Five independent candidates and a Tory hopeful are to fight it out for the privilege of replacing Iris Hawkins as the Central Ward’s third councillor in next month’s SIC by-election.
Conservative candidate Clive Richardson joins outgoing SIC head of children’s services Stephen Morgan, Shetland Aquaculture chief executive David Sandison and GMB union representative Robert Williamson in putting in their declarations ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s deadline.
Independent and window cleaner Ian Scott and former UKIP candidate Scotty Van Der Tol had already signalled their intent to stand. In the ward’s first preference vote in 2007’s council elections, Mr Scott came fourth and Mr Van Der Tol eighth.
The election was triggered by Mrs Hawkins’ departure in September. The all-male race is being staged only five months ahead of a full set of council elections and comes against a backdrop of SIC plans to cull £18 million from its annual budget over the next two years.
Mr Sandison said he would expand on his political views in the weeks leading up to the 15th December poll. He said it was important for Shetland to “encourage the right people to get involved in representing the community”, because it was not easy for people with family and business commitments to live off a councillor’s salary. If elected, he plans to combine SIC duties with his current job.
“I’m standing because I’m already actively involved in all sorts of different levels of representation, both in the work environment and in the work I do on a voluntary basis,” he said. “It seemed like a logical progression to step up to the plate and get the sleeves rolled up when there are a number of significant issues not just for our ward but for the whole of Shetland.”
Mr Morgan, 39, took voluntary redundancy during the SIC’s recent management restructuring and said his knowledge of the organisation gave him the necessary experience to “give something back” to a community which has given him and his family so much.
“We’re hearing a lot of conflicting stories around doom and gloom, we’re bust financially and all the rest of it,” he told The Shetland Times. “I know how serious the situation is, and it’s not doom and gloom if we actually get our house in order.”
Born in Hartlepool, Mr Morgan moved to Shetland as a child in 1984 and spent his secondary school years at the Anderson High. He returned to Shetland with his family in 1998 and has been employed as a social worker since.
His work has required him to take “tough decisions” daily and then stick with them, and he hopes to help the SIC become more politically decisive. He wants to help ensure Shetland “continues to be one of the most attractive places to live and work in the country”.
Mr Williamson, who works as a maintenance technician at the Gremista energy recovery plant, spent four years seconded to represent workers in the protracted single status pay negotiations. He said that had felt like “serving an apprenticeship” and learning all about the council’s inner workings.
“Whatever the council does, we are in a situation where things need to change,” he said. “But it needs to be thought through and done in conjunction with the community and the people. We’re in a critical time for what happens to Shetland. It will shape the future of these islands.”
He sees the by-election campaign as a great opportunity to generate debate about the council’s spending priorities in advance of May’s nationwide local authority elections. Mr Williamson wants the council to be “as open as we can be” and to approach the financial crisis “in an informed way”.
“We really need to understand what it is we’re doing and the impact that has. We need to be as open as we can about where we’re at, how we wish to go forward and why. We need to communicate with one another [and] play to our strengths, as opposed to fighting with one another.”
48-year-old Mr Richardson, who works at Sullom Voe Oil Terminal and lives in the North Mainland, says he has a keen interest in the local political and economic scene. Born in Lerwick, he spent many years with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (RRF) before returning to Shetland in 1992.
In a short press release he said two RRF creeds were “I will never accept defeat” and “I will place the mission and the team first”, both of which would be “particularly applicable” to the islands’ local authority in the coming years.