SHETLAND Islands Council’s newly elected political leader, former social care and integration joint board chairman Cecil Smith, has placed transport and education at the top of his agenda for the coming five years.
Meanwhile, former isles police chief Malcolm Bell was reappointed convener as the new council allocated its top jobs during its first meeting on Thursday.
Smith, who also used to work as a police officer, replaces outgoing Westside councillor Gary Robinson, who had punished by voters over his stance on school closures at May’s elections.
He was the only member to be nominated for the leader role, with Westside councillor Steven Coutts picking up the depute leader role.
Bell’s depute convenor will be new Lerwick South member Beatrice Wishart.
Speaking after the meeting, Smith said he hoped to continue the “good work” of the last council, which has won praise for managing to balance its books after years of financial mismanagement.
One of his biggest priorities in the next five years will be to continue negotiations with the Scottish Government over funding inter-island ferries and reducing fares on the lifeline NorthLink service.
Smith also said the council should seek discussions with the government over education.
“If they wish for us to deliver the same education here, then they need to put their mouth where their money is,” he said.
Smith was the only member to be nominated for the leader role, with the Lerwick South councillor suggesting Steven Coutts as depute leader.
Bell was similarly the only councillor suggested for the convener job – a role he has enjoyed for the last five years.
He said he was “absolutely delighted” and will do his best to “make sure this council runs as smoothly as the last one”.
“There’s great challenges ahead,” Bell added.
“I think these have been well documented. Clearly the budgetary challenges are going to hit us very hard. We’re going to have to work through that.
“But we’ve had a good two weeks induction – members have all attended and worked well together, so I really look forward with some confidence to the new council.”
Among the raft of chairs appointed to the council’s committees was new North Isles member Ryan Thomson, who will preside over the environment and transport committee.
The North Isles councillor has previously organised campaigns for fairer air and ferry fares and he will be looking to use that experience over the next five years.
“One big challenge is the fact that we need to get the Scottish Government to introduce fair ferry fares on the lifeline link,” Thomson said.
“There’s also the job of the inter-island transport links, which are discussions which will have to take place with the Scottish Government, as well as the local communities and community councils as well. It’s going to be a busy five years.”
Former vice chair of the education and families committee George Smith has been promoted to lead the committee, and Shetland North member Alastair Cooper was reappointed as chair of the development committee.
Allison Duncan is the new vice chair of the Integration Joint Board, which brings together the SIC and the NHS to oversee health and social care services.
The chair of the planning committee over the next five years will be Theo Smith, Duncan will preside over the audit committee and Andrea Manson has been re-appointed as chair of the harbour board.
Debutant councillor Ian Scott will chair the licensing committee and Peter Campbell will again lead the Shetland College board.
Read Shetland News’ live coverage of the meeting here.
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