21st May 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Everyone worth their salt should sign (John Tulloch)

I suspect that all those in Shetland adversely affected by the present round of SIC financial cuts – 2,500 SIC staff plus their families, council house tenants, the elderly, parents, sports people, etc – have at least one thing in common. They all read The Shetland Times.

So why is it that when The Shetland Times mounts a petition calling for the government’s longstanding £40 million oil boom housing debt to the SIC to be repaid that so few – a paltry 813 at the time of writing – have signed?

The Scottish government is holding a cabinet meeting in Shetland next month and every Shetland resident worth their salt should sign the petition now.

Otherwise Alex Salmond will blithely imagine that nobody cares about the £40 million.

John Tulloch
Lyndon,
Arrochar.

[Including paper coupons sent to the newsroom the total number of signatories stands at 1,011. You can sign by visiting www.dropshetlandsdebt.org Ed]

34 comments

  1. Karen Woods

    where do u sign – is it on-line?

    Reply
  2. Adam Civico

    Karen, you can sign the petition at http://www.dropshetlandsdebt.org, or there will be a coupon in this week’s paper.

    Reply
  3. Susan Jolly

    On the contrary, anyone worth their salt shouldn’t sign. A moral obligation, a verbal indication, is not a written undertaking. Did Westminster put in writing that they would pay for the houses to be built? I don’t believe they did.

    Who does the SIC owe money to? Isn’t it the SCT? Who precisely took out the loans? What was the rate of interest? Why wasn’t any agreement reached before now instead of just pleepsing on that a Government, who wasn’t a signatory on the loan, should be coughing up?

    Isn’t it the case that this debt would be time barred if it went to Court? Or is it a case that by paying off the interest the debt has been acknowledged? Either way, I suspect that many people want more information. Besides, aren’t we one of the most well off places in the UK? Why on earth should others less fortunate than us pay a debt which on the face of it, is nothing more than a paper exercise between the SIC and the SCT?

    Perhaps I’ve misunderstood the situation but nowhere have I ever read anywhere that there is anything in writing that stipulated Westminster would pay for the houses to be built. If there is, then perhaps The Shetland Times should spend their time demanding to see such a written agreement.

    Reply
  4. John Tulloch

    An SIC delegation met Danny Alexander, Osborne’s right-hand man, in London recently following exchanges of letters between the SIC and the Treasury resulting directly from the Flea’s encounter with George Osborne at Inverness Airport.

    Neither Osborne nor Alexander has denied the existence of the debt and it would be amazing indeed if the SIC committed such expenditure without receiving a written request from the government.

    In fact, Alexander claimed the London government were still paying Edinburgh the money agreed for the Rate Support Grant as interim compensation which was recently stopped by Alex Salmond, thus igniting this issue.

    There is no need for the SIC to publish such correspondence at this stage however there is an urgent need, notwithstanding Ms Jolly’s indignant, self-righteous “bustling in her corsets” about how Shetlanders should be grateful they are so well off, FOR ALL SHETLAND RESIDENTS (AND EXPATS) TO SIGN THE PETITION NOW.

    Reply
  5. Shetland Times

    Susan, according to SIC head of housing Anita Jamieson “there is no SCT involvement and never has been”. Technically, the housing revenue account borrowed the money internally from the council’s own reserves – on the clear understanding that the UK government would “do everything possible to resolve any difficulties” (Scottish Office minister Bruce Millan, 1974) as a result of new houses being needed to accommodate the oil industry.

    The £40 million debt is fairly small in the context of the £300 billion+ tax revenues the Treasury has gained from the North Sea oil industry.

    We, along with the county archivist and councillors, have trawled through archive documents and papers several times over. You’re correct to say there is no explicit written argeement dating from the 1970s. In hindsight, clearly it would have been preferable if there was such a document.

    However, a succession of UK and Scottish ministers have repeatedly acknowledged, both verbally and in writing, the state’s moral obligation regarding the debt.

    Perhaps most notable was Raymond Robertson (a minister in the Major government) in early 1997: “Subject to detailed negotiations with the three councils [Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles] we would hope to redeem the debt before the end of the 1997/98 financial year.”

    Then there was a change in government and New Labour reneged on that promise. There was a further attempt to find a solution after the Scottish Parliament’s creation, but it fell through following a disagreement on the valuation of the SIC’s housing stock.

