years.
Cllr Bill Lobban, Independent
since 19 June 2017
Leader of the Council
Cllr Margaret Davidson, Independent
since 18 May 2017[1]
Chief executive
Donna Manson
since 18 September 2018
Political groups
     Independent (27)
     Liberal Democrat (9)
     Labour (3)
Other parties
     SNP (20)
     Conservative (11)
     Non-aligned (2)
     Scottish Greens (1)
     Sutherland Independent Group (1)
Single transferable vote
Last election
5 May 2017
Next election
5 May 2022[3]
Meeting place
The Highland Council Headquarters

Current administration

The most recent election of the council was on 4 May 2017, and resulted in a coalition administration formed by two of the four political parties on the council, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party, together with the Independent group.[7] The Coalition had 41 councillors, and the opposition was divided between 22 SNP councillors, 10 Conservatives, and 1 Green member.

Subsequently, there have been two by-elections and two defections on the council, with one Liberal Democrat being replaced by an Independent, one SNP councillor being replaced by a Liberal Democrat, and two SNP councillors leaving the group.


As of 2018, there are 21 wards, each of which is represented by 3 or 4 councillors. Ward forums are held by the councillors representing each ward: these meetings are open to the public.[8] A Ward Manager is appointed to each ward or group of wards.[9] Each ward receives a small discretionary budget that is managed by the ward manager.[8]

The councillors representing groups of wards also sit as area committees, each covering areas which to some extent correspond with former local government boundaries. There are area committees for the counties of Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty and Nairnshire, as well the city of Inverness. The remaining area committees cover Badenoch and Strathspey, Lochaber, and the Isle of Skye and Raasay.[10]


The first elections to the Highland Council were in 1995, when the unitary council was created under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994. Since then, there have been general elections of the council at four year intervals. Since 1999 these elections have coincided with general elections of the Scottish Parliament, but the next council election has been delayed for a year, until 2012, to end this coincidence, making the current council term one of five years instead of four.

The new council was created to replace a regional council and eight district councils, which had been created under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, and were abolished in 1996. Until 2007, the new council maintained decentralised management and committee structures which related to former district boundaries, except this arrangement was compromised by changes to ward boundaries in 1999, so that committees ceased to represent exactly the areas for which they were making decisions. Current management and committee structures, involving three corporate management areas and related committees, were created at the same time as the introduction of multi-member wards and single transferable vote elections in 2007.

The 1995 election created a council of 72 members, each elected from a single-member ward by the first past the post system of election. Ward boundaries were redrawn for the 1999 election, to create 80 single-member wards and, again, election was by the first past the post system. The same wards and the same system of election were used for the 2003 election. For the 2007 election, ward boundaries were redrawn again, under the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004, to create the current 22 multi-member wards, each electing three or four councillors by the single transferable vote system, but still electing a total of 80 councillors.

The eight older management areas, created when district councils were abolished in 1996, were also groups of wards, and each management area had an area committee of councillors elected from the wards in the area. Three of the older management areas, Caithness, Nairn and Sutherland, were very similar to earlier local government counties. Two others, Inverness and Ross and Cromarty, had the names of earlier counties but have very different boundaries.

In 2007, the then 22 wards were divided between three corporate management areas, and each of these was subdivided to create a total of 16 ward management areas.[11] Some wards are grouped into larger areas for ward management purposes, and one ward is divided between two different ward management areas. Therefore, the number of ward management areas is less than the number of wards.

The corporate management areas were named as (1) Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, (2) Inverness, Nairn, and Badenoch and Strathspey, and (3) Ross, Skye and Lochaber. Two of these names are also those of Westminster Parliament (House of Commons) constituencies, and one name is very similar to the name of another Westminster constituency, but constituency and corporate management area boundaries are different.

Corporate management areas were represented, for some purposes, by their own committees. Also, there was an Inverness city management area covering seven of the nine wards (and thus four of the six ward management areas) of the Inverness, Nairn, and Badenoch and Strathspey corporate management area, with the city area being represented by a city committee.

The former management areas were:

1996 to 1999 1999 to 2007
Badenoch and Strathspey consisting of 5 wards with 5 related wards
Caithness consisting of 8 wards with 10 related wards
Inverness consisting of 20 wards with 23 related wards
Lochaber consisting of 8 wards with 8 related wards
Nairn consisting of 5 wards with 4 related wards
Ross and Cromarty consisting of 13 wards with 18 related wards
Skye and Lochalsh consisting of 6 wards with 6 related wards
Sutherland consisting of 7 wards with 6 related wards

The numbers of wards in each corporate management area, and the number of councillors representing them, was as follows:

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross 7 wards electing 23 councillors
Inverness, Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey 9 wards electing 34 councillors
Ross, Skye and Lochaber 6 wards electing 23 councillors

For lists of historic wards and details of how they were grouped into corporate and ward management areas, see:


  1. Highland independent, Lib Dem, Lab coalition agreed BBC News, 18 May 2017
  2. Political representation The Highland Council
  3. Upcoming elections The City of Edinburgh Council
  4. "The Highland (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2006". 2006. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  5. "Council wards". Highland Council. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  6. Ordnance Survey grid reference for Highland Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness: NH661448
  7. "'Living wage' pledge as Highland Council elects new leader". BBC News. BBC. 17 May 2012.
  8. "Council wards". The Highland Council. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  9. "Ward managers". The Highland Council. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  10. "Overview of committee membership and office bearers". The Highland Council. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  11. "Corporate Managers Appointed". Highland Council. 23 February 2007. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
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