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Council / Council leader responds to those who plan to oust her from her post

Emma Macdonald says plans to remove her are ‘hurtful’ and ‘underhand’

IT LOOKS as though growing dissatisfaction with council leader Emma Macdonald’s performance is about to break out into the open although those behind a possible revolt have not shown their hand yet.

Macdonald, who became the SIC’s first female political leader in May last year after narrowly beating Stephen Leask, took the extraordinary and somewhat surprising step of writing to all councillors on Thursday expressing her “extreme disappointment” after hearing that there were plans afoot to remove her from the top position.

In the letter, seen by Shetland News, she said: “I am saddened to see colleagues behave in such a way that is so hurtful and underhand.

SIC political leader Emma Macdonald. Photo: Shetland News

“I am sure we can all reflect on areas we can improve on within our work and often these issues can be resolved when discussed and worked upon.

“The fact that nobody had had the decency to have a conversation of a discussion around areas that they feel are not being done well feels rather unfair and unreasonable”.

Macdonald also highlighted the work she has done in building positive relationships with the Scottish Government, and noted that engagement with the UK Government played a part in securing funding for a new Fair Isle ferry.

She also said she has “prioritised the role of leader” and has given “100 per cent commitment” to all of the roles she has held in the council.

She told Shetland News that after having been told that moves were afoot to remove her from the leadership post the most appropriate way forward for her was “to get it out there” and to write to all councillors.

Macdonald said it was Lerwick South councillor John Fraser who came to see her two days ago alerting  her that it was his understanding that a motion to remove her was in the process of being drawn up

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Fraser told Shetland News should the issue come to a vote he would defend her position.

It is no secret that for many months many in the council chamber have been unhappy with the council’s leadership of Macdonald and her deputy Gary Robinson.

The general feeling for many councillors has been for a long time that the political leadership was too close to senior council officials while councillors were starved of access to information.

The recent behind closed doors discussions on leasing council land at Scatsta when councillors were presented with two choices but little information on the wide-ranging implications of the decision they were asked to make certainly did not help.

It has also been rumoured for some time that the chairs of the main committees were dissatisfied with the local political process.

However, when contacted by Shetland News on Thursday, chair of the education and families committee Davie Sandison said he was not party to any coup and added that his style was to speak to people directly.

Chair of the development committee Dennis Leask would not want to comment and said that should these allegations be true these needed to be treated sensitively and not discussed in the media.

Councillor Stephen Leask who lost against Macdonald in last May’s leadership contest by the narrowest of margins, said he was not interested in the top job as he was focused on sorting out the well reported issues at the Orkney and Shetland Valuation Joint Board.

However, it is not clear at all whether there is an organised coup in the making. While there may be some dissatisfaction with the political leadership, no-one has come out into the open to challenge Macdonald.

In any case, Macdonald’s letter has forced the issue out into the open, and things might come to a head over the coming weeks. The next meeting of the full council is on Wednesday.

Shetland North councillor Tom Morton, meanwhile, said he first heard of the attempt to overthrow the council leadership in the gluten-free section of the Brae Co-op, in a conversation with an unnamed colleague which he described as “astonishing”

He said he had since called Macdonald to assure her that he had nothing to do with this.

Morton said: “It’s unpleasant, deeply offensive and displays a complete ignorance of political etiquette and for that matter, ethics. I suspect a deep-seated sexism too.

“Any complaints about leadership should be voiced openly and debated publicly. This kind of amateurish, ignorant skulduggery brings the council and indeed Shetland into disrepute.”

Macdonald added in her letter: “Whilst I understand there is a process that you have chosen to undertake to remove me from my role, I want to make it very clear that for the time I remain in post I will continue to work positively and will continue to be focused on achieving the best outcomes we can for Shetland.”

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