    Broadly speaking, of course this is a wealthy community – but it is many of the least well-off who will face higher rents to service the debt if it is not written off. Alternatively, if the council cleared the debt from its reserves, the income it would lose would necessitate a further £2.3 million a year in spending cuts.

    http://www.dropshetlandsdebt.org

    Reply
  6. Susan Jolly

    @johntulloch re “notwithstanding Ms Jolly’s indignant, self-righteous “bustling in her corsets” about how Shetlanders should be grateful they are so well off” – err I don’t own a corset and besides, I didn’t say “Shetlanders should be grateful they are so well off”.

    “it would be amazing indeed if the SIC committed such expenditure without receiving a written request from the government.” – see Shetland Times’ response: “You’re correct to say there is no explicit written argeement (sic) dating from the 1970s”.

    I don’t believe that Council Tenants should face increased rents as a result of this. However, just where is either Government going to get the money from and how are they going to justify it to other local authorities with no/little reserves with far greater demands on housing than Shetland that Shetland’s needs are greater?

    @ Shetland Times – are you referring to the scheme suggested in 2002 whereby only £70k was offered to purchase the housing stock that had a value placed on it by separate valuers in excess of several millions?

    Also, thank you for the clarification that the loan came from the Council’s own reserves and not the SCT.

    Reply
  7. John Tulloch

    @susan jolly,

    From your above comment:

    “Besides, aren’t we one of the most well off places in the UK? Why on earth should others less fortunate than us pay a debt which on the face of it, is nothing more than a paper exercise between the SIC and the SCT?”

    The “corset” comment was a metaphor intended to invoke the image of a pompous adult school-marmishly lecturing children about being selfish and not actually having her facts right.

    In any case the Scottish charities regulator OSCR has been at pains to point out that the SIC and SCT are not synonymous. The SIC is “broke” and SCT belongs to the Shetland people, not the council.

    Osborne, Alexander and other ministers in past governments have acknowledged the debt in writing so it’s clear there was an agreement between the SIC and the government and it’s my understanding that a contract doesn’t have to be in writing.

    Even if this is not so an injustice has clearly been done and what is at stake for the London and Edinburgh governments here is whether either of them can be trusted by Shetlanders voting in the independence referendum next year to honour agreements made in good faith.

    Their track record isn’t good.

    If there is no legal recourse due to lack of a written agreement then a petition is an appropriate vehicle for the population to express revulsion at the government defaulting on its debt.

    Reply
  8. Susan Jolly

    @JohnTulloch – Your metaphor is one with which I am not familiar with. I would have hoped you would have noted that I did type “Perhaps I’ve misunderstood the situation” and I also thanked ST for their clarification by stating that the loan came from the Council’s own reserves.

    “The SIC is “broke”” – If the SIC is broke, then how come they still have funds of over £200 million in their reserves? Would it not be more accurate to state that if they carry on spending like there is no tomorrow that they will be broke in the future but at present, they are not broke? Or I have I got that wrong?

    Now, I don’t want to be accused of spouting rubbish whilst wearing lingerie aside from corsets, so perhaps John Tulloch in his Y fronts or other attire whilst ‘jockeying for position’ can educate me and anyone else not in the know – this £40 million debt – was it £40 million at its inception, or has it grown to £40 million now that interest has accrued on it?

    Reply
  9. John Tulloch

    Susan,

    The SIC erected housing during the 1970s oil boom at the request of government in order start the £300 billion referred to above flowing into the Treasury as soon as possible. Government inisters have repeatedly acknowledged the debt and reneged on paying it up.

    Whether it is £40M or £1M it is an injustice for which the SIC are rightly seeking redress and the Shetland Times has launched a petition to demonstrate the strength of public feeling about the unpaid debt.

    I support that and I call on you to support it, too. Will you now sign the petition?

    Reply
  10. Christopher Ritch

    “A moral obligation, a verbal indication, is not a written undertaking.”

    That may be, but in Scots law a verbal contract is legally binding.

    Reply
  11. Douglas Young

    An e petition requires 100, 000 signatures before Westminster takes notice, successive Governments have ignored, and will continue to ignore, both our MP’s and SIC’s requests for repayment, and while laudable it is pointless to expect a few 1000 signatures to make a difference.
    What I would like our local newspaper to do is investigate the huge sums of money being squandered by the local authority. Why is the SIC involved in running tugs, inter island ferries, planes and Tingwall Airport? Why are there staff sitting in the “White House” doing nothing but answering a few phone calls per day? Why are there staff sitting doing nothing in a well equipped workshop at Sella Ness? Why does education cost twice the national average? Why do we have three ferries running to three islands with a total population of less than 100? The list is endless.
    Why are journalists not digging out the answers?

