Orkney Islands Council
Coat of arms or logo
Council logo
Graham Bevan,
since 17 May 2022
Heather Woodbridge,
since 20 February 2024[1]
Oliver Reid
since January 2023
Seats21 councillors
Orkney Islands Council composition
Political groups
  Independent (19)
  Greens (2)
Length of term
Full council elected every 5 years
Single transferable vote
Last election
5 May 2022
Next election
Boreas domus mare amicus (Latin: "The north our home, the sea our friend")
Meeting place
Council Offices, School Place, Kirkwall, KW15 1NY

The Orkney Islands Council (Scottish Gaelic: Comhairle Eileanan Arcaibh), is the local authority for Orkney, Scotland. It was established in 1975 by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 and was largely unaffected by the Scottish local government changes of the mid-1990s.

It provides services in the areas of Environmental Health, Roads, Social Work, Community Development, Organisational Development, Economic Development, Building Standards, Trading Standards, Housing, Waste, Education, Burial Grounds, Port and Harbours and others.[2] The council is allowed to collect Council Tax.

The council is also the harbour authority for Orkney and its Marine Services division manages the operation of the islands' 29 piers and harbours.[3]


The council is based at the Council Offices on School Place in Kirkwall. The building comprises the former Kirkwall Grammar School and the neighbouring former Paterson Church, with modern extensions linking the older buildings. The former Grammar School was built c. 1890 and converted to become the council's offices in 1978.[4][5] The Paterson Church, or East Church, was built in 1847 and converted and incorporated into the council offices in the early 2000s.[6]


See also: Category:Orkney Islands Council elections


Between 2012 and 2017 the council consisted of 21 members, all of whom were independent; they did not stand as representatives of a political party.[7]

These members are elected in the following wards:


After the 2017 election there were 18 independents, 2 Orkney Manifesto Group (OMG) councillors and 1 Green councillor.[8] Of these, 18 councillors were actually elected; the remaining 3 were declared on the election day "as the result of the uncontested election in the Stromness and South Isles ward, where the number of candidates was equal to or less than the number of seats available".[9]

There were no official changes to the political composition of the council during the 2017–2022 term. However, independent councillor John Ross Scott (Kirkwall East) did announce he had joined the Greens in 2021, which did not change his affiliation on the council.[10] One by-election was held and resulted in an independent hold.[11]

The 2017 election elected these members: Candidates elected to form the new Council alongside Rob Crichton, James Stockan and Magnus Thomson in the uncontested Stromness and South Isles ward are:

Kirkwall East ward – David Dawson, Steven Heddle, John Ross Scott, Gwenda Shearer.

Kirkwall West and Orphir – Sandy Cowie, Barbara Foulkes, Leslie Manson, John Richards.

West Mainland – Harvey Johnston, Rachael King, Owen Tierney, Duncan Allan Tullock.

East Mainland – South Ronaldsay and Burray – Norman Craigie, Andrew Drever, Steve Sankey.

North Isles – Stephen Clackson, Graham Sinclair, Kevin Woodbridge.[12]


After the 2022 election there were 19 independents, and 2 Green councillors.[13]

In January 2024, council leader James Stockan announced he would stand down as councillor after leading the authority for six years.[14]

In February 2024, Heather Woodbridge was announced as the new leader for the council. She is the first woman to lead the Orkney Islands Council, and at 29 years old is the youngest local authority leader in Scotland [15]


See also: Category:Wards of Orkney

Seat composition
Party 2022
Independent 19
Scottish Greens 2


Political Leaders

No. Political Leader Party Period in office Election
1 James Stockan Independent 2017–2024 2017
2 Heather Woodbridge Independent 2024–present 2024


No. Convener Party Period in office Election
1 George Marwick Independent 1974–1978 1974
2 Edwin Eunson Independent 1978–1990 1978
3 Jackie Tait Independent 1990–1994 1994
4 Hugh Halcro-Johnston Independent 1994–2003 1994
5 Stephen Hagan Independent 2003–2012 2003
6 Steven Heddle Independent 2012–2017 2012
7 Harvey Johnston Independent 2017–2022 2017
8 Graham Bevan Independent 2022–present 2022

See also


  1. ^ Eichler, William (21 February 2024). "Orkney names Scotland's youngest council leader". localgov.co.uk. Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  2. ^ Council, orkney.gov.uk. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  3. ^ Marine Services, orkneyharbours.com. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Council move in". Aberdeen Press and Journal. 25 March 1978. p. 23. Retrieved 13 July 2023.
  5. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "School Place, Orkney Islands Council Offices, formerly Kirkwall Grammar School, including boundary walls (Category B Listed Building) (LB36809)". Retrieved 13 July 2023.
  6. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "School Place, Paterson Church / East Church, including boundary walls and railings (Category B Listed Building) (LB46013)". Retrieved 13 July 2023.
  7. ^ "Social Work Inspection Agency: Performance Inspection Orkney Islands Council 2006. Chapter 2: Context." The Scottish Government. Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  8. ^ "Orkney Islands Council : Election 2017 Results". BBC News. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  9. ^ "Orkney's results declared for the 2017 Scottish Local Government elections". Orkney Islands Council. 5 May 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  10. ^ "Councillor John Ross Scott joins Scottish Greens". The Orcadian. 22 March 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2022.
  11. ^ "Heather Woodbridge wins North Isles council seat". The Orcadian. 2 October 2020. Retrieved 6 April 2022.
  12. ^ "Orkney's results declared for the 2017 Scottish Local Government elections".
  13. ^ "Local Government Election – 5 May 2022". Orkney Islands Council. Retrieved 30 March 2022.
  14. ^ "Orkney Islands Council leader James Stockan to step down". BBC News. 15 January 2024. Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  15. ^ "Orkney appoints Scotland's youngest council leader". BBC News. 20 February 2024. Retrieved 20 February 2024.