G R Direct - Free Dishwasher OfferG R Direct - Free Dishwasher OfferG R Direct - Free Dishwasher OfferG R Direct - Free Dishwasher OfferG R Direct - Free Dishwasher Offer
Tuesday 23 July 2024
 11.4°C   NW Light Air
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Council / SIC depute leader suggests gaining additional powers would be challenging

A SENIOR elected member has played down the likelihood of Shetland Islands Council being given extra powers.

Lerwick North and Bressay councillor Gary Robinson, who is the local authority’s depute leader, said it was “challenging” for anyone to get additional powers, including the Scottish Government.

He also said the past record of the government overturning some SIC planning decisions because they went against the council’s own policy would not stand the local authority in “good stead” if it was to ask for more powers in those kind of areas.

Under Scotland’s Islands Act, which was passed in 2018, councils are able to request that functions are devolved to them, or that Scottish ministers transfer an additional function, duty or responsibility.

At a meeting of the full council on Wednesday, Scottish Greens councillor Alex Armitage suggested energy could be area in which to try for additional powers, given that developers are “knocking on our door” in the transition away from fossil fuels.

“I think we can make a strong case for extra powers to be onboarded to Shetland, and I don’t think the perceived difficulty of that should hold us back,” he said.

SIC depute leader Gary Robinson. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

“We have to request it and ask for it, and I think working with our parliamentary representatives on this would be a good next step.”

Back in 2020 the majority of SIC councillors voted to explore ways of achieving political and financial self-determination.

At Wednesday’s meeting Armitage asked what the next steps would be in that process.

Chief executive Maggie Sandison said she was unable to step into areas that are political.

But she did say a seminar had been held discuss the Islands Act’s provision for seeking additional powers.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


However, only one councillor came back with suggestions afterwards.

“You have a political motion passed by the council – I can support you by giving you advice and guidance about how you can pursue that motion, but I can’t do the work for you,” Sandison said.

Robinson said it was “changed days” since the Our Islands Our Future campaign, which launched in 2013 and sought to empower Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles.

That happened around the time of the Scottish independence referendum – a time when constitutional matters were the subject of much debate.

But Robinson said a second referendum appears to be off the cards, and attempts by the Scottish Government to get more powers from Westminster have “fallen on deaf ears”.

He said areas Shetland might want more control over could include the Crown Estate, planning and energy consents.

However, Robinson said even Scottish ministers deciding on energy consents have to abide by UK legislation.

“I think at the present moment in time that level of change is incredibly difficult,” he said.

“I think we need to be more creative around what it is we do actually seek if we were to use that power at all.

“I think we need to be seen to be using the powers that we’ve got to their maximum extent before we go seeking others. And we also need to be deploying those powers competently.”

The discussion was watched by moderator of the Shetland Autonomy Action Team, James Parton.

He claimed afterwards that Robinson in effect prevented or ruled out the council from “striking at the heart of Westminster and/or Holyrood” by seeking extra powers.

Paton said additional powers could help Shetland deal with global renewable companies, as well as in areas such as energy costs, housing and transport.

The remarks were made during an update report on the SIC’s Our Ambition corporate plan – and Paton claimed Robinson showed no ambition.

“We are, as Shetlanders, being done a great disservice,” he said. “Everyone should watch, with critical eyes and ears, over the Easter holidays, this potentially seminal, but missed opportunity due to a lack of leadership and will to act.”

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.