20th November 2018
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SIC has learned from Bressay Bridge debacle, says outgoing chief executive

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The council has attempted to draw a line under the Bressay Bridge saga and has taken steps to prevent a repeat of the costly debacle from happening again.A report compiled by chief executive Alistair Buchan claimed lessons from the fiasco, which ensued from the council’s aborted plans to bridge the harbour, had been learned.

In February the SIC resolved its long-running dispute with Lerwick Port Authority by stumping up £4.8 million. LPA had argued the council was responsible for it having to temporarily abandon dredging plans at Lerwick Harbour.

When the settlement was announced external legal advice made clear there was no individual error, meaning the payout was not covered by its insurance.

However at yesterday’s Full Council meeting Jonathan Wills attempted to have the report rejected after claiming human error was at play. He failed to secure a seconder to his motion that insurers Zurich be approached again.

Mr Buchan’s report stated current practices are “significantly different” to those in operation at the time of the project.

“Whilst in common with all major projects there were matters that could have been handled differently, no evidence has been presented to me that demonstrates there was failure to abide by the policies and procedures prevalent at the time, albeit in a couple of cases it would appear requested reports were not submitted.

“Senior counsel has also confirmed there is no reasonable prospect of levelling any charge of negligence, error or omission against any SIC employee.

“It is also clearly stated that the decision to seek interim interdict was taken with appropriate delegated authority having regard to the relevant facts and circumstances and based on advice from external solicitors.”

In the main, the changes have meant tightening up the procedures which might lead to special “emergency powers” being invoked.

At least four more people need to be consulted than before, when only one person – either the convener or vice convener – had to be consulted by the chief executive.

“The current requirements are for the chief executive or directors to consult with all ward members (three or four individuals) plus the leader or chair of the appropriate committee,” the report stated.

“Any one of the individuals consulted may make representations against the proposed course of action prompting a rethink or change of mind.”

However the council does not absolve itself of responsibility.

Mr Buchan’s report added: “I do not believe that anyone would disagree that, with the benefit of hindsight, different decisions could have been made throughout the process.”

In the town hall yesterday Dr Wills argued Lord Reed’s 2007 judgment showed an element of human error among officials.

“I move that we don’t accept the report and approach the insurers again,” he said. He described the legal advice provided as an appendix to Mr Buchan’s report as “six pages of legalese hogwash.”

Political leader Gary Robinson argued the report should be noted. “This is a long, drawn out sorry saga,” he said.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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