Review of the Year – July: The SIC and Tesco dominate discussion

All eyes turned to the Town Hall and the hearing held by the Accounts Commission into the SIC’s recent activities. Having landed in the hot-seat, the council’s new chief executive, Alistair Buchan, promised to adopt a collegiate approach to getting the authority out of its mess as he prepared to take the helm in August.

Convener Sandy Cluness accepted the idea of a truth and reconciliation process to help the council heal its wounds and move, hopefully, into a brighter future.

He said he shared the sense of outrage about the payoff to Mr Clark, which by now had been disclosed as £285,000.

Local government organisation Cosla had been asked by councillors to explore any potential for taking disciplinary action against Mr Clark before settling on the six-figure payoff.

The hearing heard the SIC might have had to stump up £2 million in compensation to Mr Clark because of the way he was publicly criticised by some councillors.

Mr Clark, meanwhile, claimed he had inherited a rudderless local authority when he started as chief official at the SIC. He warned it could take a fresh set of elections before the council is able to move on from the damaging events it had been through.

Senior council colleagues of assistant chief executive Willie Shannon discussed deleting his job, without his knowledge, the hearing heard.

MP Alistair Carmichael said the ugly dispute within the council had tarnished the SIC’s reputation.

The structure of the charitable trust and its relationship with the council also came under the spotlight. Chairman of the Accounts Commission John Baillie said it was “straining credibility” to claim there was separation between the two bodies when a deal was sanctioned by the same people on both sides of the divide.

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, we learned the SIC needed a radical “culture change” to tackle a daunting budget shortfall of £17 million next year, which was likely to see jobs cut and a declining level of services.

Elsewhere, councillors decided to patch up the ailing Whalsay ferry infrastructure, hoping that external funding might become available in the future which could provide fixed links for all the large islands.

Pupils at closure-threatened Scalloway Junior High School staged a protest during school-time after local councillor Iris Hawkins failed in an attempt to reverse a decision to begin statutory consultation on shutting the secondary department.

There was disappointment for another council member too. Rick Nickerson resigned as SIC culture and recreation spokesman after fellow members voted to press ahead with charges for music tuition.

Local sailing enthusiast Leslie Irvine and his co-skipper Andrew Wood finished third out of nine in their class at the end of the Shetland Round Britain and Ireland Race.

Council planners vowed to closely scrutinise Tesco’s extension on its opening amid persistent concerns fears the expansion of the South Road supermarket would hamper small businesses in the town centre.

However another planning oversight meant Tesco had no restriction on how many non-food items it stocked in the extension.

Meanwhile the owners of World Tastes in Commercial Road said they feared becoming the first victim of the store’s expansion after the supermarket giant began stocking many of the same products at cheaper prices.

The response in Readers’ Views seemed largely in favour of the supermarket giant.

A luxury yacht worth £10 million visited Lerwick. The Lady B arrived in the isles after a post-launch cruise around Norway. She was followed a week later by the 160 ft T6, which cost £28 million to build over eight years.

Councillors Jim Budge and Addie Doull were censured after being reported to the Standards Commission for failing to declare a financial interest in the Shetland Livestock Marketing Group when they pushed for it to receive a £25,000 grant, although in the end the allocation was halved to £12,500.

Organisers behind the Relay for Life event in aid of Cancer Research UK were blown away by the impressive final total: £224,164.

The SIC marked the 10th anniversary of its graduate placement scheme, with 132 people taking part over the past decade. Forty-six of those went on to full time employment with the local authority.

Fears Whalsay would be reduced to a one-ferry operation because the Hendra had to be scrapped due to MCA rules were allayed by the SIC. The second Vunk Fest began – the three-day festival of non-traditional arts and, predominantly, hard rock music promising to be twice the size of last year’s inaugural event.

Significant changes were needed at NHS Shetland to help it cope with the squeeze on public finances over the next five years. The board was faced with a need to trim £1.4 million from its annual £45 million budget.

Strong winds almost forced one of Britain’s biggest fishing vessels, the Hull-registered Atlantic Princess, aground near Collafirth.

Another vessel was in trouble, though in a very different way. It emerged more work was needed to reduce excessive noise levels on the Fair Isle ferry Good Shepherd.

Dr Ian Tait was named the new curator for Shetland Museum.

Shetland Arts was looking to spend over £1 million on an ambitious plan to expand its Bonhoga Gallery and cafe in the Weisdale valley.

The late Shetland musician Peerie Willie was entered into the Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies.

A recruitment drive was started by Shetland Arts as it prepared to open Lerwick’s new cinema and music venue, Mareel.

Fishing industry leaders called on the European Union, as well as the UK and Scottish governments, to get tough with Faroe and Iceland over their large, self-imposed increases in mackerel quotas.

Shetland Museum showed a canon recovered from a ship off Fair Isle from the Spanish Armada.

There was alarm as seabird populations declined steeply.

Children in the isles were at equal risk of abuse or neglect as in the rest of the UK.

A study claimed the Shetland community’s stake in the new windfarm could lead to the creation of three times more jobs than would be the case if it only received community benefit payments from a standalone developer.

In sport Delting beat Scalloway 6-4 in the Fraser Cup semi-finals, while Whalsay defeated Whitedale 5-2.

Whalsay snatched victory from Scalloway in a gripping Manson Cup final which ended in a 3-2 scoreline in extra time.

Athletes Bobby and Katie Bristow went to Fife to compete in the Scottish Athletics National 3k championships, with Katie securing a silver medal for her efforts.

The 81st annual Brae Regatta was held, with 10 yachts taking part and spinnakers out in force and making a fine spectacle in the breezy conditions. Regattas were also held at Aith and Skeld.


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