When under attack, hit back. This ancient tactic was on display in spades this week following the barrage of criticism the council and Cosla received after the decision to give SIC chief executive David Clark a £250,000 payoff. And, predictably enough, The Shetland Times was in the firing line for having had the temerity to suggest that an alternative course of action could have been pursued.
Ostensibly, we live in a democracy, so it hardly seems necessary to reiterate the paper’s right to voice opinions in this column on local affairs. Inevitably, some readers will not agree with them, and it is right that this should be so. The fine detail of the settlement with Mr Clark has still to emerge; some of it will remain confidential. But given the history of this awful episode, much of which is a matter of public record, it was indeed possible to reach an informed opinion – one shared by the MP, himself a former lawyer, the MSP and others with detailed knowledge of the case – rather than spout bar-room wisdom.
Not so, says the chief executive of Cosla, Rory Mair, in a defamatory letter this week. For the record, Mr Mair, no story in The Shetland Times is ever based on tittle tattle, as you state this one was: corroboration was sought and obtained from several sources.
It is clear Mr Mair, who has persistently refused to comment to the media on the affair (hence his lack of knowledge of those asking the questions), feels aggrieved that details of the financial settlement with Mr Clark leaked out despite his warnings to councillors that this must not happen. He might think it woeful, but journalists exist to tell the public things people in power don’t want them to know – The Shetland Times would have been failing in its duty to its readers if it had not sought to discover details of a financial settlement being made, in secret, in the community’s name. We will not be intimidated by Mr Mair or anyone else from continuing the practice.