Council / Council hopeful of resetting relationships with Scottish Government

SIC political leader Emma Macdonald. Photo: Shetland News

THE POLITICAL leader of Shetland Islands Council has welcomed the new partnership agreement between local authorities and the Scottish Government as an “opportunity to reset the relationship”.

Emma Macdonald said the document, signed off at the end of last month, had the potential to allow for more localised decision making and early influence on the government’s budget setting process.

Meanwhile, North Isles councillor Duncan Anderson – one of the driving forces behind efforts to bring back more decision-making powers to the SIC and ultimately secure more self-determination for Shetland – described the agreement as a step in the right direction but nowhere near enough to address Shetland’s needs.

The New Deal with Local Government sets out a more collaborative approach in delivering public service on a local and national level and promises to create “more freedom and flexibility for councils to address our shared priorities in locally appropriate ways”.


Local authorities are regularly at loggerheads with the government in Edinburgh over these “shared priorities”, something that is particularly strongly felt in island councils.

The general feeling is that since devolution and the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in 1999, more and more local powers have been centralised rather than devolved.

Back in 2020, then council convener Malcolm Bell said after 21 years of devolution local government was neither ‘local’ nor ‘government’ and had simply become nothing more than a “delivery arm of central government.”

Macdonald said that relationships needed to be reset. She welcomed the three priorities set out in the New Deal document.

“The three overarching priorities of tackling poverty, particularly child poverty, transforming the economy through a just transition to net zero and delivering sustainable person –centred public services are all very much at the heart of the council’s own priorities,” Macdonald said.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


“We know that to achieve these we need to work with government at all levels. This deal will hopefully allow for continued positive engagement and the fiscal framework element will hopefully allow for less ring fencing of budgets and allow for more localised decision making.

“Obviously, it is early days, and we need to see the action behind this deal being made reality.

“I think we will need to watch this space and ensure we play our part in this new deal to benefit Shetland.”

North Isles councillor Duncan Anderson. Photo: Shetland News

Anderson meanwhile said there was lots of positive language and some welcome principles in the partnership agreement.

“However, we must be cognisant that this is not legally binding so we will have to wait and see if commitment to this goes beyond mere words,” he said.


“Hopefully this could signify the beginning of a meaningful change in the relationship between central and local government in Scotland.

“I do still believe that it will go nowhere near far enough to address Shetlands needs but it is a welcome development nonetheless.

“This will be a useful publication to refer to during any future discussions with Holyrood on increased powers for Shetland.”

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.