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Brexit / Council on high alert for ‘no deal’ Brexit

BREXIT and replacement of council infrastructure have both been identified as “very high” risks by Shetland Islands Council.

According to SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison, officials have been planning around a “no deal Brexit” for some time, but the shape of Britain’s exit from Europe, which is scheduled for the end of this month, is not absolutely cast in stone.

She warned that although trade deals have yet to emerge, there is a more certain gap looming in funding between EU provisions coming to an end and replacement UK measures being introduced.

“We have planned for a worst case scenario and anything that’s better than that would mean the consequences [have to be] mitigated less,” she told a meeting of the SIC Policy and Resources Committee on Tuesday.

“The biggest issue for us at the moment is we are likely to see a gap and it is not clear what will happen when money schemes here have not been set up, i.e. a LEADER [fund] replacement. We need to find out what money schemes they will support.”

The council’s revised corporate risk register identifies Brexit and infrastructure maintenance and renewal, including ferries, as “very high risk”.

A report considered by policy and resources says: “EU exit, is to a large extent outwith the council’s control.

“However, it is important that it is kept under review and that consideration is given to any actions that can be undertaken to mitigate the impact of that risk by building resilience within the organisation and across Shetland.”

Sandison said the council was facing a “bulge” in the need for infrastructure replacement owing to when most of that infrastructure was built.

Councillor Stephen Leask.

Lerwick North councillor Stephen Leask brought up the issue of the Northern Isles ferry routes and delay caused by the legal challenge by CalMac to the new ferry contract being awarded to existing holders Serco NorthLink.

He said it was rare to see a “complete failure” that could trigger “economic stagnation and decline”.

He added: “The Scottish Government do not know when this issue will be resolved (…) this for me is a complete failure of government.”

Sandison said that one concern was the ongoing lack of clarity about what “flexibility” would actually mean for the Northern Isles ferry service.

Leask also bemoaned the delayed budget from the UK Government.

“The setting of budgets is also a failure of government, this time by Westminster. This is going to have a significant impact and create uncertainty.

“The budget is clearly a far from ideal situation. We are going to get a Scottish budget going forward. As a local authority we need to see sufficient funding for essential services.”