I’d like to take issue with comments made in the press yesterday (Wednesday) by council leader Steven Coutts, when interviewed about the petitions handed into the council.
In responding to questions on issues raised in the petitions Steven said he was happy with how elected members acted and the relationship between elected members and council officials etc.
Well Steven, there are many dissatisfied people out there with numbers growing daily and not all just angry at the SIC over Viking Energy. There are issues all over the place giving credence to why there is mistrust in the SIC.
What I have detected over the years in several administrations is how a lot of elected members adopt a pretty arrogant and out of touch attitude the longer they occupy a comfy seat in the town hall.
The well used comment heard when challenging a well established elected member on issues of public trust or concerns goes like this: “I am totally happy with my elected role to represent my constituents, who voted their trust in me to act on their behalf etc”.
Now this sounds, on the surface to be a fair and reasonable comment. However I have a long memory of poor SIC judgement and decision making over 40 years and when I hear this kind of reply to public concerns, I cringe.
What I now see in this declaration of absolute delegated authority is pure arrogance that comes with a few years in the job and the belief that the elected member (he or she) has an unquestionable right to take decisions on behalf of their electorate.
This is exactly the attitude almost all elected members had when originally debating the Viking Energy proposals and planning application. Yes they knew that the Scottish Government would take the decision on it, not the SIC and yes they followed their (minimal) statutory obligation to do some consultation.
They knew and hid behind the fact that they were not legally obliged to go a bit further to assess the publics mood, support or not as the case may be, which left a split community arguing over who had the most support for years.
My main point here is that all councillors should at times (times when things look like being contentious etc) step out of the ivory tower and go the extra mile to check it out with their electorate, even more so for longer serving members who inevitably make more assumptions on their absolute power to rule.
The Shetland public are not stupid; they understand you are voted in to run things, they understand its not all easy and they place their trust in you do the best you can, mostly.
But there are some glaring examples of the failure to take the community along with you and all administrations have or are guilty of this, so it is absolutely necessary to resist the attitude Steven and others display when the public show concern.