The SIC is clubbing together with representatives of industry, charities and public bodies for an exercise aimed at identifying what the Shetland community should strive to achieve over the next two decades.
Professor Peter McKiernan of St Andrews University, who has worked on similar plans with the Scottish Parliament and a number of large local authorities in Scotland, has been roped in to help renew the community’s long-term strategy, a piece of work entitled “scenario planning”.
A workshop next month will construct different scenarios aimed at better understanding how the community can prepare itself to cope with various possible eventualities, including dealing with an ageing population, changes to transport links and expansion of the renewable energy industry.
Shetland’s community plan is now seven years old and, given significant changes to the economy and the grim outlook for public spending in the aftermath of the financial crisis, councillors last month agreed it was time for an update.
Members of the public are being asked to contribute to the research by completing a short six-question survey on the future of Shetland, which can be found at www.shetland.gov.uk/policy.
Acknowledging that some would inevitably be sceptical about such an exercise, SIC chief executive Alistair Buchan said it was important to bear in mind medium and long-term future when developing policies. He said the financial climate was “absolutely horrendous” and “certainly the worst I can remember”, which made it all the more important to plan properly in order to “get the maximum out of every pound you spend”.
Speaking at a media briefing today, council political leader Josie Simpson said it was vital to work as closely as possible with other public bodies, the voluntary sector and key industries. While Shetland has a “buffer” in the form of its oil reserves, he recognised it was critical to maintain that nest egg for future generations.
Mr Simpson is joined on the “scenario planning” working group by councillors Betty Fullerton and Allan Wishart, as well as Mr Buchan, executive services director Hazel Sutherland and head of economic development Neil Grant. In addition there are representatives from NHS Shetland, Lerwick Port Authority, the charity and voluntary sectors, and industry reps covering marine and aquaculture.
The isles’ two members of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Nicole Mouat and Emily Shaw, are also taking part. Ms Shaw said it was a “really good opportunity” for young people to have input into shaping the Shetland community’s future.
Research will include interviews with a wide range of individuals and groups, followed by a workshop in which different scenarios will be constructed on 9th and 10th June. The findings will then be presented on 27th June.