Agendas, reports and minutes

Highland Council

Date: Thursday, 9 March 2023

Agenda: Read the Agenda

A meeting of the Highland Council will be held in the Council Chamber, Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness on Thursday 9 March 2023 at 10.35am.

Webcast Notice: This meeting will be filmed and broadcast over the Internet on the Highland Council website and will be archived and available for viewing for 12 months thereafter.

You are invited to attend the meeting and a note of the business to be considered is attached.

Yours faithfully

Stewart Fraser 

Head of Corporate Governance


1. Calling of the Roll and Apologies for Absence
Gairm a’ Chlàir agus Leisgeulan

2. Declarations of Interest
Foillseachaidhean Com-pàirt

Members are asked to consider whether they have an interest to declare in relation to any item on the agenda for this meeting.  Any Member making a declaration of interest should provide some information on the nature of the interest and leave the meeting at the appropriate time.  Advice may be sought from officers prior to the meeting taking place.

Item 3 below will be considered at 12.45pm.

3. Presentation - Director of Public Health – Annual Report
Taisbeanadh – Stiùiriche Slàinte Phoblaich – Aithisg Bhliadhnail

A Presentation of the Director of Public Health’s Annual Report (HC/2/23) dated 27 February 2023 by the (which has been circulated separately) will be provided at the meeting.

4. Confirmation of Minutes  
Daingneachadh a’ Gheàrr-chunntais

There are submitted for confirmation as a correct record the Minutes of the Meeting held on 8 December 2022 (pp.397-422) as contained in the Volume which has been circulated separately.

The Minutes of the Special Meeting of the Council which will be held on 2 March will follow.

5. Minutes of Meetings of Committees
Geàrr-chunntasan Choinneamhan Chomataidhean

There are submitted for confirmation as correct records, for information as regards delegated business and for approval as appropriate, the Minutes of Meetings of Committees contained in Volume circulated separately as undernoted:-

Easter Ross Area Committee                                                            23 January 2023
Nairnshire Committee                                                                        23 January 2023
Lochaber Area Committee                                                                 24 January 2023
Sutherland County Committee                                                           24 January 2023
Housing and Property Committee                                                      26 January 2023
Dingwall and Seaforth Area Committee                                             30 January 2023
Isle of Skye and Raasay Committee                                                  30 January 2023
Black Isle Committee                                                                         31 January 2023
Economy and Infrastructure Committee                                            2 February 2023
Badenoch and Strathspey Committee                                               6 February 2023
Caithness Committee                                                                        6 February 2023
*Starred Item 8 – Area Roads Capital Programme 2023/24 – agreed to recommend that the Council write to the Scottish Government highlighting the urgent need for additional Highland capital roads investment, but particularly in Caithness.
*Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Committee                                9 February 2023
*Starred Item 5 – Appointment to Adult Protection Committee – agreed to appoint Mr B Boyd to serve on the Adult Protection Committee
Special Meeting of Badenoch and Strathspey Committee                13 February 2023
City of Inverness Area Committee                                                     13 February 2023
Education Committee                                                                        15 February 2023
Pensions Committee                                                                          16 February 2023
Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh Committee                         20 February 2023
Corporate Resources Committee                                                      22 February 2023
Communities and Place Committee                                                  23 February 2023
Special Meeting of Isle of Skye and Rassay Committee                   27 February 2023

Minutes of Meetings not included in the Volume are as follows:-          

i.   Highland and Western Isles Valuation Joint Board – for noting – held on 23 September 2022 (approved by the Board on 25 November 2022) ;
ii.  Community Planning Board – for noting – held on 7 October 2022 (approved by the Board on 9 December 2022);
iii. Recruitment Panel: Interim Chief Executive – for noting – held on 11 January 2023 (approved by the Panel on 19 January 2023) (pp.12-13) and – for approval - 19 January 2023; and
iv.  Recruitment Panel: Chief Executive – for noting – held on 23 January 2023 (approved by the Panel on 16 February 2023).  The Minutes of the  Meeting of the Recruitment Panel: Chief Executive held on 16 February 2023 will follow. 

