Agendas, reports and minutes

Highland Council

Date: Thursday, 14 September 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 14 September 2023 at 10.35 am.

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 Legal and Governance


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

2. Declarations of Interest/Transparency Statement    
Foillseachaidhean Com-pàirt/ Aithris Fhollaiseachd

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.

3. Recess Powers 
Cumhachdan Fosaidh

Members are asked to note that the recess powers granted at the meeting on 29 June 2023 did not require to be used in relation to the full Council.

4. Confirmation of Minutes  
Daingneachadh a’ Gheàrr-chunntais

There are submitted for confirmation as a correct record the Minutes of Meeting of the Council held on 29 June 2023 (pp.423-458) as contained in the Volume which has been circulated separately.

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:-

Nairnshire Committee, 7 August
Easter Ross Area Committee, 7 August    
Sutherland County Committee, 8 August     

Starred Items as follows – 

5. Winter Service Plan for 2023/24 - approved the Winter Service Plan for 2023/24 with an amendment, subject to approval at full Council, that the road from Lochinver Primary School, South, to Inverkirkaig Bridge, a distance of approximately 2.5miles/4km, be re-prioritised from the category “Other” to “Secondary”, as defined in The Highland Council Community Services Winter Service Policy August 2018, paragraph 3.1, Network Hierarchy.

6. Dornoch Business Improvement District – agreed to recommend to full Council that it supports the Dornoch BID Proposal when this is considered at the meeting of the Highland Council on 14 September 2023. 

Lochaber Area Committee, 8 August    
Housing and Property Committee, 10 August    
Isle of Skye and Raasay Committee, 14 August    
Dingwall and Seaforth Area Committee, 14 August    
Black Isle Committee, 15 August 
Economy and Infrastructure Committee, 17 August

*Starred Item 21a – Appointments to Sub-Committees/Working Groups – agreed to recommend to the full Council the membership of the Wildfires Working Group as follows:-

Mr M Baird, Mr C Birt, Ms S Fanet, Mr D Fraser, Mr R Jones, Mr S Kennedy, Mr P Logue, Ms K MacLean, Mrs T Robertson, Mr R Stewart.

Caithness Committee, 21 August    
Badenoch & Strathspey Area Committee, 21 August    
Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Committee, 24 August    
City of Inverness Area Committee, 28 August    

Notice of Amendment - Making Academy Street a Place for Everyone     
Brath Atharrachaidh - A’ Dèanamh Sràid na h-Acadamaidh na h-Àite do na h-Uile

With reference to the Minutes of the Meeting of the City of Inverness Area Committee held on 28 August, the following Notice of Amendment had been received in accordance with Standing Order 13 – 

“We the undersigned, give this Notice of Amendment to rescind the decision of the City of Inverness Area Committee, meeting on Monday 28th August 2023 in relation to Item 6 Making Academy Street a Place for Everyone”.

Signed: Mr A Christie    Mr A Graham    Mr C Aitkin    Mrs T Robertson    Mrs B McAllister    Mr D Macpherson     Mr A MacKintosh    Mrs I MacKenzie       Mrs H Crawford

In this connection, there is re-circulated Report No. CIA/21/23 dated 17 August 2023 by the Interim Executive Chief Officer Infrastructure & Environment.  

Gaelic Committee, 30 August    
Comataidh na Gàidhlig, 30 August    
Communities and Place Committee    31 August    
Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh Committee, 4 September    
Corporate Resources Committee, 6 September    
Education Committee, 7 September    

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

(i)   Community Planning Board – for noting – held on 9 December 2022 (approved by the Board on 22 June 2023) ;
(ii)  Highland and Western Isles Valuation Joint Board – for noting – held on 21 March 2023 (approved by the Board on 22 June 2023). 
(iii) Investment Sub Committee – for approval – held on 22 June 2023 ; and
(iv)  Redesign Board – for approval – held on 30 August 2023.

Item 6 (Question Time) will be considered at 2pm and Item 7 (Notices of Motion) will be considered at the end of the agenda

6. Question Time
Àm Ceiste        

The following Questions have been received by the Head of Legal and Governance.

One supplementary question will be allowed in each case which will be answered by the recipient of the original question.

