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Here to steady the ship

SHETLAND Islands Council’s new chief executive Alistair Buchan said it was the “professional challenge” that had attracted him to go for the job to lead the island local authority.

Mr Buchan was in Shetland on Tuesday as the two day inquiry into the SIC and the controversial departure of its former chief executive came to a close.

The council in Shetland has been heavily criticised by Audit Scotland for its lack of strategic leadership, its inability to make tough decisions and the way the Dave Clark affair has been handled.

Mr Buchan is seen as the right man to steady the ship amidst huge challenges to identify savings of more than £17 million over the next few years.

He will also be tasked to bring in corporate leadership to ensure the council and its 22 independent members move in a unified direction.

Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Buchan said that while being in charge of the SIC was a “professional challenge” it also offered “wonderful opportunities” as Shetland was a very ambitious community.

“I am confident the challenges can be overcome. There are many wonderful aspects about Shetland that I have come to know and to love over many years.

“Clearly the focus at the moment is on the hearings, but I know that there are also many good things happening here as well. There are some wonderful opportunities.

“We are very well placed to take a strategic approach to meet the financial challenges we are facing here. I know many local authorities in Scotland would give their right teeth to be in the position we are in,” he said.

He added: “In Orkney we were running a tight ship. In Shetland there is scope for more stringent financial discipline, and I probably can assist with that.

“Equally, one of the things I have always admired about Shetland is the level of ambition that is in community to achieve things.

“There is a very fine balance to be struck between tight cost control and on the other hand allowing ambition to be realised.”

He said he had no preconceived ideas of how to tackle the challenges, adding that this would be counterproductive with the people he was to work with.

“People who know me in Orkney would say that I am a team player. I lead from within a team and I believe it is of vital importance that you are not seen to be the person who comes in with all the ideas.

“I want to engage with the councillors in Shetland, the management team and all the staff to bring people together so that it is a shared way forward that we all have,” he said.

He said his decision to accept the offer to become the SIC interim chief executive was part his own career planning.

Mr Buchan has 22 years in local government under his belt, initially at Western Isles Council where he worked in personnel before moving back to his native Orkney in 1992 where he first was head of administration and then became the OIC’s chief executive in 1997.

At the age of 46 he is already the longest serving local authority chief executive in Scotland.

“It is good for me to do something different for a time, and then go back to Orkney and do a last period there in my career.

“The islands’ councils have been very good to me. I have made my career in the islands councils, and I am very proud of what they have achieved. It is a very special privilege for me to say that I have served all three of them.”

He has been seconded from Orkney Islands Council for two years and three months with the option to extend his contract with the SIC by a further six months.

He will be moving to Shetland with his family but was adamant that he would return to Orkney once the secondment period is over.

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