Items 6 and 7 will be considered at 2.00pm

6. Question Time 
Àm Ceiste       

The following Questions have been received by the Head of Legal and Governance.  A response for each question will be circulated.

With the exception of the Public Question, one supplementary question will be allowed in each case which will be answered by the recipient of the original question.

Member Questions

(1) Mr A Christie

To the Leader of the Council

“Please could the Leader of the Council detail all correspondence he has entered into since 1st November 2022 with the Scottish Government to hasten the long overdue announcement of the Learning Estate Investment Programme funding decision with regard to Beauly Primary, Dunvegan Primary, Tornagrain Primary, Park Primary and St Clements School including a summary of any replies received?”

(2) Mr A Christie

To the Leader of the Council

“In September 2022 the Council agreed the Workforce and People Strategy which indicated that there was a requirement to remove 500 posts from the establishment. The Budget papers on 2nd March make reference to the work being ongoing. Please could the Leader list in detail the posts examined as part of the process to date and the decision on whether the post should be deleted?”

(3) Mr D Gregg

To the Leader of the Council

“In June 2022, the Council agreed 2 papers on short term lets. Could the Council give details of how it has engaged with stakeholders in the local short term let sector to make them aware of how these papers will affect them?”

(4) Mr A MacDonald

To the Leader of the Council

“Ten weeks ago, at the Council meeting on the 8th December the Council accepted my Motion that the Highland Council policy for Onshore Wind Turbine Development be reviewed as a matter of urgency, that the Council would ask the Scottish Government to increase guidance from £5000 (plus inflation) per MW to 5% of gross revenue and with a useful amendment from Karl Rosie to consider other renewable energy opportunities at the same time.

May I ask the Leader to inform the Chamber of all the activity, meetings and other details that have taken place to further this remarkable opportunity for the Communities of the Highlands.”

(5) Mr R Mackintosh

To the Chair of Housing and Property Committee

“There are parts of Head Quarters building which cannot be adequately heated, there are areas where the heating cannot be turned off, and there are radiators which are left on in empty rooms.

Given the need to ensure that all our staff work in appropriate conditions, and the urgent need to reduce energy consumption across the Council estate, what is the Administration doing to maximise energy efficiency here, in HQ?”

(6) Ms K Willis

To the Chair of Housing and Property Committee

“A comprehensive Council land ownership record will enable an assessment of land available for Council owned renewable energy development and inform carbon sequestration opportunities, to help Council meet its net zero and biodiversity targets and to access funding.

Does Highland Council have a register of Council owned land, including unused or derelict land and property, and garage estate, and if so, please can you share it with us?”

(7) Mr C Ballance

To the Leader of the Council

“In other areas of Scotland, local authorities have committed to using Shared Prosperity Funding to replace European Social Funds.  Highland Council have not, as yet made any commitment to using this or other funds, or to commit to any level of budget. 

Third Sector organisations offering Employability Services prior to Dec 2022 have been added to the Employability services framework.  However, levels of service and categories of service have been allocated to providers without any consultation or agreement. Some services believe they could and have been working in different categories but have been unable to have any alterations made. Additionally, the number of hours of service have been restricted.   It appears that no-one else can be added to the framework nor can changes be made by those on the framework. 

Most damaging of all, the Council have moved from a grant funded service to a spot purchase service.  This means services will only be paid for, for hours delivered to a client who is referred from the Council Employability Team.  However, it is not possible for third sector organisations to employ staff on this basis, other than through zero hour contracts. 

The Council organised two forums for employability service providers last year and various options were proposed. However there seems to have been no movement.

Will you commit to meeting with representatives of the Highland Third Sector Interface this month to seek an urgent resolution to this problem?”

(8) Mr M Baird

To the Leader of the Council

“If there is sufficient staff to handle the Licencing and Energy Performing Certification available when this requirement of Short Term Lets resume later this year.”

(9) Mr A Graham

To the Leader of the Council

“Please provide a schedule of all articles which are under consideration for removal from Inverness Town House, including but not restricted to portraits, photographs, wall plaques, shields,  statues, busts, furniture, chairs, tables, and other articles.”

(10) Ms M Nolan

To the Leader of the Council

“To detail the responsibilities of the Senior Strategic Chairs, excluding those responsibilities undertaken in their capacities as Strategic Committee Chairs.”

