More time for hard thinking (Brian Smith)

Councillor Allan Wishart has been telling us that it is essential to press ahead with £26 or £33 million of cuts right away, to ease pressure on reserves. If that doesn’t happen, he warns, the funds will disappear, and future generations of Shetlanders will suffer.

Mr Wishart is reciting the council’s budget report of last September, which gave councillors one option and one timetable. Instead of scrutinising it carefully, and considering what the results of such an extreme prescription might be, they swallowed it whole. They have wasted six months.

There is a major problem about the council’s reserves, but, as the unions have been warning for months, a massively sharp shock will cause big problems for Shetland and Shetlanders, now and in future.

Even at this late date the council can reconsider last year’s report, and conclude that Shetland needs more time for hard thinking and hard discussion about her current problems. The latest budget document, created at the last moment and full of last-minute ideas, and the whistling-in-the dark report from Hutton, are not a basis for the calm decisions that need to be taken.

Brian Smith


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  • Gordon Johnston

    • February 8th, 2012 15:16

    Just as a follow- up to what Brian Smith has posted, if you want to see what happens when massive cutbacks are made ito public services, go down to a London borough like Chingford, population about 60,000. The MP for the constiuency is Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory Cabinet minister in charge of welfare “reform”. Class sizes in primary schools are now commonly over 30- and, many of the children don’t have English as thir first language. The previous Government’s anti-poverty Sure Start scehme has been virtually destroyed, The library in South Chingford – the poorest half of the borough – has been closed, leaving only the in leafier North Chingford still open, – no surprise there.

    People in Shetland should be very proud of the excellent services and facilities we enjoy here – not seeking to “emulate” conditions elsewhere. And, of course, if we slash public services, the private sector will suffer too. The other day I saw a privately-owned bus dropping some school- children off with their teacher at the Shetland museum and archives. In large parts of England, budgets for similar educational and sports trips in state schools have been more or less abolished. Is this what we want to see happening n Shetland?

    I’ve just been to the Archives. About 100 years ago, there was a move a -foot in Shetland to suspend the Truck Act (passed twenty or so years previously) , to allow merchants once again to pay knitters in goods rather than in cash. Amid the ensuing correspondence in the Letters section, I noted one from “KEETIE” , in Aithsetter, North Cunningsburgh. (August 25th, 1908). “Now, in the beginning of the twentieth century”, Keetie concludes: “No woman in Shetland can be so ignorant as to wish to go back to the horrors of the Truck System. No! Let us gor forward, not backward . Fancy the emancipated slaves petitioning to be allowed to go back to slavery again. Are we to petition for leave to bind ourselves to the hosiery merchants? No; a thousamnd times no! “. What a pity, Keetie – whoever she was – is not around, a century later, to stand for the SIC elections in May, 2012.

  • Sandy McMillan

    • February 8th, 2012 19:10

    Allan Wishart is watching over his own back, if Shetland requires to use the Reserve Fund when time are hard then so be it, rather the Oil Reserve money helped the community, than Viking Energy LTD

  • Peter Jamieson

    • February 16th, 2012 21:28

    When Gordon Johnston says

    “Class sizes in primary schools are now commonly over 30- and, many of the children don’t have English as thir first language.”

    I wonder whether he is really implying, as suggested by the surrounding paragraph, that the children not “having English as their [sic] first language” is somehow the fault either of those children or of some recent policy change by the U.K. government that has somehow denied them the ability to communicate in English.

    I hope not, because I believe that the population of the UK is overwhelmingly more generous towards newcomers to our islands than politicians on either the left or the right, locked in their tedious and interminable struggle, really manage to admit.


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