NORTH Ayrshire Council has welcomed the Islands Bill passed in Edinburgh last week but they have expressed disappointment that it ‘failed to tackle democratic discrepancies’ in its islands.

The historic legislation – which seeks to offer greater powers and protection to our island communities – was passed last week.

Councillor Joe Cullinane, Leader of North Ayrshire Council, welcomed aspects of the Bill, particularly the introduction of a national islands plan, and the requirement to ‘island proof’ future policies and legislation. However he felt it fell short of fully protecting our islands.

The council were contesting the equity rule – which originates back to the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 - and requires there to be the same number of voters per councillor across an individual local authority area.

The Bill – passed on Wednesday – has introduced a new policy that allows for wholly or partly inhabited islands to have their own wards.

Previous rules dictated that local authority wards could only comprise of three or four members which meant smaller lesspopulated islands were unlikely to ever have their own wards.

This change was originally driven by community groups in Arran who persuaded the then minister, Derek Mackay, that electoral rules did not have regard to the needs of islands. But the amendment seeking to change the equity rule was not passed.

While Arran would now be able to have its own ward it would consist of only one elected member – less than the two that live on the island now. And as the equity rule is unchanged it means Cumbrae doesn’t have a large enough number of constituents to form its own ward.

Councillor Cullinane said: “There are elements of the Bill which we clearly welcome. There is recognition of the rich diversity of our islands, which sets them apart from our mainland, and the Bill does provide a level of island proofing. It is pleasing that all legislation will need to now look at how it will impact on our islands. That is a good thing, as is the creation of a new national islands policy.

“By we’re very disappointed that they are not amending the parity policy. This is wrong as a one-size fits all policy should not apply to North Ayrshire. How can they apply the same rules to Arran and Cumbrae to the rest of North Ayrshire? The number of electorate to councillors should be weighted differently.

“Local people and groups were actively involved in shaping our position which was then conveyed through the consultation response and the amendment. It was supported by the community.

“Arran is currently in a ward with Ardrossan but the issues and the demographic of the two places are completely different.

“Cumbrae has closer mainland links but we still believe it would have benefited from being a single-member ward.

“There was also crossparty support for this within the council so we are disappointed we weren’t given the support by others who should be looking after the interests of our islands.”

Arran has 3878 voters and forms part of the three member Ardrossan and Arran Ward, which is a combination of mainland North Ayrshire and Arran.

Likewise, the Cumbraes, with an electorate of 1112, forms part of the fourmember North Coast and Cumbraes Ward.

No members from the North Coast and Cumbraes ward live on the Cumbraes.