David Clark’s father Ian, who is renowned for securing Shetland’s multi-million pound oil funds while chief executive, has made a robust defence of his son, blaming an orchestrated campaign by a “coterie” of people who were determined to uncover faults and failures from his son’s past for his premature departure from the same post.
Mr Clark Jnr left office on Wednesday after receiving a tax-free payment from the council of £250,000. SIC convener Sandy Cluness insisted it was a fair deal, warning that sacking Mr Clark might have led to an expensive and revealing court case.
The decision has provoked an angry backlash among members of the public, with a second protest march planned for Saturday where the organisers hope people will voice their disgust at the payout and demand that councillors stand down and subject themselves to Shetland-wide by-elections.
But in a letter to The Shetland Times, his first since he left the isles in 1976 and what he describes as his “last”, Mr Clark Snr says David Clark is a “good son” who has more ability than he ever had. However, he has been subjected to a torrent of abuse which he has “met with almost superhuman self-control”.
He says his son would have been dismissed had he dished out the kind of written and verbal abuse he had received from a number of councillors.
“The outcome of this is that David is leaving the post with a ‘settlement’. I suggest that the reported size of this, together with the joint statement issued by the chief executive of Cosla and the lawyer who is representing the council, indicate where responsibility for the unhappy episode lies.”
Mr Clark Snr says that during his time in Shetland he, too, experienced considerable and aggressive criticism with rumours being spread in order to raise questions on my integrity”.
He suggests that Shetland could potentially benefit to a greater extent from renewable energy and the development of the West Shetland Basin than it has from North Sea oil.
“However, the community will never be able to calculate the financial loss which they will have suffered as a result of the vindictiveness which has led to the recent chief executive leaving his post.”
He goes on: “The majority of Shetlanders will be unaware of the intensity of the efforts of the orchestrated efforts of a coterie who have been determined to uncover faults in David’s past. (Which of us would welcome such detailed scrutiny of every aspect of our lives?) However, having found nothing of substance one false document was produced – to no lasting effect.”
In a separate development, isles MP Alistair Carmichael launched a withering attack on the council. “I cannot pretend to agree that this payment is an acceptable outcome for a situation in which the council should never have put itself,” he said.
“I have never doubted the good faith of our councillors but there is no doubt in my mind that they have got this one wrong.
“I expect that going forward there will be a full public hearing at the hand of the Accounts Commission. There we will learn the extent of the failure of the council, including senior officials. The fact is that the council is too dominant a force in Shetland life to be allowed to fail.
“So while councillors must be accountable for what they have done to the community, the first priority now must be to find a competent chief executive who can give some stability and strategic direction to the council. Councillors must be prepared to listen to the community and to give some leadership.”
For Mr Clark’s letter in full, see this week’s Shetland Times.