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Letters / Follow the money

Einstein said the definition of stupidity is ‘Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’

First there was the oil and gas sell-out in the 70s. The deals done by Mr Clarke, A.I. Tulloch et al were indeed unique, portrayed as a David v Goliath, and a huge success it seemed.

But we had nothing to compare it with. Now we have history to compare it with. The percentage of the value and profits of oil and gas that has flowed through the pipelines, and still does, demonstrates that these were not such great deals, compared to the total value of what has been made by the global oil corporations.

Yes, Shetland got it’s ‘play pens’, refurbished village halls and lots and lots of money for local businesses, fishing and crofting; some squandered, and much turned into private profit, e.g. the eventual selling off/out of the original idea of crofter/salmon farmer industry – built on your money – to the Norwegians, one of whom is now selling on. Not enough profits it seems.

Yet with all the assumed wealth, we still can’t or won’t warm our house, feed or employ our population. Some bonanza! And councillors want to grow our population!

The oil era saw an even worse sell-out through the secretive Busta House Agreement, where the rental for the Sullom Voe Terminal was agreed behind closed doors. Compared to what we would have got by allowing the High Court process to proceed in Edinburgh, we got a pittance. Blackmailed by the black industry, with empty threats of pulling out of a Sullom.

Then came SSE and Viking Energy; another sell-out. Not just an unnecessary environmental disaster.

The community benefit fund lauded by Mr Bunyan and his LibDem pals is another pittance, like the gas and oil funds when compared to the private profit that will be ‘pumped‘ south via the interconnector.

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And still no promise to end 53 per cent fuel poverty by our leadership with more reasonable electricity bills for Shetland. Alistair and Beatrice, years late to that party,  are only now going to Ofgem given years of overcharging.

What fresh hell! Orion, the energy hub. A great idea, really, I’m in support.

However, like building a new school which took 30 years to decide on, SIC staff and councillors only seem to have got the hydrogen thing (O-level chemistry) recently, years after PURE in Unst trail blazed the way 25 years ago!  But with Orion, who will benefit this time at Shetland’s expense? I think we should be told.

If we accept a poor deal again this time, fine, as long as we are involved in accepting it, but let’s get this out in the open and not do the dirty little deals behind closed doors again with ‘big boys’.  Don’t be citing ‘commercial confidentiality’, and pretend it’s in the name of the Shetland people.

You are not the Shetland people, especially if unelected.

’Commercial confidentiality’. Those words are often used in place of ‘someone is trying to hide something’. The jobs are a given. Of course there will be jobs. But let’s follow the money, shall we?

Is SIC to invest reserve funds in this?  Big oil, gas and wind may try to con us again, if we let them. What’s really in it for Shetland? Come clean!

How much as a percentage of what will flow through the pipes this time as hydrogen, not oil, gas or electricity, will come to Shetland? And most importantly is it a fair deal, this time?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a breadhead. I’m not greedy. But I know business. Unlike the primary movers in this for Shetland, I’ve owned and run a successful business.

So who exactly is playing ‘hard ball’ for Shetland this time and are they experienced and qualified to do so? Do we need another Ian Clarke at this time, because ‘Team Shetland’ is looking a little ‘light’? Maybe we need to buy in an experienced, expensive  – they always are – negotiators? The sound of silence.

Anything other than free or very cheap energy for Shetland and/or a decent  percentage is a sell-out/ rip off.  Think I’m being unrealistic? Think I’m being unfair on the energy giants? Just ask to see one sum, a simple sum.

What is the percentage benefit to Shetland of this proposal. The amount Shetland gets divided by the expect lifetime value of the product that will flow. Tell us.

With money comes power of course. But whose power? The autonomy debate coming soon to a council near you seems to be kicking off with Cllr Anderson’s excellent piece on BBC Radio Shetland on 23 November (listen again, more carefully). I have questions for starters:

  1. How will more autonomy for Shetland address the systemic failures of leadership and representation within the local government here?
    Like our Holyrood and Westminster representation, pleepsin’ at Nicola has yielded what for Shetland exactly, beyond personal point scoring in the ST for personal political gain? Not political power with decision-makers or government. Alistair and Beatrice’s austerity chums in the Tory government are no longer pals it seems.
  2. What will the new structure of an autonomous Shetland look like, assuming Holyrood and Westminster will play ball? (They won’t of course; there is too much money at stake Sullom Voe/ SSE VE and coming soon Orion).
    Can I refer Cllr Anderson et al to the Noland principles of governance and also some bedtime reading on participative – not failed representative – democracyas well as participative budgeting?
    Above all transparency and accountability will be required to avoid the continuance and failures of local ‘graft’.

Regarding the start of a dialogue (at last) about local autonomy, business as usual internally will not do. Nothing short of the complete re-invention of local government on 21st century ideas of governance, rather than our current 17th century model, is needed with active participation from each major community.

So, here are some thoughts:

Representatives chosen from every inhabited island (9), Scalloway (3), Sandwick (3), Lerwick (7), South Mainland (3), Brae & Mossbank (3) North Mainland (3), West Mainland (4) central Mainland, Gott tae Voe (4).

Yes, that’s 39 in total (and yes, the Lerwick Town Hall can hold them) with the community councils in unison acting as the oversight, scrutiny and reforming body to meet in turn throughout the islands. Dat might be da Ting!

And how will we pay for all this? Well we already need major reform of local taxation and a scrapping of the unfair council tax with a fair progressive property tax on Shetland’s real estate barons and the multiple homeowners.

We need maximum wages imposed on local government employees and living wages, Shetland style.

How come an office administrator gets more that a care worker? And no one needs to earn more than £40k a year.

Covid has proved all that travelling, particularly sooth, but tae Lerwick as well, for ‘meetings bloody meetings’ is completely unnecessary, if the jury is still out on enhanced productivity. Anyway, food for thought.

See you at the discussions, sorry reflections. And for goodness sake come with a question, like, ‘why are many SIC councillors being Lib Dem’s in nature, if not party loyalists in the main, seeking more autonomy when they think along with their LibDem masters that autonomy for Scotland is such a bad idea?

Hypocrisy? Surely not! Get your free tickets at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/reflections-on-self-determination-an-island-perspective-tickets-128641960567

James J Paton

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