Robinson reacts against MSP’s claims

The council’s political leader has reacted against calls by a Highlands and Islands MSP for the SIC to think again about school closures.

Gary Robinson says the authority still has “some way to go” before it can realise the “brighter picture” painted by the SNP member Mike MacKenzie – despite ongoing efforts to become sustainable.

Last week Mr MacKenzie voiced concerns about proposed changes to the school estate, which the council says could save over £3 million.

The MSP also spoke about the “renaissance” in the oil and gas sector, along with a potential for 3,000 renewable jobs in the next decade.

However Mr Robinson says Mr MacKenzie’s argument fails to add up. He says a government promise – highlighted in national media – that local communities will be allowed to keep millions of pounds of tax generated by the controversial practice of fracking would be of little benefit to the isles.

He has also pointed to the low price of gas and the delayed completion of the new gas plant at Sullom Voe.

“I noticed Mike MacKenzie’s comments … around how much better off the council’s going to be,” said Mr Robinson.

“I have to question the figures he’s looking at. The income we’ve had from the oil industry has been significantly reduced due to the downturn in throughput.

“The income we expect from Total due to fracking and such like is not likely to be anything like what we anticipated.

“The price of gas is low and the Total gas plant is behind schedule, so we won’t be getting that income as soon as we thought we would.

“I think we’ve got some way to go before we get the brighter picture Mike MacKenzie is talking about.”

Mr Robinson said the council was making progress in “pegging back” its spending from reserves. However, he pointed to reductions in government grants which made sustainability a “moving target”.

“We expected to spend 20-odd million from reserves. That’s likely to be pegged back to the teens of millions.

“On the debit side, though, we are expecting smaller grants from the government in the next three consecutive years.

“I think there is a very good chance indeed that the council will be sustainable next year, but sustainability is going to be a moving target for the foreseeable future due to the fact that our grant is reducing.

“At the end of this council we’ll have around about £10 million of notional loan support, where only a few years ago we had £16 million. There are still some real challenges out there.”

He insisted the SIC was progressing well in its drive to live within its means.

“There is no question we have made vast progress from the position we were in. In 2011/12 the council overspent by £36 million.

“Had we done nothing that would have been £42.7 million in 2012/13. Since the beginning of this council to have reduced the deficit from £42.7 million to somewhere in the teens is a phenomenal achievement within two years.

“I don’t think we can afford to take the foot off the pedal just yet. There is no such thing as nearly sustainable.”


Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • May 17th, 2014 14:59

    Gary Robinson confirms above the abject failure of ‘Our Islands, Our Future’ (OIOF) to negotiate anything of value for the isles.

    SIC is expecting lower government grants over the next few years, there’s an achievement!

    Three months to go until the “once in a lifetime opportunity” referred to by Messrs Bell and Robinson expires and to “the creatures outside” it appears that not a single tangible concession has been agreed.

    Apart, that is, from the announcement of a government “consultation” on the provision of a submarine cable to facilitate that most popular of projects (not!), Viking Energy.

    Of course, given that councillors in SIC and Shetland Charitable Trust have been falling over themselves to get a submarine cable, they doubtless consider this a major achievement, a triumph for their negotiating skills.

    Never mind that Westminster and Holyrood are both desperate to export industrial scale renewable energy to remote locations, the SIC set out to get a cable and after some excruciatingly tough negotiations in which they have been forced to set aside all notions of increased autonomy – against great odds – they have succeeded.

    Well done, boys!

    And Shetland has really been put on the political map of Scotland, the plaudits are pouring in.

    Malcolm Bell has been appointed inaugural vice president of the newly-formed Scottish Provost Association and Gary Robinson shares the Glasgow Herald’s ‘Local Politician of the Year’ award with his Orkney and Eilean Siar OIOF confederates.

    “No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” (George Orwell, ‘Animal Farm).

    • Ivan Coghill

      • May 17th, 2014 19:50

      “Some pigs are more equal the other pigs” … the symbols of inequality are rich within peerie Shetland … never mind in the comparison with the rest of the UK … and there is no consciousness of this in the Shetland media or among the populace … Hays Dock Cafe, for example, price excludes half of the population of Shetland from a public educational facility … the communitarian ethos in Shetland died some time ago.


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