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Council / Councillor Scott steps down from committee roles

‘Many vital questions remained unasked and unanswered’ in White House debate, Scott says

Councillor Ian Scott. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

SHETLAND Central councillor Ian Scott says he has resigned from a handful of council committees after he was referred to the ethnical standards commissioner.

It comes after he said in a meeting of the full Shetland Islands Council last week that in one instance information he received from a council officer had been a “lie”.

He was warned not to continue speaking by council convener Malcolm Bell and then told to turn off his microphone.

Scott resigned as chair of the licensing committee and board, as well as a member of the policy and resources committee, and the pension fund committee.

He said, however, that he will remain on the council’s audit committee.

Councillors are bound by a councillors’ code of conduct, which applies to every elected member in Scotland.

It says: “Councillors should not raise matters relating to the conduct or capability of employees in public”.

It adds: “You must respect the chair, your colleagues, council employees and any members of the public present during meetings of the council, its committees or sub-committees or of any public bodies where you have been appointed by, and represent the council.”

Scott’s comments at last week’s full council meeting came after a petition from local people was introduced which questioned the extent of delegated authority powers used by SIC officers.

The debate was on whether the council should ask for a report to be compiled in response to the petition, but Scott went on to say that information he had requested from council officials in past had not been “satisfactory and far from complete”.

Explaining his decision to resign, councillor said that following the incident he finds himself in “a completely untenable position”.

In a statement to Shetland News he said: “In my job as chair, and for that matter as a board and committee member, I am being asked to make decisions that affect people’s lives based on my judgement on what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour and conduct.

“For instance, the committee discusses whether or not to approve a person’s taxi licence application, based on personal history. The board is asked to adjudge applicants’ suitability, for instance, to grant a liquor licence, again based on personal circumstance.

“How can I possibly, in all good faith, be asked to make a judgement on other people’s behaviour and conduct when my own behaviour and conduct has been deemed to be unacceptable by my convener.

“Applicants could easily and justifiably question my legitimacy. In private business there might be a case for constructive dismissal.”

Council convener Malcolm Bell said: “It would be quite improper for me to comment specifically on the matter councillor Scott has placed in the public domain.

“The Councillors Code of Conduct sets out the standards of behaviour all councillors in Scotland are expected to abide by when conducting their duties and most, of course, do.

“The council has a formal protocol in place to deal with situations where any councillor has concerns about an employee’s conduct.”

Scott added: “Resigning from the policy and resources committee was an easy but different decision.

“At the last meeting of policy and resources, shrouded in secrecy, the eagerly awaited report on the White House was presented.  The officer, having reported, questions were invited.

“As you can imagine – where to start. But in the judgement of the chair questions were then curtailed.  I cannot speak for others, but I know many vital questions remained unasked and unanswered.

“Without giving anything away I was yet again silenced and this time by someone who is leading the charge for increased local democracy within our council.

“I then thought to myself, what on earth am I doing here! As a good friend of mine says: ‘ye canna mak it up’.  There seems to be a huge confusion amongst some between secrecy and confidentiality.

“I did not get where I am today by turning a blind eye to such comings and goings.

“That being said, I would like to thank all the officers and staff who gave me great help and advice during my tenure as chair.  They made a very difficult job a lot easier for me.”