A bit about me
I live in Scalloway and am married with 5 children, all growing up fast. I work for Shetland Aquaculture, the representative body for Shetlands’ salmon farming industry, and also have a number of roles in the national body representing this growing sector of our economy. My wife, Kaye, runs a very busy childcare business in the heart of the village. I was elected to the SIC as a new Member for the Central Ward in the recent by-election and have had a very busy 4 months finding my feet in the Council. I am currently Chairman of Scalloway Community Council and have served as a member for over 10 years. I am also active in a number of community groups and, through my work, I serve on the Board of NAFC Marine Centre and am currently Chairman of Shetland Seafood Quality Control Ltd.
Economy and Finances
- Balancing the books is crucial – the SIC needs to create a culture of cost effectiveness in delivering its core services to the Community. I believe there is too much cost in the management and administration and more emphasis is needed here before cuts in the delivery of services.
- The current set of cutbacks needs to go ahead and the only thing that we may have room for debate on is the timeframe for achieving some of them. I have felt when discussing and debating some of the options that we can better achieve a phased reduction of costs over a 3 year period than a big hit that has a stifling effect on the wider Shetland economy.
- The future outlook does not need to be gloomy if we continue to support our traditional industries of fishing, aquaculture, agriculture and knitwear, whilst maximising the current opportunities for oil and gas growth west of Shetland.
- I will push for a strong marketing of Scalloway harbour now that dredging is complete, including further development of quay space. This should be focussed not just on west of Shetland but on marine renewables, as well as the bread and butter of aquaculture and fishing investments. There may be opportunities to work in partnership with Lerwick Port Authority at a strategic level for the greater good of Shetland.
- I will be a strong voice for the seafood industry in Shetland as it will continue to be the powerhouse of our economy.
Transport & Fuel Costs
- The costs of fuel, transport and therefore moving goods and people around Shetland are unsustainable and we need a radical strategy to deal with this. The long held Council policy of dispersal of jobs and services away from the centre is now in need of urgent implementation. We need to stop the commute between the country and the town every day. Not only would this help to sustain communities that are increasingly starved of opportunities, but it will crucially help address the transport costs borne by both the Council and the workforce.
- Bus services are a big issue for Central Ward residents, particularly in Tingwall and Burra. SIC has an ongoing Transport review and I will seek to ensure a thorough needs analysis is pursued and targeted improvements to services are achieved.
- External transport costs and very robust freight services are areas that I will ensure the SIC treats as high priority.
Cost effective services
- The SIC should support the private and voluntary sectors to have a greater role in providing services.
- Cutting back on support for the voluntary sector is a false economy – if anything there should be further support for voluntary and community groups who are in a position to provide services.
- The level and scope of cuts already agreed for education is substantial and the debate over possible school closures hasn’t gone away. I am opposed to the closure of Hamnavoe and Tingwall primary schools and would instead seek to use any spare capacity in these settings for encouraging good childcare services that meet the needs of peoples working lives. The schools can also potentially be work hubs for other council workers in a job dispersal policy.
- There is a commitment to refreshing the current Blueprint for Education. This allows an opportunity to have a full debate about Shetland’s education model and what it should look like in short and medium term future. We need to get away from the divisive and harmful process of playing communities off against each other and seek to agree a model that bears scrutiny Shetland wide. Then, if that means further cuts to the school estate to meet budget constraints, we should be better placed to present a coherent and credible model that people can accept.
- There is an acute shortage of available housing, particularly in Scalloway. The recent recommitment from SIC in supporting Hjaltland Housing Association through bridging loan finance is an excellent example of what our council should be doing in partnerships that deliver solutions. If re-elected, I will pursue every avenue within the Local Development Plan process to encourage adequate zoning for housing development and business facilities in the Scalloway and Burra area.
Energy for the future
- Shetland is well placed to take advantage of our resources in the field of renewable energy and I have long held the view we need to be connected to the UK grid to allow this potential. On Viking Energy, I will need to be firstly convinced of the strength of the business case in committing to Shetland’s share of the funds required. I have some misgivings over the size of the development but am also clear it needs to be of sufficient scale to justify investment in the interconnector. On the environmental concerns, I believe that these can be controlled and managed by strong adherence to best practices and a high level of development oversight. This is where the community partnership via Shetland Charitable Trust is imperative as we will be able to have a large say in the implementation process.
- In standing for election I wish to make it clear I am also standing for selection for the Shetland Charitable Trust. In that respect, I belief that the majority of Trustees should be accountable to the people and would be most keen to see 7 councillors and at least 8 others appointed through either direct election or via other democratic processes, such as by virtue of already sitting on a Community Council.
Views on national issues
- The taxation policies of the Westminster coalition are a disgrace. Catching more pensioners in a tax grab whilst lowering the higher rate of tax for the highest earners is morally bankrupt.
- The centralising, command and control tendencies of the SNP at Holyrood must be resisted at all costs.
Why am I standing and what can I do?
I strongly believe that Shetland can continue to prosper, with a much leaner public sector, a well supported private and voluntary sector and less interference from the Council in many aspects of island life. However, we should also recognise that without the huge contribution that the SIC makes to the economic heartbeat of these islands and the fantastic levels of services and facilities we have at our disposal, the future would look a lot less bright.
I believe that a culture of mutual respect and cooperation between Members and Council officials and workers is essential in making things happen. That is how I have built my own management style and I know it works.
If you feel I have the correct balance of tenacity and level headedness to help represent your views and aspirations for our community, please put a 1 against my name on the ballot paper on 3rd May.
I can be contacted by various means: –
Tel 01595 880 317
Or send me a message on Facebook