Member Questions 

(1) Mr M Reiss

To the Chair of Economy and Infrastructure

Officers have mentioned recent exercises held with Transport Scotland regarding different sections of Trunk roads in Highland being closed on a long term basis to clarify what alternatives were feasible especially for Heavy Goods Vehicles- what alternative route for commercial vehicles was identified for the A9 if it was closed in the Portgower area of Sutherland?

The A9 is used by all traffic to/from Orkney and also by businesses based at Scrabster which include high value fish cargos. The A9 is also the route to Dounreay, NRTE Vulcan and the Sutherland spaceport. 

This question is recognising that in 2019 the A9 south bound was closed near Portgower for several weeks due to a landslide but, fortunately, one lane remained open with traffic light control.

The response is circulated 

(2) Mr A Baldrey

To the Leader of the Council

The Scottish Household Survey 2020 found higher rates of loneliness reported for lone parents (64%), single adults under pension age (63%) and single adults over pension age (46%). In 2021, British Red Cross research identified those living alone, clinically vulnerable people and carers as being particularly isolated.

What steps is Highland Council taking to provide assistance and so reduce feelings of loneliness in its population?

The response is circulated 

(3) Mrs I MacKenzie

To the Chair of Economy and Infrastructure

You cannot walk around Inverness area without being aware of weeds over pavements, with blocked drains and gullies, which I’m sure most of us have received complaints from residents. Why has it reached this stage and when is it going to be fixed?

The response is circulated

(4) Mr C Ballance

To the Leader of the Council

The Scottish Women’s Budget Group survey of women and transport across Scotland, published in August, found that 26% of women surveyed – rising to 47% of disabled women- are dissatisfied with safety on public transport.

In March this year Transport Scotland (Report: Women and girls’ views and experiences of personal safety when using public transport March 2023) recommended amongst other things the development of “more credible and accessible information and guidance for women and girls regarding what to do and who to contact if they feel threatened or unsafe or if they are victim to incidents when using public transport.”

If Highland Council is aware of these recommendations, what is it doing about it?

The response is circulated 

(5) Mr R MacKintosh

To the Chair of the Climate Change Committee

A recent YouGov opinion poll has revealed that 67% of Highlanders support the introduction of a carbon emissions tax on Scotland’s biggest land holdings, with only 16% opposing the idea, and almost 80% of voters in Scotland agree that “landowners who produce polluting greenhouse gases should have to pay for any costs resulting from it”. It is clear that there is massive support for a carbon emissions tax, which will help Highland reach Net Zero, and will generate income for the cash strapped Highland Council.

Please can the Chair of the Climate Change Committee advise when the CELT members workshop will be held, as agreed at the Climate Change Committee in May.

The response is circulated 

(6) Ms K Willis

To the Leader of the Council

The Good Food Nation Act (2002) requires local authorities to produce their own food plans that ensure the food system produces nourishing healthy food in ways that are sustainable and reduce food insecurity. This will require a whole system approach and partnership working with key organisation in the Highlands such as the Highland Good Food Partnership, HIE, NHS Highland, producers, suppliers, and communities.

What steps is Highland Council taking to develop a Good Food Nation Plan for the Highlands?

The response is circulated

7. Notices of Motion 
Brathan Gluasaid      
The following Notices of Motion have been received by the Head of Legal and Governance – 

(i) (Carried over from Council on 29 June 2023)

No Mow May

To encourage biodiversity and address the nature emergency, and to save the Council’s limited financial and staff resources, this Council agrees to support Plantlife’s “No Mow May” campaign by publicising it and by not cutting verges and other green spaces until later in the year, except where it is necessary for public and road user safety.

Signed:- Ms K Willis, Mr A Baldrey

In this connection, there is re-circulated (pp.121-126) Report No. RES/28/23 dated 25 August 2023 by the Head of Corporate Finance.

(ii) This Council notes with concern the prolonged closure of some public toilets in the Highland area and agrees that early restoration of these facilities is vital. In Thurso the closure dates back more than one year. The disabled toilet is padlocked and cannot be opened by RADAR key holders. We are in the middle of our tourist season with numerous cruise liners visiting Scrabster meaning that thousands of additional tourists visit the town. The alternative public toilet which is opened and closed by volunteers is a considerable distance away from the centre and has limited signage.

This Council therefore agrees that a report, detailing the steps to be taken to re-open the facilities, be submitted to the next meeting of Communities & Place Committee.

