Defending democracy

In principle integration between Shetland Islands Council and NHS Shetland is a sound idea.

By working together the organisations should be able to reduce the duplication of work and ultimately provide better services to the public.

Yet, as with all public services there has to be accountability. This is where early plans to see the NHS and SIC work more closely are already beset with complications.

Smirk's take on proposals form an NHS-SIC committee.
Smirk’s take on proposals form an NHS-SIC committee.

The responsibility would be immense as the committee would decide how to run services including mental health, dentistry and social work.

But how are the members of the health board to be held accountable by the public?

If poor decisions are taken at least the electorate can have their say on the councillors involved. There is no such recourse for non-elected members, some of whom are appointed by and responsible to government in Edinburgh. Who is to say they will serve the best interests of Shetland?

A similar scheme has already been introduced in Orkney, with senior sources expressing concern about the set-up.

This latest plan would worryingly see decisions made by “consensus” rather than majority. If it goes ahead it will be another example of democracy being diminished.

The fact that several councillors have been prepared to speak out against the idea is promising.

The public must be able to hold its decision-makers to account. It would be wise to exercise the democratic right to protest against this proposal.


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