Brave souls and morality (James Paton)

Ignoring my father’s advice, 25 years ago this May, I stood for Shetland Islands Council.

Talking and listening to people about their concerns made it easy to win against the then sitting, but largely absent councillor, Mr Cluness!

The same absence of leadership and now morality seems lacking in the “new leader” Josie Simpson, given his stance on ethical investment. He demonstrates he knows the price of everything and value of nothing – ironic perhaps for him given he is presiding over a dying fishing industry? Any young ethically minded souls in Whalsay willing to take him on in 2012?

Your piece regarding councillors Nickerson and Wills calling for ethical investment of the remaining oil funds was of personal interest. The immorality of investing “charitable funds” in unethical companies, like many oil companies, led to my resignation from the oil industry and council alike.

No-one then, not even my so-called socialist council colleagues, would back ethical investment. Has Shetland remained so immoral? We were investing money in oil companies and others who were horrendously exploiting developing countries, while at the same time taking the same companies to court for their unwillingness to pay a fair rent for the terminal site.

Sadly “doing the right thing” was lost on the rest of the councillors in 1988 despite the clear evidence I confronted our “city” financial advisers, Rothchilds, with. They conceded we would have had a greater longer term return if oil funds had been ethically invested.

Poignant, don’t you think, that 25 years on, with Shetland finally joining the real world and suffering unnecessary cuts, which it escaped in the 1980s, it seems that only two of Shetland’s current councillors have any moral values. Well, at least it’s a 100 per cent improvement on 1988. Another great irony is that some of Shetland’s so-called civic leaders are freemasons, whose central tenets are supposed to be morality, charity and truth!

The word “councillor” implies sagacity and something that usually comes with age, not lost by it. If ever there was something in short supply on the “aged” council, wisdom appears to be it. Age then is not clearly synonymous with wisdom.

Civic leadership, good governance, listening to and democratically engaging with people as equals on the important issues of the day are seriously lacking in Shetland, as elsewhere.

Such disinterest, particularly in such a small community always perplexed me. Perhaps my grandfather, once a communist, was right in saying during the worst excesses of the oil era, “they’re just not hungry enough to care”! Does it really take poverty to bring people to their senses?

Many abdicate their civic and moral responsibility by not voting, never mind standing for office. The same people will moan, complain, gossip and take pot shots at councillors and about the nature of politics and bad decision-making, but do nothing about it.

The immorality of modern, local or national, politics (Greek for “of, for, or relating to citizens”) is well demonstrated by Blair’s Iraq war, Brown’s lack of bank regulation and now the Lib Dems (Tavish and Alistair) shedding all their values (if in fact they ever had any in the first place) to sup with the Tories, who never had any moral values anyway and remain elitist, uncaring, greed merchants, exemplified by the Bullingdon boys – Cameron and Osborne.

So with the three main political parties morally bankrupt, and the SNP selling out on independence, it doesn’t leave you much choice in the coming Holyrood elections.

But hold on, Billy Fox is standing for Holyrood. Given his tremendous courage and personal effort in standing up to the local and invading Viking Energy greed merchants, Shetland now has its own doughty fighter at last.

Having a minority Scottish government is a great time to have an elected representative for Shetland, who is not party bound, free thinking and ethical. Politics and the Scottish Parliament needs people like Billy, with his commitment and integrity, not spoiled by shallow and betraying party politics.

Billy believes in a better, more sustainable and fairer future for all Shetlanders, not the few landed gentry and business class. Good luck to you Billy, you deserve to win and Shetland really needs you in Holyrood.

James J Paton
5 Southfield Terrace,
North Yorkshire.


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