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Letters / Autonomy would empower community councils

In response to your article on the council’s decision – by one vote – not to link the new homes at Sandveien to the district heating scheme, proving cheaper heating than any of the big six national retailers, SSE/OVO amongst them, demonstrated the most appalling decision-making by some.

Council sticks with original heating options for Sandveien estate

I could understand if the lifetime of the district heating scheme and SHEAP – the incinerator generating heat from our and other’s waste – was the issue or the pollution and CO2 from burning an issue re our climate change targets, but also not raised in the debate.

What the debate, if one could call it that, demonstrated was the appalling arrogance and ignorance of some councillors and makes me think we should re-instate Lerwick Town Council to make decisions that affect the town only, given it has a third of Shetland’s population.

Autonomy for a Shetland would give the opportunity to reinstate the town council and properly empower rural community councils to make financial and thus infrastructure and service delivery decisions for their areas.

The council pleepses at every turn about the Scottish Government’s centralisation yet Lerwick is in effect dictated to by the majority of rural councillors.

The council’s decision-making democratic behaviour is as equally suspect as the SNP/Green coalition government.

That rural councillors, by and large, should impose the ridiculous decision to import panel heaters instead of using our own resources, even though slightly more expensive to install, but provide cheaper heating in the long run, demonstrates another example of the councils ‘price of everything and value of nothing’ short-termism behaviour.

Cllr Gary Robinson often speaks a great deal of sense, but was so wide of the mark on this occasion.

What is all the more appalling were the attacks on Cllr Dennis Leask, a highly successful businessman, by people lacking the skills to run a business or have seen their businesses fail.

The accusation of micro-managing officers was laughable. It would be good to see the council begin to manage their senior officers, never mind micro-managing. It is a major part of their job description that they consistently ignore.

It seems any just do not have or make the time to do the councillor job justice. Another reason for full-time decision makers, even if halved in number.

Elected members singularly fail to hold officials to account. Recommendations by officers are nodded through, often after a string of factious comments – speaking for speaking’s sake with no real debate or indeed challenge to officers, who seem to do as they please.

Officers in turn, unaccountable fit their poor management of services and outside contractors as identified in audit.

Our system of local government, as throughout the who of Scotland, where most are bankrupt or near it,  needs a complete overall.

The SNP/Greens won’t go near it lest they have to cede more power to the localities.

Here in Shetland, even with the Islands (2018) Act, not one substantial proposal from the SIC in five years to do things differently as befits our geography and circumstances.

Blaming everything on Holyrood, as flawed as it is democratically – only full proportional representation should be used to elect it.

SAAT – Shetland Autonomy Action Team (follow on Facebook) – will soon be working up proposals, with the help of all the people of Shetland interested in its future, to enhance Shetland’s autonomy and the quality of local democracy, governance – so much needed as this one issue so clearly demonstrates.

The recent event to encourage more women into politics and governance is great, however being up to the job is another matter entirely.

Cllr Manson’s casting vote on this heating issue and so clearly lacking in leadership by batting the autonomy issue to the Shetland people demonstrating an unwillingness to fulfil the demands of leadership with absolutely no enthusiasm beyond creating a policy.

Policy without action is entirely meaningless. With her forty years experience on the council, I for one had hoped for very much better.

James Paton



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