THE STARTER gun for the council elections has fired early with former councillor Drew Ratter calling for candidates to come together on a platform of policies so they can "hit the ground running" in May.
The Ollaberry crofter, who stands down as chairman of the Crofters Commission next month, declared his intention of standing for election to the Shetland North ward on Tuesday.
He said he had spent the past few months having "a conversation" with various local people, only some of whom are potential candidates, to present the public with a set of coherent policies to vote on.
"Candidates from different parts of Shetland should let it be known in advance what they are willing to do for their constituents, where they stand on the big issues that Shetland will face in the coming five years and that they are committed to working together," he said.
"Continuing to construct teams from a pool of 22 players after the elections is like choosing your football team after the whistle has gone."
The lack of mutual trust was one reason the council had failed to provide community leadership recently, he said. The key to bringing back the “civic confidence” Shetland enjoyed in the 1970s was a return of the spirit of co-operation that existed in the past.
"I believe that establishing a group of councillors who will work together, openly, and who trust each other, is essential, if we are to avoid another five years of drift, and I believe it can be done.
"I believe considerable progress has been made towards getting a team, and towards getting a mechanism for considering and examining policy in Shetland.
“We are in such a difficult situation, allowing an extended period to pass without giving some very serious thought as to what you are going to do is not an option. This next council has to hit the ground running."
Mr Ratter hopes to develop a Shetland think tank after the election, looking at big issues such the islands’ response to Scottish independence and the current crisis in public finance.
Though a lifelong member of the Labour Party, he does not think Shetland Islands Council is the right place for political parties to operate, nor does he believe in secret “Masonic” groupings.
Nominations to stand for the council open on 13 March and close at 4pm on 29 March.