COUNCILLOR Amanda Westlake has withdrawn her support for island autonomy group Wir Shetland after being treated in an “aggressive” manner by its chairman for asking how it came to back Tavish Scott in the upcoming Holyrood election.
The Lerwick South representative resigned from the organisation on Monday with immediate effect after questioning chairman John Tulloch about its recent decision to support Scott in 5 May’s Scottish election without apparently polling its members.
Westlake said she did not get an answer about how the party came to support the Liberal Democrat and instead received messages penned in an “aggressive tone” from Tulloch, a Shetlander who lives in Argyll, about unrelated matters.
She was one of three councillors – alongside Andrea Manson and Robert Henderson – who backed Wir Shetland when it was formed last year with the aim of securing self-governing powers for the isles.
The group also boycotted First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s visit to Shetland this week in protest at the SNP’s “unfair” treatment of the isles.
The councillor’s conversation with Tulloch took place on an online forum that could be viewed by Wir Shetland members, with Westlake claiming other people have since resigned from the group.
“I posted a question to John Tulloch asking if I had missed a poll asking their members for their views on representing Tavish,” she said.
“I was led to believe when I joined Wir Shetland that it was a multi-party organisation for bettering the autonomy of Shetland.
Tulloch announced Wir Shetland’s support for Scott last month after the group decided it was not in a position to field its own candidate.
He said the subject of endorsing the Lib Dem had been discussed on the Wir Shetland members page previously and “not all members were happy with it”.
Westlake, who said her grievances weren’t a “political issue”, added that Tulloch became “negative” towards her and started to question her involvement in SIC policy.
“For members not be consulted properly on issues, to be refused to be told why things were being done and to be treated in a negative and what I personally felt was an aggressive manner – it is not an organisation I want to be part of,” she concluded.
Asked why Wir Shetland’s membership was not polled about the decision to endorse Scott’s candidacy, Tulloch replied: “The answer is simple – it’s a decision for the committee. The committee decides policy – it’s in the constitution.”
He said the total number of members who had quit in sympathy with Westlake was just two out of more than 400, and denied having been “aggressive and negative” towards the councillor.
“I would challenge that,” Tulloch told Shetland News. “I had a question to ask her, which she refused to answer, and I pressed her on that, regarding school campaigns. I think she’s involved in some sort of thing to encourage school closures, let’s say. Which would be totally foreign to Wir Shetland.”
He felt the manner in which Westlake responded was a “huge overreaction”.
“She’s a seasoned politician,” Tulloch continued. “I imagine she has people talking straight to her every day, asking her challenging questions, and I can’t believe that a seasoned politician is quitting over what was said.
“I wouldn’t like to see her with Andrew Neil on the television if she thought I was aggressive.”
14:20 7 April 2016
Shetland News is now publishing a transcript of the online conversation between John Tulloch and Amanda Westlake after the Wir Shetland chairman got in touch with us saying he had answered councillor Westlake’s question about the support for Tavish Scott twice.
The transcript has been slightly shortened, and two comments from other Wir Shetland members have been removed as the exchange had originally been a private one.