Central mainland councillor Betty Fullerton is to replace Gussie Angus as chair of the SIC’s services committee, which is responsible for decision-making on schools, social care and housing.
Her appointment seems certain to be a short-term measure, as the committee is widely expected to be broken up into several smaller areas of responsibility as part of restructuring plans being undertaken by chief executive Alistair Buchan. Elected members are expected to discuss those changes at some point next month.
Mr Angus stood down a fortnight ago citing personal reasons, though there was speculation that he was frustrated at a lack of support from other senior politicians – including convener Sandy Cluness and vice-convener Josie Simpson – over plans to shut a number of rural schools.
Councillor Allison Duncan said he was “very disappointed” to see Mr Angus move on from the position, before gaining 12-2 support for Mrs Fullerton to take on the role. Councillor Gary Robinson said he had some “difficulty” with the appointment given the need for chairmen and chairwomen to stand by the decisions of their respective committees.
As vice-chairwoman, Mrs Fullerton in December went against the recommendation of Hayfield officials in voting to keep Scalloway School’s secondary department open. Speaking to this newspaper after today’s SIC meeting, she said her vote then had been in line with her constituents’ wishes, but accepted there would now be some onus on her to support any future recommendations to shut schools.
“I don’t think it’s an issue,” said the former chairwoman of NHS Shetland. “It was proven in the chamber that by far the majority of members didn’t think it was an issue either, and I’ll do the job to the best of my ability. I wasn’t looking for the appointment but I think as vice-chair it’s your duty to step up.
“I’ll look at each [of the possible primary school closures] individually, but as chairman I will have to support whatever comes out of the consultation and discussions with officers.”