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Letters / The real issue behind the issue

The recent planning debacle over the Co-op shops for Sandwick and Scalloway got me gaffin’ recently on noticing that many of the so-called independent local shops in Shetland actually buy and stock many of the Cooperative brand products. So, it is just boils down to a question of profit level and where the profit ends up.  A few local individuals and/or sooth. Imagine if Tesco’s and the big Co-op were locally owned supermarkets with a chain or locally, communally owned rural shops.

All of Shetland’s profit ends up sooth as we do not have a ‘local bank for local people’ – The Shetland Bank – which could provide us all with all our financial products from savings, ISA’s, personal pensions (for those not in the public sector) to insurance (car, home, business) all of which currently line sooth shareholders and boardroom barons’ pockets. Importantly the trading profit would stay local – apart from online shopping and holiday homes and yachts abroad of course!

The real issue behind the issue (local or sooth-month shops) is the apparent inability of the Shetland populace to cooperate to deliver community owned retail across Shetland, which the Shetland Cooperative movement – yet to be developed – could do.

Creating a proper local circular economy requires a locally owned and controlled financial institution. Is it telling that the 24,000 Shetlanders seem currently completely incapable of cooperating and trusting each other? (Local development companies excepted – one for Lerwick, especially for the Knab re-development?)

Yet the promotional cry of Promote Shetland uses the ‘community’ descriptor as if there is a real sense of community and belonging in Shetland. Is there? The practice, if it exists, is highly localised and piecemeal. (See the six or so rural, local development companies as mentioned above.)

Cllr Lyall’s meaningless resignation from the planning committee achieves absolutely nothing unless it was a pre-election popularity ploy?

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Mr Blackadder’s contribution through your letters gets us much closer to the nub of the problem – the issue of planning law and planning regulation and the relationship between national law and local freedoms and flexibilities, or lack thereof.

Scalloway Co-op decision highlights need for urgent planning policy review


The SNP, to my mind, will only get over the winning line of trust for Scottish autonomy, if, within the lifetime of this new parliament, it demonstrates the maturity and trust to seriously devolve powers to significantly reformed local government, including major planning powers, including a triple devolution to community council level.

Such powers would have prevented the worst excesses of SSE generation and the Viking Energy project. We had a parliamentary act in 1974, when the Liberals had and exercised real power, to control the oil industry here. Nothing similar for the wind industry unfortunately.

Devolution of power, with major reform of local democracy, might just create an environment in which the council and community councils become much more important and are then taken seriously, rather than scapegoats, fairly or unfairly, in effect acting as (poor?) managers of nationally prescribed policies, finances and services – education, social work and care, to name but three.

The other side of this coin is that representatives on the SIC  and community council need to demonstrate competency, clearly sadly lacking it seems, because partly they need to be doing it and paid for the full-time job of good governance that it is, or should be, but currently neither paid enough nor provided for in terms of the appropriate training required to become and be a  ‘good governor’.

You pay peanuts, you get …

Can’t wait for the coming SIC candidate manifestos.

James J Paton

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