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Clarks says SIC leaders must go

FORMER Shetland Islands Council chief executive David Clark has said the local authority will not be able to move forward until its convener and senior councillors resign.

Mr Clark’s comments come after a damning report into the SIC by local government watchdog the Accounts Commission following a two day public hearing in June.

He has also called for the council’s external auditors Audit Scotland to be wound up, warning that they have succumbed to political manipulation.

Mr Clark left his first full time job in local government in March after just nine months in post, having negotiated a £285,000 golden handshake saying his position had been undermined by media speculation over his private life and public attacks by councillors.

A breakdown in working relationships during Mr Clark’s tenure was one of the main triggers that led to the Accounts Commission hearing, during which he described the SIC as being “rudderless” and Mr Cluness’ style of leadership as “laissez faire”.

Mr Clark said that commission’s main criticism had been directed at the senior councillors and that they should consider their position.

“The report has been so scathing of the political leadership of the council that I personally consider it inconceivable that there will be any positive change while the current leadership is in place and if I was in their place I would be considering my position,” he said.

“I see two scenarios. Either the political leadership remains and nothing will change before the next election, or this report could be used as an opportunity for mid term elections for the convener and heads of committees. If it doesn’t happen they won’t move forwards.

“If you get the same people doing the same things nothing is going to change. It’s a fundamental fact of organisations.”

Mr Clark added that the SIC’s external auditor Audit Scotland was an unaccountable “amateur” organisation that had been manipulated into interfering with the council’s affairs by the local MP Alistair Carmichael and MSP Tavish Scott, who called for them to step in over the deletion of assistant chief executive Willie Shannon’s post last September.

He called for the Scottish government to follow the example of Westminster who last week announced that they were privatising the functions of the English local government watchdog, the Audit Commission.

“Let’s do the same thing here in Scotland and look at how we can have a proper independent auditing body that itself isn’t free from scrutiny,” Mr Clark said.

He is also convinced that there is a hidden agenda within what he calls “the establishment” to undermine Shetland Islands Council’s independence and gain control of its oil revenues.

He said his suspicions were aroused when his request for Shetland to be represented “at the top table” in talks between Holyrood and Westminster about the future of oil revenues was dismissed and when the government held “parallel talks” with oil giant Total when the SIC was negotiating a settlement over the company’s £500 million gas processing plant at Sullom Voe.

He also agreed with the Accounts Commission’s warning that people might place “unrealistic expectations” on the shoulders of his successor, Orkney Islands Council chief executive Alistair Buchan.

“To be perfectly frank, part of the problem when I was there was that some people had too many expectations of what could be achieved in a matter of weeks, let alone months.

“The new chief executive is not going to change the fundamental problems, which are the political leadership, the decision making of the elected members and the failure of some elected members to abide by the code of conduct.”