Signed: Mr R Gunn Mr, R Gale Mrs, A MacLean, Mr J Grafton, Mr M Baird, Ms J McEwan, Mr A Graham, Ms M MacCallum

(iii)  Highland Council calls upon the Scottish Government to fund NHS Highland sufficiently well to do its job and avoid massive cuts!

1. Review the financial chasm between NHS Highland Services needs to deliver high-quality person-centred care and the associated budget allocated by the Scottish Government. 
2. Recognize that: 

a. As at the last published financial report of the 30th June NHS Highland had submitted a financial plan to Scottish Government for the 2023/2024 financial year, with an initial budget gap of approaching a hundred million pounds, with actual funding cuts of almost thirty million pounds proposed. 
b. No funding source had subsequently been identified to close the associated residual gap of seventy million pounds. 
c. The Scottish Government ‘Tailored Support’ to the NHS Highland Financial Plan entails a review of activities with a view to working with Lead Officers to identify activities that may be reduced or stopped.

Call upon the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care to fund NHS Highland sufficiently to do its job. 

Call upon the Scottish Cabinet Secretary to acknowledge the devasting effect these cuts will be on a Highland population that is already struggling to access care, dentistry, GP and hospital services across the region.

Signed:- Mr A MacDonald, Mr A Graham

8. Membership of Committees
Ballarachd Chomataidhean

The Council is asked to agree that Mr D Fraser replace Mrs M Reid on the Redesign Board and Education Committee.

9. Annual Corporate Performance Report 2022/23
Aithisg Choileanaidh Chorporra Bhliadhnail 2022/23

There is circulated Report No. HC/28/23 dated 1 September 2023 by the Depute Chief Executive.

The Committee is invited to:-

i.   scrutinise the report at Appendix 1 which outlines the performance for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023;
ii.  note that any data not yet available, including the Local Government Benchmarking Framework (LGBF), will be reported to Council at a later date once published; and
iii. agree the changes to the Corporate Plan Actions and Performance Indicators as set out in section 5.4 of the report.

10. Chief Social Work Officer Annual Report 2022/23
Aithisg Àrd-Oifigear Obrach Sòisealta 2022/23

There is circulated Report No. HC/29/23 dated August 2023 by the Chief Social Work Officer and Executive Chief Officer Health and Social Care.

The Council is invited to note and comment on the issues raised in the annual report and the implications for social work and social care services within Highland Council and NHS Highland.

11. Mid-Year Revenue Budget Update
Ùrachadh buidseit teachd a-steach meadhan-bliadhna

There is circulated Report No. HC/30/23 dated 1 September 2023 by the Head of Corporate Finance.

The Council is invited to:-

i.   note the update provided within the report regarding the current 2023/24 revenue budget, risks and uncertainties and progress with savings delivery;
ii.  note the updated outlook relating to 2024/25 and subsequent years and the reasonable planning assumption of an increased budget gap for those years;
iii. note the update provided in relation to opportunities and officer work regarding future areas of potential saving and income generation;
iv.  agree to arrange a Member briefing session to allow Members the opportunity to be fully briefed by Officers and the Council’s Treasury Advisors on the options for PPP flexibility and an independent review of the Council’s financial modelling;
v.   note that further update on budget and budget planning for 2024/25 and beyond will come to subsequent Council meetings; and
vi.  note the initial options and planning for budget engagement.

12. Capital Programme Review     
Ath-sgrùdadh air Prògram Calpa

There is circulated Report No. HC/31/23 dated 5 September 2023 by the Head of Corporate Finance.

The Council is invited to:-

i.   note the capital review process as described in this report;
ii.  note the extent to which the cost of financing the Capital Programme impacts on the Council’s revenue budget, the affordability parameters set out within this report, and the planning assumption for loan charge implications to be managed within an estimated annual increase of £1.5m p.a. (Paragraph 5.7);  
iii. agree the revised capital programme as set out on appendices A and B of the report  including the updated project costs reflected;
iv.  note the further projects and capital budgets as set out on appendix C of the report  which are not incorporated within the capital programme at this time, and will require future assessment and consideration in relation to affordability and priority;
v.   note that should material circumstances alter, for example a funding decision in relation to LEIP Phase 3 projects, then the Council would have the opportunity at that point to consider again its capital programme, and whether scope to revisit priorities at that time; and
vi.  agree to bring a further Capital Programme report to Council in October 2023.

