20th November 2018
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Review of the Year – February: Chief executive walks away with pay-off

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Anger over the council’s antics reach­ed boiling-point when SIC chief executive David Clark walked away from his job after less than nine months with a £250,000 pay-off. Councillors had agreed to offer the six-figure sum after meeting in private at the Town Hall, although they did not take a vote. It would later transpire that £285,000 was closer to the mark.

Sandy Cluness said he hoped a line would be drawn under the sorry state of affairs. But over 100 pro­testers marched from the Market Cross to the Town Hall in protest over the decision, as well as other costly mistakes by the SIC. Mr Cluness, meanwhile, inflamed anger further by insisting the protest should not have taken place. “I think marches on the town hall are not the way to go about these things,” he said.

Chief executive of the local gov­ern­ment organisation Cosla, Rorie Mair, said in a statement he did not believe the public should be dis­cussing Mr Clark’s pay-off. That left it to Mr Clark-senior – former council chief executive Ian Clark – to defend his son’s name. He said David Clark faced a “torrent of abuse” which he met with “almost super-human self-control”.

Meanwhile, in the chamber, councillors surprised themselves – as well as the entire community – by ordering a last-minute investigation into digging a tunnel to Whalsay to rid the isle of its ferry service. Members voted to bring in a Scandinavian sub-sea tunnelling ex­pert to check out the seabed between the Mainland and Whalsay.

The move was seen as worthwhile – especially as the council could not afford to continue running its ageing ferry fleet. But how would the news go down in Whalsay when the community was already embroiled in a dispute over where a new ferry terminal should go? Would the plans help broker peace or confuse the issue further still?

Troubled building firm JHB announced it was set to lose 21 employees, in light of the delayed Utnabrake houses in Scalloway.

The council made an effort to get to grips with the issue surrounding care centre charges. After juggling around with the figures, head of community care Christine Ferguson said the most any care home resident would have to pay was £831 per week.

Mystery surrounded the death of well-known local character, Jimmy Leask, otherwise known as Jimmy “Col”. His body was found in the snow north of Tingwall near the burnt-out remains of his hired car.

Bad weather continued to play havoc with local services. School children were given time off as the blizzards arrived, which caused trouble for some teenagers due to sit prelim exams.

At least the schools service said it would look at finding better ways of communicating school closures to parents after complaints were received. The new manager of social enterprise company Cope resigned to move to the Scottish mainland. Peter McCann had been in post less than four months.

The Scottish Ambulance Service pledged a second emergency am­bulance would be up and running in the isles by the end of March following a number of embarrassing incidents – the latest when a sick oil worker landed at Clickimin had to be transferred to hospital in a rented van.

Oil giant Total was granted planning permission for its £500 million gas plant at Sullom Voe.

It had agreed to alter its plans so local businesses could benefit from the lucrative construction pro­ject.

Alyn Cosker’s album, Lyn’s Une, was described as “stunningly in­novative” ahead of gigs at the Town Hall in Lerwick and in Bigton where the Scottish jazz funk drummer would play.

Councillors voted against spend­ing over £10,000 of public money to help send three dancers to take part in the hand-over ceremony at the end of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, although – as time would tell – three people from the isles would, indeed, make the trip to India.

MSPs in Edinburgh decided the SIC should not lose its powers of responsibility for fish farms. The decision followed a parliamentary debate to finalise amendments to the Marine Bill legislation.

The task of reforming Shetland Charitable Trust was kicked into the long grass by Sandy Cluness. Proposals which could have seen changes to the way the trust is governed were thrown out until after the next council elections – although this potentially thorny issue would resurface before the year’s end.

Airport operators HIAL pledged a consultation exercise into unpopular plans to introduce car parking charges at Sumburgh Airport.

A man died in a forklift accident in Unst. Geoffrey Davies, 57, was killed in the accident at the mussel factory at Ordale, Baltasound.

Meanwhile the findings of the long-awaited fatal accident inquiry into the death of Brae builder James Thomson were finally released. The 26-year-old had died when a can of expanding foam exploded into his chest as he was working on a house in Levenwick in March 2007. But while sheriff Graeme Napier cleared Mr Thomson of any blame for the accident, he failed to establish exactly why the builder died.

The unwelcome spectre of job cuts was raised at the council as the SIC struggled to afford its services and increasing wages bill brought about by the single status agreement.

Cut-backs led to a fight to pre­serve free music tuition in schools. Rick Nickerson described the move as “a tax on talent”. He failed in a bid to prevent its approval at the Full Council, although that was not the last we heard of the issue.

Farmers and crofters were denied a special opt-out from the Scottish government to help them escape the effect of electronic sheep tag­ging, an unpopular policy which had been introduced at the start of the year.

Hamnavoe Primary School was forced to close its doors for four weeks after a fire damaged the gym hall. Arrangements were made for pupils to attend Whiteness Primary while repairs were carried out.

It was revealed that young bad­minton enthusiast Zoe Irvine was to benefit from a replacement kidney in a transplant operation. The new organ was to be donated by her mother, Jill Bentley.

Hjaltland Housing Association announced the completion of 16 flats at the former site of William­son’s Fish Factory at Grantfield in Lerwick, now known as Da Vadill.

Retired Lerwick solicitor and honorary sheriff, George Peterson, died at the age of 82.

Girls’ football in the isles ben­efited from a grant of over £4,000 to help buy new equipment and fund extra training sessions and development.

Fifty yachts had entered the year’s Shetland Round Britain and Ireland Race, sponsored by the SIC.

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