As these debates over Viking Energy heat up I have noticed a disconnect between the power structures and the people.
As I am not plugged into the structures myself nor possess the ‘pulse of the people’, feel free to correct me where I have erred.
The young councillor Duncan Anderson avers a negative decision on VE would have been overturned by Holyrood and on this he may be correct.
He cites Orkney’s attempts to fight wind farms and I have myself witnessed it when I lived on the mainland where the local council, every community council and national agency with a stake opposed it with not one public entity coming out in support.
It was overturned. It is an ‘utter deficit of democracy’ and is the direct result, to my mind, of the autocratic tendencies of Holyrood.
However, that is not an escape clause – it still has to be fought (even if just for precedence sake) – and this deficit is what is most concerning.
Thus, for us as the public, the battleground now necessarily shifts to the local council. Whether I am getting the gist of this correctly or not can be debated; I am not in the chambers so if there are mitigating circumstances to any that follows, to those I am not privy.
In the first, it is my understanding there have been threats of legal action against certain of those who have spoken ill of councillors and the council. Moreover, there has been debate about potential rule changes because the recent petitions have made them uncomfortable. Is there anything more chilling to democratic norms than this?
A person of character on the council, a publicly elected individual – a politician – should be thick skinned enough to take their lumps with a certain grace. They should have the strength of conviction to defend their position rather than hide behind procedure or continue to pass the buck.
The lack of character as displayed by these supposed actions is weakness. As a voter, you must ask yourself why that is – are the accusations hitting too close to the mark?
Perhaps it is true that the tail is wagging the dog as has also been alleged.
Would that not also be a sign of weakness, to not even have the backbone to do the job as you have been elected? To the rule changes and purported threats – a person acting from a position of strength has the power to forgive, from weakness comes a demand for apology; I have seen no evidence of strength.
A second issue is the real or inferred gag order on members of the Shetland community who work for the council. It appears they can have no political opinions of their own. If this is true, is this strict interpretation even legal?
If it is simply, or strongly, inferred then this may be even more insidious. With greater than 30 per cent of the local population in the employ of the council, to my understanding anyway, that gives them a monopoly of power and they would have just removed 1/3 of the public’s voice.
It is an abuse of power, whether real or inferred, to take away the ability of these employees to have a legitimate say in the issues that directly impact their communities.
So, whilst we can pretend that only Holyrood has autocratic tendencies, it seems to me we may have the very same issue here. This, at the local level, is the ‘utter deficit of democracy’.
To those on every side on every issue, keep pouring it on, make the council uncomfortable and remember how each and every councillor acted come next election.
Was it with integrity and strength or did they hide behind threats, excuses and rules? Did they give up fighting for your community and concerns, throw up their hands and lay blame elsewhere or did they do an honest job of doing what was in their power to do?
It is high time the power came to the people.