13. Redesign Board - Home to School Transport Entitlement Review
Bòrd Hth-dhealbhachaidh - Còmhdhail Sgoile

There is circulated Report No. HC/32/23 dated 1 September 2023 by the Executive Chief Officer Infrastructure, Environment and Economy.

The Council is invited to agree that the following is included within the next update of the Scheme of Delegation:-

i.   an updated remit for any review of school transport provision process as outlined in this report;
ii.  replacement of the Education Transport Entitlement Review Sub-Committee with a panel of senior officers (Option 1); 
iii. an update to the Home to School Transport Policy to reflect these changes, and to include reference to external complaints processes;


iv.  an update to the eligibility criteria for transport to Gaelic Medium education where catchment boundaries have been defined; and
v.   an update to the eligibility for transport to denominational education in line with the approach recommended for Gaelic Medium.

14. Policy for Display of Election or Referenda Campaign Material within Property Owned, Adopted or Maintained by the Council    
Poileasaidh air Stuthan Taghaidh no Reifreann a thaisbeanadh ann an toglaichean bu leis, fo urra agus maoinichte le Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd

There is circulated Report No. HC/33/23 dated 26 July 2023 by the Executive Chief Officer Infrastructure and Environment.

The Council is invited to approve that, after the Ward 7 by-election on 28 September 2023, the updated policy in Appendix 1 of the report is adopted, which will have the effect that the Highland Council no longer permits the display of any campaign related material on any property under the Council’s control, with the exception of tenanted homes.

15. Scottish Government Consultation - Mandatory Training on Planning Training for Elected Members    
Co-chomhairle Riaghaltas na h-Alba -Trèanadh Riatanach air Planadh airson Buill Thaghte

There is circulated Report No. HC/34/23 dated 5 September 2023 by the Interim Depute Chief Executive.

The Council is invited to:-

i.  note the mandatory training options available; and
ii. agree the suggested consultation response contained in Appendix 1 to the report for submission to the Scottish Government.

16. A Human Rights Bill for Scotland
Co-chomhairle air Bile Chòraichean Daonna

There is circulated Report No. HC/35/23 dated 1 September 2023 by the Depute Chief Executive.

The Council is invited to approve the draft response to the Scottish Government consultation on a Human Rights Bill for Scotland.

17. Scottish Government Consultation: Council Tax Second Homes, Long-term Empty Properties and Non Domestic Rates Self-catering Units    
Co-chomhairle air Cìs Comhairle Dàrna Taighean, Togalaichean Falamh agus Aonadan Fèin-fhrithealaidh NDR 

There is circulated Report No. HC/36/23 dated 30 August 2023 by the Executive Chief Officer, Communities and Place.

The Council is invited to:-

i.  consider the policy matters raised in this consultation; and
ii. agree to homologate the response detailed in Appendix 1 of the report. 

18. Scottish Government and CoSLA Consultation: Fairer Council Tax    
Co-chomhairle air Cìs Comhairle nas Cothromaiche

There is circulated Report No. HC/37/23 dated 31 August 2023 by the Executive Chief Officer, Communities and Place.

The Council is invited to:-

i.  consider the policy matters raised in the consultation; and 
ii. agree the final response for submission. 

19. High Life Highland 
High Life na Gàidhealtachd

Following the resignation of Mrs S Rawlings, the Council is asked to agree the appointment of a new Director for High Life Highland.

20. Timetable of Meetings for 2024
Clàr-ama Choinneamhan airson 2024

The Council is invited to agree:-

i.  the circulated Proposed Timetable of Strategic, Headquarters and Regulatory Meetings for 2024; and
ii. to hold a Special Joint Meeting of the North and South Planning Committees on 8 November 2023 at the conclusion of the Planning Review Body.

21. 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 29 June 2023.

22. 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 Paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 7A of the Act.
23. Redesign Board - Community Support and Engagement – Restructure    
Bòrd Hth-dhealbhachaidh -Taic Coimhearsnachd agus Com-pàirteachadh – Ath-structar

There is circulated to Members only Report No. HC/38/23 dated 1 September 2023 by the Executive Chief Officer, Communities and Place.

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