Editorial: The Old Rock 20.08.10

While much of the Accounts Commission findings following its hearing on Shetland Islands Council is unfortunately written in lawyer-speak, when you extracate the main thrust from the jargon the council comes in for some heavy criticism.

Monday’s report identifies an absence of clear, decisive and consistent leadership and also describes the council’s approach as haphazard. But unfortunately no blame is apportioned to individuals, either councillors or senior officials, which gives those at the top ample opportunity to conveniently abnegate direct responsibility.

Convener Sandy Cluness has vowed to work with his colleagues to implement the commission’s recommendations, no great surprise given there is no serious challenge to his leadership from within the council. If there were such a challenge, from a majority of members, he has consistently maintained he would step down.

Mr Cluness and new chief executive Alistair Buchan appeared to be singing from the same hymn sheet this week when they both suggested the report should be a catalyst for change. Whatever transformation emanates will hopefully be evident soon, and a way forward can be found without an endless series of dialogue. The council needs to restore confidence and equally importantly veer away from the stalling culture in which it has become embedded, which can only happen if the waters ahead are less turbulent.

A professional and serious approach to delivering improvements requires everyone to be working together, and recent vows to bury the hatchet should be carefully monitored. The issues ahead are too important for petty squabbling.

As for former chief executive David Clark, whose brief tenure coincided with the most tumultous period in the council’s history, he appeared to be making plans to sail off into the sunset this week. The words “haste ye back” do not exactly spring to mind.


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