Shetland’s former chief police inspector Malcolm Bell has announced he will stand for election to the SIC later this spring and sounded a warning that the very future of public services in the islands could be under threat.
Mr Bell will stand in the Lerwick North ward and has immediately vowed to fight any attempt to merge the council with other local authorities, which he said would be “an unmitigated disaster for Shetland”.
In a reference to various crises which have afflicted the local authority, Mr Bell said he had been “disappointed” at some of the headlines the SIC has attracted in recent years.
He said it was vital the council gained more confidence within the community by providing “strong, effective and cohesive leadership” in what is set to be a “make or break” period.
Mr Bell warned that the SIC must guard against sleepwalking into a future where the community is “reduced to sending a handful of representatives to meetings of some future strategic ‘Highlands and Islands Authority’ in Inverness”.
Police and fire services are already being centralised and the number of health boards could also be reduced, and Mr Bell warns that if it doesn’t get its act together, the SIC could be next.
“We must remain responsible for our own destiny and with it the ability to apply local solutions to local problems,” he stressed. “I firmly believe that Shetland’s best days are still ahead of it but we will only realise this if we build trust and make fair, considered, transparent decisions.”
Mr Bell retired from the Northern Constabulary in late 2009, having become the first Shetlander to hold the area commander post in the islands. He is an honorary sheriff, sits on NHS Shetland’s board and is involved in adult protection and several voluntary organisations locally.
“One key factor of my entire public career, from the police to NHS Shetland, is my strong belief that the only way to get things done is through working openly and honestly as part of a team,” Mr Bell said.
“Throughout my career I have always believed that working with honesty and complete integrity is not only right but produces the best results. I’ve always put Shetland first and have worked hard to build strong, trusted and effective partnerships.
“We are, without a doubt, stronger together. If elected, I would continue to strive, with others, to ensure partnership working is as effective as possible in order to maintain and where possible improve standards and remove barriers to delivery.”