Alarm bells ringing (Billy Fox)
The Public Standards Commissioner’s judgement on the complaint raised by Michael Peterson against 14 Shetland Islands councillors now raises more questions than answers.
Where does exoneration of councillor impropriety leave the conflicts of interest concerns of Audit Scotland, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) and three independent sets of legal advice sought by the Shetland Islands Council and the Shetland Charitable Trust? Not to mention the opinions of our MSP and MP, The Shetland Times editorial position and the 61 per cent of those polled who answered no when asked by The Shetland Times in September 2009, “Do you think councillors who are also trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust can serve the interests of the community when making decisions on the windfarm?”
Apparently all these people are wrong and the Public Standards Commissioner is right!
Where does it leave the changing position of the council’s monitoring officer when he advised in July 2009 that an “irreconcilable conflict arises for individual councillors in the handling of the Viking Energy windfarm consent application at a point in time when a recommendation requires to be framed to be made to the Scottish ministers”? The majority of councillors chose to ignore this advice; however a significant number followed it. Where does this leave the democratic process? What decisions might have been reached if these councillors felt they could all have legitimately taken part in proceedings? The entire process must now be called into question.
Rather tellingly the commissioner’s report makes significant play that this is a renewable energy project. The nature of a project, or whatever any policy objectives of government may be, should not influence the enforcement of codes of conduct for councillors and members of other public bodies!
Sustainable Shetland’s Standards Commission complaint has yet to be resolved, but given that it is of a similar nature the outcome may be little different.
Regardless of the subject matter and whether you are pro- or anti-Viking Energy, anyone with a genuine interest in the democratic process must have alarm bells ringing over this entire state of affairs.