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Public Question and Answer Forums for Highland Council

**press release from the Highland Council SNP group**

Councillors today rejected an SNP proposal intended to enable the public to ask questions of Council leaders in their communities.

Today the Lib Dem Group proposed that members of the public should be allowed to ask a 1 minute question at Full Councils, with the whole session taking no longer than 20 minutes.  Councillors debated the merits of this, with the Independent Group suggesting the idea be thrown over to the Re-Design of the Council Board for them to consider. Opponents of this said that this was just “kicking it into the long grass”.

The SNP Group Leader, Cllr. Maxine Smith put forward a further amendment that suggested her Group wanted to engage the public to a greater extent and that the Lib Dem motionb didn’t for far enough.  She proposed that the public should be able to ask questions on the Council’s website, and receive an answer, which will be published and filed under a topic heading so that people can easily find it with a simple search.  The SNP Group further wanted a question and answer forum to become part of the community planning district partnership meetings going forward.

The Lib Dems and the Independents offered that the SNP amendment be attached to their own, as they both felt it held great merit and was a good idea.   However, when it came down to the vote the SNP amendment was defeated, with the Independent Administration winning through, meaning the suggestion would be taken to the Re-Design Board.

Speaking about this debate today, Cllr. Maxine Smith said, “I thanked both Groups for saying that they liked the SNP proposals, but unfortunately they didn’t follow through in voting for it, instead simply voting for their original ideas. The SNP Group feel it is imperative to engage better and wider with the general public when looking at service delivery, as they know what they want and what is important to them.  As councillors we do regularly speak to our constituents, but the website idea gives the opportunity for anyone, who wouldn’t normally participate to freely and easily ask a question that must be answered promptly. Furthermore, if we take forward our suggestion that our community planning partnerships should include a public question and answer session, this would be taken at district level which interacts with a wider audience, who are just not city-based.  It also offers a chance to do it any time, day or night.

After the break in Full Council, both the Leader of the Council, Cllr. Margaret Davidson and the Convener, Cllr. Isobel MacCallum said they liked both of our ideas and would investigate them further with a view to implementation.  So even though we may have lost the chamber vote – we won the point.”

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