7. Notices of Motion 
Brathan Gluasaid   

The following Notices of Motion have been received by the Head of Corporate Governance –

(i) With the drive to net zero very prominent in our minds it was disappointing to learn that at the E&I committee it was agreed that the electricity charges for EV charging would increase from £0.30p to £0.70p per unit. This increase equates to a rise of 130%.

It is therefore not surprising that this has resulted in an outcry by EV users across the Highlands and serves as a significant disincentive to promote the use and indeed the purchase of electric vehicles in favour of fossil fuel powered vehicles, going against the ethos of promoting the use of green transport and the green agenda. That being the case this council commits to overturning that decision and instead imposing an increase in line with inflation of 10%.

Signed: Mr R Gale, Mrs T Robertson, Mrs A MacLean

(ii) The horrendous spate of accidents and resultant fatalities on the single carriageway sections of the A9 has brought misery to families from across the country and beyond our Council area. Additionally the failure to upgrade this vital transport link has a huge, negative, economic impact to the economy of the whole Highlands. 

As a result this Council deplores the decision of the Scottish Government to delay the dualling of the A9 between Inverness and Perth and asks that the Transport Minister immediately publishes a revised timetable for the completion of the works.

Signed: Mr B Lobban, Mr R Jones

(iii) Local contracts for local Contractors

Noting the anticipated increase in installing renewable generation, both by public and private bodies, and noting the requirements of Community Wealth Building that as much procurement spend should be directed locally as possible, 

This Council asks the Convenor of Economy and Infrastructure Committee to set up a series of meetings between the relevant officers from the Council, UHI and HIE to investigate ways of enabling Highland-based construction companies, including sole traders, to bid for renewable installation contracts, including by training in renewable installation, overcoming the financial barriers to getting MCS accreditation, and secondly to make it easier for Highland based construction businesses to tender for public body renewable contracts in the Highlands.

Signed: Mr R Mackintosh, Ms K Willis

(iv) Carbon Emissions Land Tax (CELT)

This Council notes that:

Scotland’s land should be a net carbon sink, removing millions of tonnes more greenhouse gases than it produces. Instead, because of the way it is used and managed, our land is a net polluter, emitting almost 8 million tonnes more CO2 equivalent per year into the atmosphere than it removes.

Even when farming is excluded, Scotland’s vast land area of moorland, mountains and peatlands is a net emitter of 500,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually.

Restoring 75% of Scotland’s degraded peatland and allowing native woodland restoration to reach 20% of its maximum potential expansion in Scotland’s could reduce our climate emissions by 6 MtCO2 annually – more than is produced today by all the country’s cars.

Taking bold action now to restore peatlands at scale and enable the natural expansion of native woodlands, is critical to reach Scotland’s climate targets. 

The Carbon Emissions Land Tax (CELT) proposed by environmental NGOs, is a powerful tool to accelerate changes in land management practices and encourage practices that maximise natural carbon capture, by enabling Councils to tax large landowners based on their estimated positive or negative land carbon emissions.

A CELT will also bring in much-needed additional revenue for rural Councils, which could be used to fund local carbon reduction and nature restoration projects. 

Changes in land management practices will also improve biodiversity and habitat diversity, help to mitigate flood risks, improve water quality and public health, and create many local rural jobs strengthening local communities and diversifying their economies. 

This Council therefore:

1. Supports the principle of a Carbon Emissions Land Tax and recognises it as a valuable policy to create positive land management changes at pace and scale across rural Scotland.

2. Calls on the Scottish Government to include a Carbon Emissions Land Tax in the Land Reform Bill so that Scotland’s land can play its full part in combatting the climate and ecological crises.

3. Agrees to become a member of the Carbon Emissions Land Tax Coalition.

Signed: Mrs T Robertson, Ms K Willis, Dr C Birt, Mrs A MacLean

(v) Council agrees with SNP MSP Fergus Ewing that the Scottish Government's failure to dual the A9 by 2025 amounts to "a betrayal of the Highlands," and supports his call for a parliamentary enquiry into the mishandling of the A9 improvement programme by the SNP/Green government.

