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Council / SIC leader Coutts won’t stand in next election after taking on COPE chief job

SHETLAND Islands Council leader Steven Coutts has confirmed he will not stand in the upcoming May election after being appointed COPE’s new chief executive.

Coutts said he was “delighted” to take on the £45,000-a-year role, which became vacant after the departure of Ingrid Webb.

Steven Coutts.

It comes after Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell confirmed last year he would not be standing in May’s election, with some other councillors also understood to retire from public office.

Coutts was first elected in 2012 as a member of the North Isles before being returned five years later for the west ward, in which he lives.

He was then appointed political leader of Shetland Islands Council in 2018.

It has been a busy few years for Coutts as leader, with plenty on the agenda.

This has included securing the £100 million islands growth deal, exploring self-determination for Shetland and achieving full ferry funding from the Scottish Government – while the construction of the Viking wind farm also got underway against a backdrop of a new energy future for the isles.

Coutts also runs a small business services company offering accountancy.

“I am really looking forward to working with the board, staff, participants, and stakeholders to build on the real strengths of COPE and further its social aims,” he said.

“Like many organisations, there are still challenges due to the pandemic, and a degree of stability will be required in the short term.

“There are significant opportunities out there for the future and working together we will see COPE and the individuals we support flourish and thrive.”

COPE chair Neil Jamieson said: “We are delighted to have Steven join us as our new CEO.

“His leadership skills and extensive business experience will be key to support us moving forwards sustainably and to ensure we continue to provide the access to inclusive opportunities that Shetland requires for years to come.

“Steven’s experience will help us maintain and develop strong ties with local and national stakeholders whilst also developing a vibrant future that ensures more choice of roles for current and future participants.”

Coutts will initially undertake a phased start at COPE before going full-time in the spring.

Through a service level agreement with the Shetland Islands Council COPE currently offers 100 skills development sessions weekly to adults living with learning disabilities or autism.

It also provides various supported employment opportunities across their four business units: Shetland Kitchen Co, Shetland Garden Co, Shetland Home Co and Shetland Soap Company.