    Reply
  12. John Tulloch

    Douglas,

    You may be right about the e-petition but it only took one “Flea-petition” to set the wheels in motion for an SIC delegation to go to Westminster to meet Danny Alexander at the Treasury. He said London were still paying Shetland’s Rate Support Grant money to Edinburgh even though Mr Salmond had stopped paying it to the SIC?

    You didn’t say how many signatures it will take for Alex Salmond to take notice, so how many would you reckon?

    Perhaps “Yes Shetland” will enlighten us at the same time as enlightening us about what they think should happen about the £40M debt, given that Alex Salmond ignited this issue by stopping the Rate Support Grant?

    So, “Yes Shetland” do you call for this money to be repaid and have you signed the petition (Douglas says its “laudable”)?

    Reply
  13. John Kryton

    Douglas Young, the guy who recons that a few hundred SS supporters are a majority, he also recons 39% of the Scottish voters are a majority. He also thinks that we need to acquire 100,000 signatures from a population of 22,000. Then he has the nerve to slate the mistakes of the council. I for one am glad he never made made it to the council we would be in some mess now. Douglas that debt was accrued to give people like you somewhere to live, so hold your negative tongue and sign the petition.

    Reply
  14. S V Jolly

    No John, I won’t be signing the petition right now. I understand the debt is £40 million at present. I do appreciate that the Right to Buy legislation (brought in around 1980?) didn’t help but the SIC continued to build houses up until 1989 according to the petition link. Did they reduce the debt during this period or did they continue to put ‘all their eggs in one basket’ and hope that Westminster would cough up?

    I don’t think Scottish law would apply to Westminster – would it?

    The legislation doesn’t help re Housing only being allowed to spend on Housing but I think the argument about how much money has flowed to the Treasury is a false one – you could equally argue how much Shetland has benefited from the oil industry and does that exceed £40 million?

    Write off the debt.

    Isn’t it 100,000 if a petition goes via the Downing Street petition website?

    Reply
  15. John Tulloch

    Susan,

    The house-building was done in Scotland by agreement with a Scottish council, I think you’ll find Scottish Law applies.

    It’s an important point you’re making whereby, if you are right, British politicians are entitled to deceitfully induce decent, naive, people to spend their own money to help fill state coffers while promising publicly the government would reimburse them and reneging.

    Whether the politicians have managed to slither around the law is really of academic interest for me, rather, my main concern is that whichever government ends up with sovereign responsibility for Shetland should be one that is trustworthy.

    While Westminster hasn’t actually paid back the loan they have, at least, cushioned SIC from the cost of maintaining it.

    The Scottish government however were happy to accept the money from London but decided to stop passing it on to SIC, its rightful recipients. That is not only an injustice, it is a dishonourable act.

    I can only hope their intention is to announce its reversal when they hold their cabinet meeting in Shetland next month and present it as a “gift” from Uncle Alex.

    Of the two the Westminster government has acted the less-dishonourably towards those who helped them and it follows that my vote is currently a robust “No!”

    The way I would prefer this resolved is for London to repay the debt to SIC as promised and reduce their annual payment to Edinburgh accordingly; the petition is an essential plank in achieving that and we need the maximum possible number of signatures from local people.

    Every Shetland resident and ex-pat who wants justice for their island home should sign the petition without delay, show the politicians the local fury at their deceit.

    If Shetland became autonomous, say, as a Crown Dependency, with commensurate control of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) we would have sufficiently increased income to write off the debt as you suggest and I would consider supporting that.

    Reply
  16. Douglas Young

    An e petition requires 100, 000 signatures before Westminster takes notice, successive Governments have ignored, and will continue to ignore, both our MP’s and SIC’s requests for repayment, and while laudable it is pointless to expect a few 1000 signatures to make a difference.
    What I would like our local newspaper to do is investigate the huge sums of money being squandered by the local authority. Why is the SIC involved in running tugs, inter island ferries, planes and Tingwall Airport? Why are there staff sitting in the “White House” doing nothing but answering a few phone calls per day? Why are there staff sitting doing nothing in a well equipped workshop at Sella Ness? Why does education cost twice the national average? Why do we have three ferries running to three islands with a total population of less than 100? The list is endless.
    Why are journalists not digging out the answers? Please dig.

    Reply
  17. John Tulloch

    What’s this, “Groundhog Day”?

    Douglas, If you’re so anxious to know about these things why don’t you ask one of your local councillors, “Da Flea” is braaly weel up ita da cooncil noo an he’s no far awa fae dee, he’ll laekly tell dee whaar at geng wi’ diy questions at doo’s wantin ta gyit da answers fur?

