As the news that the aptly named Viking wind farm proposal (for it did plunder ill-guarded charitable funds) has been found to be illegal is being digested, one thing should be remembered. It wasn’t just the whimbrel that was overlooked. The public interest has been ignored. (Judge rules against Viking wind farm; SN, 24/09/13)
So what of Shetland’s politicians?
Did they fail to ensure that a report into the impacts on health was commissioned and delivered in time to be considered and debated?
The report that was eventually provided by a creditable public spirited volunteer was merely noted.
Did Shetland’s politicians deliberately turn the other way when, despite the objection from the SICs own planning department, there was no public inquiry?
Did they not long ignore, even in the face of repeated warnings, the blatantly improper constitution of Shetland Charitable Trust?
This ill-considered venture was clearly off to a shoddy start from the very beginning.
Shetland’s politicians should have created an uproar time and again. There was barely a whimper.
This is the same cast that is so quick to be hollering for more local control yet they couldn’t suffer to hear local voices. Say one thing, do another. Did they not overlook their responsibilities?
Leading and well-paid public servants in Lerwick, Edinburgh and Westminster have been complicit in what has been another scandalous waste of public funds.
They were part of the problem by their actions, silence and inaction. Why?
They have been in thrall to business interests, have mistaken industrialisation for development and in so doing have failed to ensure fair play.
They have liberally backed the freedom of big business to have its way with local communities and local funds whilst overlooking the freedom of individual charitable trust beneficiaries, Shetland residents, to have their funds properly guarded and properly used.
It is greed, plain and simple, that has got Shetland to this point. Members of Shetland’s land owning and business elites quickly calculated how much they could gain and got their pals to back them.
Enough folk have benefited from this tawdry process for long enough. Let there be no more public money wasted.
Having first washed their hands, Shetland Charitable Trust should step back from the demands of Shetland’s “rapacious merchants” (as John Graham once described them) and focus on spending the remaining money well.
It should start looking at small projects to take pensioners and young families out of fuel and transport poverty. It should get laptops to all Shetland secondary students. It should focus on developing Shetland’s people and leave Shetland’s wildlife and landscape in peace.
No, it wasn’t just the whimbrel that was overlooked.
It was the processes and concerns that were lacking at the beginning of the industrial revolution. It was the proper purpose of a charitable trust, peoples’ needs, peoples’ health, the importance of community, fairness and fair play, the need to spot the vested interests at play and hold them in check, due process, proper standards of governance, democracy and with it all, common decency. Neighbour has been set against neighbour in all this.
Some prices are not worth paying, some bets (even with the temptation of using other peoples’ money) not worth making.
Let this be the end of a shoddy era in public life in Shetland in which ill-guarded oil funds and grand self-serving notions have seen the few profit from money set aside for the many.
There have already been enough other expensive lessons in knowing when to quit or have the millions wasted on SSG and Smyril Line been forgiven and forgotten?
Let those that were to blame now stand up and be counted.
Multiple contrite, lengthy and detailed apologies are now due for the corners that have been cut, the blind eyes turned and the funds that have thus been wasted.
Based on past performance in the place of apologies from their politicians the people of Shetland can reasonably expect more money wasted on lawyers, buck passing and bluster, confused and resentful silence and yet more bullying and shameless bravado. End this shoddy era.
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