That councillors have conflicts of interest in their dual roles as trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust and, for some, as board members of Viking Energy Ltd, no-one seems to be in any doubt. With specific reference to the proposed windfarm, the council’s head of legal said so unequivocally two years ago. In his opinion for the trust on governance reform published earlier this year, Roy Martin QC indicated that there were many instances where councillor-trustees faced conflicts of interest, although he was more nuanced in suggesting occasions when they had common interests. And now Public Standards Commissioner Stuart Allan, judging by the comment at the end of his report this week in which he welcomes moves to ensure the trust is made more independent of the council, shares this view.
Yet he appears to be saying that so long as these conflicts of interest are acknowledged and made public all is well, and councillors have a duty to the community to sit in judgement on the Viking project at the various stages they are required to by law. If so, the case for a public inquiry surely becomes overwhelming, with that forum having the de facto role of critical overseer that councillors with their vested interest in voting for the project (although not all did) could not perform de jure. :: :: :: :: At long last councillors are beginning to take action on combating fuel poverty in the isles rather than just talking about it. The prima facie case for monopolistic abuse by GB Oils is very strong. The more people and organisations that can make this case to the Office of Fair Trading, the better.