Shetland News Questionnaire

Shetland News Questionnaire

– Do you envisage having to vote to shut any a) secondary school departments and/or b) primary schools in the next five years?

To answer the question in the specific way in which it has been asked, I do envisage (or contemplate) that the subject will arise for debate again. The central government’s proposed cuts to Shetland’s funding undermines the stability that the outgoing council achieved. The forthcoming national election may affect the necessity for this to be considered again and, equally, the efficacy of SIC lobbying toward achieving fair and equitable funding for our ferries will, surprisingly, influence this subject, as the yield of Shetland’s reserve fund investments will be more able to support the previously achieved stability if this cost can be addressed through rightful external funding.
Are you in favour of growing Shetland’s renewable energy sector, including large-scale onshore windfarms?
I am very much in favour of growing Shetland’s renewable energy sector, but not in any way that impacts negatively on our ecological, aural or visual amenities. Shetland is a small landmass. Building a power station in the heart of a village would seem absurd.
Are you content with the recently-approved new governance structure for Shetland Charitable Trust, and do you believe councillor-trustees still have a role to play?
Councillor trustees can still provide a measure of valuable input to the trust in its general affairs but, as all decisions that impact on either organisation are excluded in either forum, there are many instances where the appointments are counter-productive. Better use of separate entities such as the Shetland Partnership could bring the organisations to work together in partnership, without conflict.
Do you agree with efforts to seek greater autonomy for Shetland under the Our Islands Our Future banner?
Yes, while the SIC should also (and has) work toward better representation of issues specific to our own best interests, distinct from those of the Western Isles and Orkney and in addition to the work of OIOF.
Do you think Shetland Islands Council currently holds too many private seminars, and would you be in favour of opening these up to the public?
No, and no. There may be scope for the introduction of public-facing seminars but this would be a substantial additional workload on officers. This very question arises as the product of a near-three hour meeting, at the conclusion of which one member postured that this was, in his opinion, an issue and this, in the media-facing instance of the meeting, outshone all the previous valuable content of the meeting, in the last fifteen minutes. Journalists could not reasonably be expected to effectively relay the balanced content of every gathering of every councillor grouping that happens within the chamber as formal meetings or seminars and this instance perhaps proves that to be the case. To paraphrase the maxim, it may be the case that what people believe to be true is more important than what is actually true and in this case, unfortunately, the public have been led to believe that there is a fault to correct but I do not believe this to be the case and nor did the other 16 of 19 councillors present on the day. It was for shame that this was subsequently portrayed as the swan-song of the outgoing SIC, as opposed to all the major achievements of the preceding five years. In rhetorical terms, if a councillor ever wished to capture the limelight or pursue a personal opinion, suggesting a motion for a new roof for the Scalloway Castle would be likely to capture more media interest than, say, the achievement of a clean bill of health from Audit Scotland, with the former being spurious and the latter being essential for the public to understand.
– Are you in favour of Shetland doing its bit to help resettle some refugee families in the way Orkney and the Western Isles has?

Yes, and the previous council signed up for the resettlement programme. It may be the case that our geography and transport costs are against us in this, but it would be good to continue to aspiring to providing a medium- or long-term home for the, proportionately small, number of Syrians that could be rehoused here, as opposed to a temporary relocation far-separated from friends and family.


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