SIC inquiry

ALMOST 40 people will be giving evidence over two days at the Accounts Commission hearing into Shetland Islands Council, which start today (Monday).

The local government watchdog ordered the public inquiry into how Britain’s most northerly local authority is governed after the high profile fall out that led to the departure of former chief executive David Clark just nine months into the job.


They also want to look into the reasons behind the council’s accounts being qualified for the past four years because of its failure to group them with those of the £200 million Shetland Charitable Trust, which is controlled by the council membership.

In her report into the SIC in May, Scotland’s Controller of Audit said that councillors did not appear to be acting in the interest of the council as a whole.

Caroline Gardner also said that working relationships within the authority had deteriorated to the point where it could affect the council’s ability to deliver services efficiently and effectively.


This week the council will find out if its offer to employ Orkney Islands Council’s chief executive Alistair Buchan for two and a half years is accepted by his current employers. If he does move north he will be tasked with the job of modernising the SIC and sorting out its current governance problems.

The public hearing begins at 10am on Monday morning at Lerwick Town Hall with a five strong panel led by Accounts Commission chairman John Baillie.

First up will be Ms Gardner and the team from Audit Scotland who have been investigating the authority for the past few months.


They will be followed by the council leadership and the senior management team, Shetland Charitable Trust and the six councillors who submitted a 20 point complaint about Mr Clark in December last year that was never addressed.

On Tuesday Mr Clark himself will start off the day, followed by the council’s three unions, assistant chief executive Willie Shannon, the chief executive of local authority umbrella group Rory Mair, northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott.

Finally the inquiry will hear from four independent witnesses – Kathy Greaves, Les Sinclair, Vic Thomas and Kevin Learmonth, vice chairman of anti Viking Energy wind farm campaign group Sustainable Shetland.

The Accounts Commission said that it may consider recalling witnesses at the end of the hearing.

A list of witnesses and the time of their appearance can be found at http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/docs/local/2010/shetland_witness_schedule.pdf

The 19 submissions to the hearing can be read at http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/about/ac/shetland_submissions.php