    Reply
  18. Gordon Harmer

    Douglas, who is being asked to sign an E petition? This is about the repayment of a thirty odd year old debt to prevent council house tenants having to pay a substantial hike in their rents.

    Rather than support Shetlanders who need your signature to help put pressure on the Scottish government to pass on the £40 million. You are putting up a smoke screen by repeating yourself, repeating yourself to hide the fact that the SNP (your party) owe Shetlanders this money.

    Oh and by the way a very selfish smoke screen, some of which could only be presented by a sooth moother. If this is a taste of what independence would be like under your SNP heaven help us.

    Douglas, put aside your negative and selfish views and sign the petition for the sake of those who face massive rent increases.

    Reply
  19. David Spence

    I have to agree with Douglas in the Council’s past achievement’s and performance has been an absolute disgrace and almost to the point of laughable. I estimated the previous council wasted over £16.41 million in badly thought out investments or poorly thought out procedures in bureaucracy and the legal implications costing the council millions. Who was made accountable for millions of pounds going down the drain? Even today the council are still wasting millions in legal costs (why is it in every aspect of society our legal system seems to be the best and sometimes only paid benefactor???) chasing up compensation lawsuits, paying compensation, paying individual huge sums to remain quite, the list goes on and on. I feel that if the council past financial performance was better managed, we wouldn’t be in such a precarious position financially as what we are now in having to do drastic cuts in services and personnel. (Even although the Tories are spoon feeding up the bile of the previous government borrowing too much, hence the cuts……..utter rubbish and lies (a typical trait of a capitalist, lying)……it was societies biggest crooks (what irony) who were responsible……..these being the financial institutions, who have far too much power in how our society in run and controlled.

    Reply
  20. S V Jolly

    http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_LocalGovernmentandRegenerationCommittee/Inquiries/Submission_by_Shetland_Island_Council.pdf

    Within the above referenced document, it states that SIC Housing Revenue A/C borrowed £50 million during the 1970s and 1980s and the above petition link states it was for building over 1,000 homes – just what was the number because that’s sounding like a hell of a lot per housing unit, isn’t it? It further states: “The housing debt and the Housing Support Grant are inextricably linked and one cannot be solved in isolation of the other. In the papers to the Parliamentary Finance Committee it was suggested that the council should look to resolve the debt issue from its own reserves. The council’s Executive Manager – Finance has provided additional detail on the level of reserves, showing in detail the breakdown of existing reserves across funds. This shows that existing reserves are either committed for other purposes or are held by funds which cannot be applied to the HRA by statute.”

    Just how exactly are the existing reserves committed for other purposes?

    The SIC Submission also shows the housing revenue account expenditure for 2011/12 as:-

    Supervision & Management – 11%
    Repair & Maintenance – 37%
    Void Rents & Charges – 3%
    Capital Charges (Dwellings) – 49%

    So how come we’re still left with £40 million owing? I reckon a breakdown, year by year, showing all transactions would make interesting reading.

    Reply
  21. John Tulloch

    Susan,

    You are reminding me of an old Polish proverb I read somewhere else recently,
    you are “dividing the bearskin before you have killed the bear.”

    The petition is about the principle that the agreement should be honoured, the accounting pedants can haggle over the exact amount once the principle has been established.

    Are you opposed to the principle?

    Reply
  22. David Spence

    ‘ I reckon a breakdown, year by year, showing all transactions would make interesting reading. ‘

    I think it would highly good reading Susan lol Putting this aside though, it is not just this issue of what monies, if any, the Council are due back or for another Government body to adhere to an agreement regarding building works, it is other ill-fated project’s this Council have sanctioned and supported with catastrophic consequences financially which the public have the right to know what went wrong and who in the Council ultimately give it the go-ahead.

    Although the issue at hand is important, in the bigger picture, the Councils financial adviser’s have cost this Council, I fear, far more, in terms of expenditure, in proportion to the benefits either to the Council or the Shetland community eg. The Smyril Line fiasco, which is still costing the Council…..£6 million and counting.

    Reply
  23. S V Jolly

    @John Tulloch – You can’t agree to the principle of the agreement if you don’t know what the PRECISE agreement was.

    Reply
  24. John Tulloch

    Susan,

    The SIC has made a claim which to my present knowledge has been not been disputed by either Westminster or Holyrood officials or politicians, indeed, Westminster have acknowledged the debt by servicing it since it was first incurred until the agreement was usurped by the SNP government – hi-jacked – by their “annexation” of the annual payment from London.

    If that doesn’t offend your own principles of trustworthy government then you and I must agree to differ.

