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Letters / Petitions can backfire

Whilst very happy to have signed the petition about Serco removing the food subsidy on a lifeline service, a couple of related matters in the bigger political picture came to mind.

Online petitions can be very useful tools for having influence and gauging public opinion, IF backed. Let’s hope enough people sign the petition then.

Given it was a party-political sponsored petition, rather than a citizens/public petition e.g. 38 Degrees type etc., I wondered if it may have put a few (SNP voters) off signing it, given their government is responsible for the contract. We’ll see. Petitions can backfire, or at least dissolve into obscurity, sending the wrong message if not many people sign them.

The fact that Alistair, rather than Beatrice, fronted the petition seemed a little odd too, given the lifeline service contract is squarely the responsibility of the Scottish Government and not within Westminster’s gift. As usual, I’m probably over-thinking it.

On signing, one is then immediately taken to a Liberal Democrat Party donation page. This felt a little cynical and potentially devalues the petition, given the issue is not a party political one, outwith election time, but a contractual one. (Forgive my ignorance but have any of the political parties advocated that the service should  be wholly public owned and run?)

A lifeline service should not of course line anyone’s pockets, not least Serco shareholders. This current arrangement says a great deal about the kind of economics (monetarist of sorts) the Scottish Government backs.

I wonder, now they are in government, what the Scottish Green Party’s ( SGP) position on the contract is? Will they be able now to influence this where the LibDems can’t, public transport being one of the SGP’s ‘big ticket’ policy?

Anyone written to Ariane Burgess?  One of many, many tests then for the SGP – who, I believe, have made a very serious error of judgement in joining government, in the same way the LibDems did in backing the Tories austerity Government 2010-15.

The fact that the service makes a profit came as a surprise to me, given its very nature – lifeline – meaning, I’d assumed, it has to be subsidised by all Scottish taxpayers, especially given and including the cost of building the ships. Is an operating profit guaranteed, irrespective of usage, part of  the contract?

That a global corporate conglomerate runs a local service is completely at odds with the increasing need for a significant move to enhanced circular economies in Shetland, if not across Scotland.  If anything any profit should go to the Shetland community, or at least reduce the Scottish public debt burden of a publicly funded (all Scottish taxpayers) service.

Private profit from public goods and services is nothing short of robbery, in the same way that the NHS and care systems are robbed of huge amounts by private companies, often to the detriment of the services, and pay and conditions of those workers who provide them.

James J Paton
Lerwick

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