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Letters / Presidential system

Does democracy work satisfactorily in Shetland – could it be improved upon? Whilst I congratulate convenor Manson and political leader MacDonald on election to their posts and wish them every success, in time a more radical governance proposal could be more applicable to Shetland’s resurgence sought by the 18/2 vote earlier.

SIC’s present structure can on occasion result in “tension” between councillors themselves and also impinge upon the needs of an

executive requiring clear policy directions from a disparate group of individual representatives, unappreciated and perhaps not fully aware or briefed on many issues, and their tenure should be more akin to full time job. The result, perhaps, is a turn-off by the electorate.

Councillors have to tackle a broad range of items (on some of which they have limited room for action and decision) finance/funding, Orion, fishing, offshore wind farm areas, Sullom developments, planning/building control, all which and more are controlled by or subject to Edinburgh’s veto.

Time to change allowing Shetland to take back control, including the Shetland Charitable Trust.

A suggestion has been made that citizens panels would be beneficial. Another, to directly elect the convener and political leader, but perhaps those two functions could be combined, and reconstituted as a ‘skipper’, to replace but magnify the current post of the chief executive.

This new position’s authority to last four year terms, would include the skipper appointing a small team (some maybe ad-hoc) adequately paid (using internal or external expertise) to assist skipper having power to hire, fire, encourage and oversee all SIC global functions, to steer the vessel and crew in an agreed direction avoiding the shallows.

Councillors as such wouldn’t be needed because those functions could be performed by up-graded elected community council leaders (citizens panels?) – empowering decisions down to the local level and promoting ward initiatives.

The skipper’s remit would encompass hiring a well-qualified and experienced senior financial officer (not just an accountant) to report directly to the skipper, capable of understanding and assisting in negotiations with outside bodies such as the UK Government/Treasury, oil and gas, electricity, hydrogen, Orion, investment banks.

The Skipper to entertain regular public meetings (virtual!) – bi-monthly intervals – interacting with elected community councillor leaders/citizens panels to discuss policy and administration issues, and submit to a competitive re-election programme every four years, delivering a progress report every six months.

The above arrangement (more akin to a presidential system) should be more suitable to handle Shetland’s burgeoning requirements whose circumstances are much different from those further south. The result – more like Faroe.

A by-election is due for the North Isles seat; and more than one candidate is needed. A shoe-in undesirable – as an incumbent could sit unopposed for decades. There’s one from Unst and Whalsay already – another is needed from Yell-Fetlar-Skerries as their voice is needed to promote fixed links, wind farms, tidal turbines etc.

Cecil Robertson