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Coutts appointed as new SIC leader

New council leader Steven Coutts and deputy leader Emma MacDonald. Photo: Shetland News/Chris Cope.

STEVEN Coutts has been appointed the new leader of Shetland Islands Council on a permanent basis.

The Shetland West councillor had been acting as interim leader since Cecil Smith stepped down from the role in March for personal reasons.

Coutts was the only candidate nominated for the job at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday.

North Mainland councillor Emma Macdonald, who was elected onto the council last year, was picked by Coutts as his deputy leader.

Speaking after the meeting, Coutts – who works as a home energy adviser – said he was “ready to face the challenges ahead – and make sure that we make the best of the opportunities out there”.

He said issues with funding from the Scottish Government remained one of the council’s top challenges, with discussions for example due later this year on exploring long-term funding for inter-island ferries.

“We will not escape that, but I think we need to also look at the opportunities that the community has,” Coutts said.

“It’s not all doom and gloom – the situation is what it is. It’s important for us to make sure that we focus on the right areas.”

Coutts added that his predecessor Smith was a “key part” in the council over recent times and said he had been “very happy” to serve as his deputy.

The councillor was first elected in 2012, initially as a member for the North Isles.

Macdonald, who owns a cafe in Lerwick, said she was “delighted” at her appointment.

“I think it’s a good really opportunity to learn from more experienced councillors,” she said.

“I’ve only been in for a year, but I’m on a large number of committees and I’ve got a good overview of what’s happening across the council.

“I’ve learned a lot this past year, and I’m keen to learn more and get more involved.”

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021