19th March 2018
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Community councils unhappy over multi-member SIC wards

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The Scottish government is to be informed, through MSP Tavish Scott, on the adverse impact that multi-member SIC wards is having on community councils.

This morning’s bi-annual meeting of the Association of Shetland Community Councils (ASCC) agreed unanimously to press the government over the issue, and call for a return to the former system.

Several of the chairmen present lamented the current situation in Shetland, where much larger areas are represented by three SIC councillors, particularly the North Isles which covers Whalsay and Skerries as well as Unst, Yell and Fetlar.

Two of the North Isles councillors, Robert Henderson and Steven Coutts, are from Yell, while the other, Gary Cleaver, lives in Unst. That means Whalsay, Skerries and Fetlar are effectively without an island representative.

There was often a lack of continuity, the meeting heard, with one councillor turning up a community council meeting and a completely different SIC member appearing at the next monthly get-together.

Any suggestion of including Bressay in a North Isles ward, which had already been aired in a previous discussion over joint liaison group delegates, was quickly kicked into touch by those present.

Yell Community Council representative Laurence Odie.

Yell Community Council representative Laurence Odie.

Yell member Laurence Odie said there was a massive difference between Bressay and the North Isles. You stepped off the Yell ferry and you were still a long, long way from Lerwick, whereas if you came of the Bressay ferry you were right in the middle of the town.

Unst representative Gordon Thomson said: “If a councillor from Unst has to attend a community council meeting in the evening in Bressay, after having been at meetings in Lerwick during the day it would be a very long day indeed.”

Mr Odie said since the new system was set up (two SIC council terms ago) it had been much worse for community councils.

“You don’t see the same councillor at a meeting two times running,” he said. “It’s been a backward step a far as our community council is concerned.”

SIC legal chief Jan Riise, who was present at the meeting, advised that representations would have to be made to parliament, which was responsible for ward changes.

Lerwick member Jim Anderson proposed that the ASCC contact Mr Scott about a return to single-member wards, which was unanimously agreed by the meeting.

About Jim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

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One comment

  1. Steven Coutts

    Just to add context to the quote from Mr Odie. I have attended 5 of the last 6, and 10 of the 13 Yell Community Council meetings held in the last year.

    When apologies have been given they are invariably due to clashes with other council commitments.

    Steven Coutts (North Isles Member)


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