Independents in talks on joint election campaign

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NEARLY all the independent councillors on Highland Council are backing moves to form a distinct fighting force in the run-up to the May elections.

The move has been prompted by the decision of a number of councillors, elected as independents in 2003, to declare party allegiances in the hope of bolstering their chances of re-election.

But non-party councillors say they are keen to maintain the council's tradition of being independently controlled.

A total of 44 of the council's 54 independent members attended a private meeting to discuss election strategy.

The group has also attracted a councillor from the Liberal Democratic group, whose numbers have fallen from 13 to 12.

There are eight Labour and six Scottish National Party members on the authority.

Alison Magee, the council convener and co-ordinator of the independence movement, said: "The issue for us is to ensure that independent candidates have a level playing field in approaching the next election."