    Reply
  25. Robert Sim

    Since the Shetland Times appears to be keeping an eye on this thread, maybe they could for a change address the sexist, patronising (the corsets reference aimed at a female) and xenophobic language used routinely by certain contributors, in the light of their own stated principle that “Contributors must observe normal standards of…tolerance for the opinions of others.” The low point for me was the xenphobic comment that partiuclar points were selfish and ” could only be presented by a sooth moother.”

    Reply
  26. John Tulloch

    Robert,

    It’s a metaphor which I used in the light-hearted manner explained above and also recently used in connection with “Jack Sparrow’s” pompous, finger-wagging attitude towards Dr Susan Bowie which I have to say was rather similar to your own, puffed-cheeked, politically correct outrage – matronly.

    I very much doubt whether SVJ needs your patronising male protection which, given your “Yes” politics, comes over as a feeble attempt to divert the thread away from what is, for you and your petition non-supporting confederates, a particularly uncomfortable topic.

    Robert, you’re an intelligent person – think, then sign the petition and tell us when you’ve done it.

    Reply
  27. Gordon Harmer

    Wrong on two counts Robert, John has explained his again, so if you had read it the first time you would not look so silly. Secondly how can one sooth moother calling another sooth moother a sooth moother be xenophobic.

    Why not just go sign the petition instead of offering up pointless arguments

    Reply
  28. David Spence

    ‘ how can one sooth moother calling another sooth moother a sooth moother be xenophobic ‘

    It depends whether it is or isn’t across da border, Gordon…….possibly? lol

    Reply
  29. John Tulloch

    David,

    Do you support “Da Petition” and have you signed it yet?

    Reply
  30. David Spence

    No John, I haven’t signed the petition yet.

    The articles on this thread are very interesting indeed, and make good reading.

    I am on the fence at the moment.

    I do think, if you were to accumulate the total monies the SIC have wasted, if you take into account the monies been spent on certain bad investments as well as compensation due to incompetence it would more than likely surpass the £40 or so million which is being contested. lol

    Reply
  31. John Tulloch

    David,

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, you know that.

    Whether the SIC wasted money in the past is irrelevant to whether Alex Salmond is now entitled to hi-jack the housing support grant provided – IN GOOD FAITH – by Westminster to compensate the SIC for spending the aforesaid £40m and which will cost SIC council house tenants, who already have the second highest rents in Scotland, an increase of about 10%.

    Doesn’t that offend your socialist principles?

    Reply
  32. David Spence

    No John, it most certainly does not offend my political affiliations.

    If the Council are due back this money for the construction of houses prior to the construction of the Sullom Voe terminal, then it is only right and just the Council should address this and be repaid back the money.

    I must confess, I am not too uptodate on this matter in regards to the Council’s legitimate claim to get back the money due in previous times. If there was a written agreement or even a vocal agreement (whether in Scotland such an agreement is still legally binding?) then, as mentioned, the monies should be given back to the Council.

    My view, thus far, is :-

    1) However, was the monies involved the Council’s or the British governments or the Scottish governments? If the Council were given these monies as part of their housing programme to develop and build new houses for the construction of accommodation for the workers at Sullom Voe then it would seem the Council have no right to claim back this money.

    2) However, if the money was used purely for the construction of housing for worker’s at Sulom Voe and subsequent housing programme’s were cancelled or delayed as a result then the Council may have a point in claiming this money back which they were entitled too.

    3) What were the oil companies (benefiting from Sullom Voe) input into the expenditure of the construction of the accommodation for workers? Did BP offer any help, financially, in this construction project, and if not, why not?

    4) As far as I am aware, the SIC purchased from BP a number of houses at Mossbank, but have also demolished a number of houses as well at this location due to maintenance costs.

    My question is, if BP owed the houses before, during and after the construction of Sullom Voe, why were they not responsible for the paying of the construction of the houses and why was this cost transferred to the SIC????

    Reply
  33. John Tulloch

    David,

    Please read: Neither the Westminster nor the Edinburgh government dispute the SIC’s claim. Edinburgh has unilaterally seized Westminster’s annual payment to SIC.

    Will you not sign the petition – addressed to both governments – demanding the return of the money?

    Reply
  34. John Tulloch

    2500 ŚIC staff and their families – total, say, 4000-5000, all under threat from the cuts.

    The SIC is trying to get back the £40M it put up to expedite the flow of North Sea cash into the Treasury and the Shetland Times has launched a petition in support.

    Total number of internet plus paper (estimated) signatures on the petition is around 1500?

    Is it me? Am I missing something? It only takes a minute to sign, I can’t get my head around it, why have so few have signed?

    Reply

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