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Council / Leask resigns from senior position over question of self-determination

LERWICK North councillor Stephen Leask has stepped down from his role as vice-chair of the development committee after he found himself at odds with the council’s leadership over the question of self-determination.

Leask was one of just two councillors who voted against a motion earlier this month to explore options for achieving “financial and political self-determination”.

Councillor Stephen Leask.

During the debate in the council chamber almost two weeks ago Leask said he felt it was neither the time nor the place for such a move.

He also reminded councillors that Shetland was receiving significantly more in funding per head of population than the average Scottish local authority.

Although these figures are no secret and publicly available, Leask said he had been left in no doubt by the council leadership that his comments were undermining the council’s bargaining position with the Scottish Government.

Council leader Steven Coutts confirmed that he has a number of “amicable discussions” with Leask regarding his position.

He said he had not yet been notified of Leask’s resignation as the vice-chair of the development committee but agreed his position in the council leadership had become untenable.

But he denied that the Lerwick North councillor was forced to go before being pushed.

In his resignation statement issued to the press on Monday afternoon Leask said: “I must say that the issues regarding self-determination and autonomy should and must be dealt with at a democratic level.

“In my opinion, the people of Shetland’s aspirations, ambitions and wishes have been overlooked in other areas too – and not within the walls of the council chambers, leaving officials and officers to deal with what is an ethereal, nebulous and fanciful idea.

“I must also stress the costs it will consume for the Shetland people. At this time of Covid 19, Brexit, Westminster’s power grab to diminish the powers of a devolved Scotland, this definitely is not the time!

“I must pay tribute to the managers, officials, officers et al at development as they have made the experience as vice chair such an enjoyable position, and I must say it has been an immersive and enlightening process, so to them I express my thanks.”

It is the second resignation within the space of a week after Shetland Central councillor Ian Scott resigned from his committee roles after being reported to the Standards Commission for comments made in a recent full council meeting, where he said one piece of information he had received from a council officer had been a “lie”.