CECIL Smith is to stand down from his role as political leader of Shetland Islands Council.
In a letter to council convener Malcolm Bell, Smith says he has taken the decision for “personal reasons”.
Deputy leader Steven Coutts will provide continuity until a new leader is elected, possibly in early May, – with some councillors already suggesting he could take on the role permanently.
Lerwick South councillor Smith told members of the SIC’s policy and resources committee on Tuesday in private of his decision.
He will formally vacate the role after Wednesday’s full council meeting. Smith had been leader since the last council election in May, replacing Gary Robinson who failed to regain his seat in the council.
Smith had come under some criticism for accepting the Scottish Government’s £5 million offer of fair funding for inter-island ferries despite the SIC originally asking for around £7.5 million.
There have been rumblings of discontent about Smith’s leadership style behind the scenes for several months, with the veteran councillor in particular clashing with environment and transport chairman Ryan Thomson on several occasions.
Bell told Smith in response to his letter that he was “sorry” that he has stood down, but he “fully understands” his reasons for doing so.
“I am pleased you have intimated your intention to remain as a councillor and know you will continue to serve your constituents in Lerwick South with great dedication, as you have done since 2007,” he added.
“I would like to thank you for your service to the council in various leadership roles including, chair of social services and chair of the IJB.
“On a personal note, I am particularly grateful for the three years you spent as depute convener. I truly appreciated your dedication and considered advice to me in that role.”
Thomson echoed Bell’s comments and said: “I’m sorry to hear councillor Smith has stood down from the leader post, but I am glad to hear he will remain a councillor and look forward to continue working with him over the coming four years.”
Depute leader Steven Coutts said: “At the minute I am happy to step into the role and provide continuity. It is my expectation that I will carry on until our next ordinary meeting which is in early May.
“As regards to longer term picture I suppose it is important that we as members have the opportunity to discuss the options among ourselves, and see who is placed best,” he said.
He added that he had not made up his mind as to putting his name forward to fill the post permanently.
Education and families committee chairman George Smith ruled himself out of standing for the leadership role, while development committee chairman Alastair Cooper is also understood to be unlikely to stand.
Other possible candidates include harbour board chairwoman Andrea Manson and Thomson, though only nine months into his tenure as councillor the latter may feel the timing is premature.
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