Local priorities were top of the agenda when The Highland Council’s Skye and Raasay Committee met in Portree yesterday (Monday 11 September).

Last October the Committee drew up a draft list of local strategic priorities for the area which reflect the geographical diversity of the Ward to ensure that local needs and issues are taken into account by the Council as a whole. These were further discussed and refined at a Ward Business Meeting held in December.

At the council elections held in May this year 3 new Members were elected to serve the Eilean a’ Cheò Ward. Over the last 3 months all 4 Members have taken the opportunity to meet with officers and partners responsible for progressing some of the key priorities identified

These list of priorities come under the headings of Tourism; Infrastructure; Education; Housing; Community Works; Health and include:

• Strengthening local democracy and community engagement

• Working with partners to support tourism

• Improving road, air and ferry links and broadband/mobile connectivity

• Improving school estate and developing further and higher education opportunities

• Affordable homes

• Community transport solutions

• Improved local healthcare and social care access

• Community works to meet local needs

Yesterday the Council Leader attended the Committee to hear first-hand more about the work underway to address these local priorities, to find out what the Council as a whole can do to progress these and how they can form part of the Council’s current Programme.

Chair of the Isle of Skye and Raasay Area Committee, Councillor John Gordon said: “The fundamental issues for Skye and Raasay involve connectivity. We need to ensure that as well as having access to good broadband and mobile coverage we invest in and improve our road, ferry and air links.  Skye is world renowned as a tourist destination and the world media have recently been reporting on concerns regarding capacity and the long-term sustainability of so many visitors. We need make sure that we work with partners effectively, including land owners, community groups and local businesses to identify and support ways that address any issues created by the growing number of visitors. Tourism is  essential in growing our whole economy and realising the full potential for our communities which is why I am particularly keen to continue to work with partners to develop a tourism strategy and drive improvements forward.”

Speaking after the meeting the Council Leader said: “I am pleased to see local priorities being developed. This is the biggest Council in the UK, in geographical size and members. We cover diverse and widespread communities, each with their own unique challenges and needs. The Council is committed to a localism agenda, which means we really want to hear want matters to local people so that we can target our efforts and design our services accordingly.

“Having clear and defined priorities and an action plan is a good start in actually empowering people to work in partnership with the Council to make real improvements and reduce inequalities across the Highlands.

“It was good to join local members  to hear more about their vision and I feel since the priorities were first discussed last year some real inroads have been made.

“Tourism and improving the experience for visitors was particularly highlighted during our discussions and as a council we will do all we can to work with local tourism groups and partners to make sure the facilities and support are in place so the Island remains a top destination for visitors.”