Signed: Mr C Aitken, Mr A Christie, Mr R Gale, Mr A MacDonald, Ms M Nolan, Mrs T Robertson, Mrs A MacLean, Ms M MacCallum

(vi) No such Thing As Waste

Noting the decision of Communities and Place to aim to implement measures to reduce the amount of residual household waste being collected;

Noting also that every kilo diverted from the waste stream saves the Council money;

Council resolves to form a stakeholder group consisting of members from the third sector repair, and reuse network, the Highland commercial reuse sector, Council officials and Circular Communities Scotland, to agree what is needed to grow the sector and increase repair and reuse in the Highlands, reporting back on progress and recommendations to the Communities and Place Committee;

And further, Council resolves to increase its  communications on what can be reused, repaired or recycled, where, with an information campaign aimed at householders, including, but not limited to, increasing uptake of the Inverness food waste collection service.

Signed: Mr C Ballance, Ms K Willis

(vii) Council notes:-

• That the number of police officers in the Highlands & Island Division is at the lowest ever since 2017 to just 624 full time officers.

• The number of officers in the dedicated national road policing unit which has bases at Fort William and Dingwall, has fallen from 596 in 2014/15 to 556 in 2021/22, recognises this coincides with a 64.3% increase in Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs) between 1st April 2021 and 31st December 2022.  In the Highland and Islands Division has the highest death s on the A9 in two decades.

• That for the year ending September 2022 recorded crime in Scotland excluding Coronavirus related regulations, has increased by 6%.

• The centralisation of Police Scotland has deteriorated the visibility the visibility of local Policing provision in the Highland and Islands as a result in failing to meet the increasing needs of the public.

Council agrees that the Leader of Highland Council write to the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Justice requesting an urgent review of Police Scotland resources in the Highlands and in particular the need for 24/7 police station provision to avoid delays in 101 service to restore public confidence.

Signed:  Ms J McEwan, Mrs T Robertson

8. Membership of Committees, etc
Ballarachd Chomataidhean, msaa

The Council is advised that Mr A Jarvie has confirmed that he has now left the Scottish Conservative and Unionists Group.  On that basis, the political make-up of the Council is now as follows:-

SNP 22/ Independent – 17/ Liberal Democrat – 15/ Scottish Conservatives – 9/ Green Party – 4/ Labour – 2/Caithness Independent - 1/Sutherland Independent – 1/Independent – 1/Inverness Independent – 1/ Non-Aligned 1

The formula in respect of the number of places on Strategic Committees remains the same as 6/5/4/3

On that basis, Members are also asked to agree the following nominations from the Scottish Conservative and Unionists Group -  

Audit and Scrutiny Committee - Mr P Logue
Education Committee – Mrs I MacKenzie
Housing and Property Committee – Mr R Stewart
Pensions Committee – Mr J Bruce
Redesign Board – Mr P Logue

Members are also asked to agree that Mr J Bruce replace Mrs H Crawford on the Economy and Infrastructure Committee.

9. Appointment of Vice Chair of Audit and Scrutiny Committee
Cur Iar-Chathraiche an Dreuchd do Chomataidh an Sgrùdaidh

The Council is invited to appoint a Vice Chair of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee.

10. Executive Chief Officers - Recruitment           
Àrd-Oifigearan Gnìomhach - Fastaidh

There is circulated Report No. HC/4/23 dated 25 February 2023 by the Interim Chief Executive.

The Council is invited to:- 

i.  agree the composition for the recruitment panel for Depute Chief Executive and Executive Chief Officer posts; and
ii. note the appointment of the following interim positions:  Chief Executive, Depute Chief Executive and Head of Finance/Section 95 Officer as outlined in Section 5 of the report. 

11. High Life Highland – Appointment of Independent Directors 
High Life na Gaidhealtachd – Cur Stiùirichean Neo-eisimeileach an Dreuchd

The Council is advised that recommendations have been received from the High Life Highland Nominations Committee in relation to the appointment of Independent Directors as follows – 

Mr Roddy Henry
Ms Kerry Ross

The Council is asked to agree these recommendations as detailed.

12. Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport
Saor-phort Uaine Inbhir Nis agus Linne Chromba

There is circulated Report No. HC/5/23 dated 27 February 2023 by the Interim Depute Chief Executive.

The Council is invited to:-

i.   note the successful Green Freeport bid made by the Opportunity Cromarty Firth consortium and the environmental, social and economic benefits that are expected to be achieved;
ii.  note the Council’s role and responsibilities, including as Accountable Body, as summarised in Section 6 of the report;
iii. agree the Council representative on the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport Board; and 
iv.  note the next steps outlined in Section 7 of the report including the proposal to take a report to a future meeting of the Council prior to submission of the Outline Business Case to UK and Scottish Governments. 

13. Corporate Plan
Plana Corporra

There is circulated Report No. HC/6/23 dated 25 February 2023 by the Interim Chief Executive. 

The Council is invited to:-

i.   approve the Corporate Plan for 2022-27;
ii.  note that the Corporate Plan will be the subject of an Annual Performance Report in September each year, with the first report due in September 2023; and
iii. note that the Plan is normally reviewed following the Annual Performance Report to Council with any changes submitted to Council for approval.  The first such review will be undertaken in Autumn 2023. 

14. Annual Report – Statutory Performance Indicators, Benchmarking and Best Value 2021/22 
Aithisg Bhliadhnail – Taisbeanairean Coileanaidh Reachdail, Tomhas-mheasaidh agus an Luach an Fheàrr 2021/22

There is circulated Report No. HC/7/23 by the Interim Chief Executive. 

Members are asked to: 

i   scrutinise the performance of the Council’s SPIs for 2021/22 outlined in Appendices 1 – 3 of this report;
ii  note the Audit Direction on public performance reporting and the Council’s approach to compliance in Appendix 4 of this report;
iii scrutinise the Best Value Qualitative Report summarised in Appendix 5 of this report.  Full details will be published separately on the Council’s website;
iv  note the External Audit opinion on the Council’s delivery of Best Value in relation to the Council’s Best Value Assurance Report (BVAR) and associated BVAR Improvement Plan as outlined at section 6 of this report. 

15. Treasury Management Strategy Statement
Aithris Ro-innleachd Rianachd Ionmhais 

There will follow Report No. HC/8/23 by the Interim Head of Finance.

16. Scheme of Delegation   
Sgeama Tiomnaidh

There is circulated Report No. HC/9/23 dated 27 February 2023 by the Interim Chief Executive.

The Council is invited to agree the changes to the Scheme of Delegation as detailed in Appendix 1 of the report.

17. Timetable of Meetings 
Clàr-ama Choinneamhan 

The Council is asked to agree the following changes to the dates of meetings in the current year:-  

• Special Easter Ross Area Committee – 13 March 2023.
• Joint Planning Applications Committee – 22 March 2023, also agree, if necessary, a meeting on the 3 May 2023.
• Special City of Inverness Area Committee – 23 March 2023.
• City of Inverness Area Committee – change of dates from 5 June to 25 May, 28 August to 1 September and 20 November to 1 December.
• Nairnshire Committee - to be held prior to the end of the financial year, date to be confirmed.

And note, following the approval of the Convener due to urgent business, the Special meetings of:-

• Badenoch and Strathspey Committee – 13 February 2023
• lsle of Skye and Raasay Committee – 27 February 2023

18. Deeds Executed
Sgrìobhainnean Lagha a Bhuilicheadh

There is circulated for noting a list of deeds and other documents executed on behalf of the Council since the meeting held on 8 December 2022. 

19. Exclusion of the Public
Às-dùnadh a’ Phobaill

The Council is asked to resolve that, under Section 50A(4) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the public should be excluded from the meeting for the following item on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 6 & 9 of Part 1 of Schedule 7A of the Act.

20. Independent Care Home Provision – Risk and Sustainability Update
Solar Dhachaighean-Cùraim Neo-eisimeileach – Cunntas às Ùr mu Chunnart is Sheasmhachd 

There is circulated to Members only Report No. HC/10/23 dated 25 February 2023 by the Executive Chief Officer Health and Social Care.

The Council is invited to agree the recommendations as detailed in the report.