Online clash prompts councillor to quit Wir Shetland

An apparent weakening in Wir Shetland’s solidarity has emerged after an SIC councillor became embroiled in an online spat with the organisation’s chairman.

Amanda Westlake has quit Wir Shetland following an online fall-out with chairman John Tulloch. Photo: Peter Johnson
Amanda Westlake has quit Wir Shetland following an online fall-out with chairman John Tulloch. Photo: Peter Johnson

Amanda Westlake stepped down from the autonomy group on Monday, citing “aggression and bullying” as the reasons behind her decision.

According to group secretary Duncan Simpson, another two people have left the group in sympathy with Ms Westlake – although other sources have put the figure at four.

The row developed on a private online forum when Ms Westlake, an SNP member, asked Mr Tulloch if a poll had been taken before Wir Shetland pledged its support to Lib Dem candidate Tavish Scott.

However, Mr Tulloch immediately challenged Ms Westlake over her position on the future of the SIC’s schools. He said he had heard Ms Westlake had “new ideas” about managing the school estate.

That related to comments raised by Ms Westlake in the chamber, and previously reported by this newspaper, about the possibility of merging Sound and Bell’s Brae primaries to help save on £1.5 million in running costs.

Wir Shetland strongly supported the campaign against rural school closures.

However, the council has now defended its position after Mr Tulloch alleged to this newspaper that Ms Westlake was leading a proposal to adopt a “large-scale rationalisation of the schools estate” in order to help pay for a mega primary.

That is hotly contested by Ms Westlake and council officials, who insist a policy not to examine school closures until next year still stands.

Director of children’s services, Helen Budge, said: “It is council policy not to look further at the school estate until 2017.”

Speaking to this newspaper, Ms Westlake said a quick trawl of forum comments had shown aggression and hatred against the SNP.

John Tulloch says he is mystified at claims his approach was
John Tulloch says he is mystified at claims his approach was “aggressive”.

For his part, Mr Tulloch said he was “mystified” as to how he had been aggressive, and insisted Wir Shetland remained strong and committed to its cause.

However, the row does bring unwanted attention in a week which has already seen Wir Shetland criticised for its decision to boycott the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s visit to the isles.

Ms Westlake told The Shetland Times: “I am very disappointed that, when I asked the chairman, John Tulloch, if Wir Shetland had done a poll with its members to back Tavish Scott and not the SNP, that he refused to answer the question at first.

“It’s the aggression, and the tone. What right does anybody have to speak to another human being like that?

She added: “I personally felt his [Mr Tullcoh’s] response was aggressive, and I play no part to aggression or bullying in any organisation.”

But Mr Tulloch said he was “mystified” as to how he had been aggressive.

He insisted the Wir Shetland group remained strong and committed.

“I thought it was straightforward. I simply pressed her on a question of whether she supports the campaign to save the rural schools against closure.

“She refused to answer consistently. I pressed her on that point and she resigned.

“I don’t know how big their commitment was in the first place if they are leaving over something like that,” he added.

• More on this story in Friday’s Shetland Times.


Add Your Comment
  • George Dickson

    • April 6th, 2016 19:14

    “That is hotly contested by Ms Westlake and council officials, who insist a policy not to examine school closures until next year still stands.” That is no doubt true, but when you want to do something you have to do the groundwork first – and that includes altering the public’s viewpoint so that there is more chance of them backing you.

  • iantinkler

    • April 6th, 2016 19:19

    Sad to see Amanda go, but no real surprise. No doubt the Nationalists will love this, but I feel it is for the best for “Wir Shetland”. Her timing is perhaps just a little too political to not have been fore planned and wholly intentional. No doubt we will see her featured repeatedly on “Yes Shetland”.
    Amanda Hawick
    19 September 2014 · Lerwick ·
    I am sorry to hear The first minister Alex Salmond has resigned. I have to take my hat off to him as he had the balls to change British politics forever and ever. I send him my best wishes and hope he gets some quality time with his family, what a man:-))

  • Robin Stevenson

    • April 6th, 2016 20:15

    Jeez!….Well that didn’t take long for the cracks to appear?… I’m ‘mystified’ myself why ANY member/supporter of the SNP would choose to be actively involved with the rebranded/renamed Lib/Dem organisation?…Oops!…I mean ‘WIR Shetland’.

    Frankly, and in fairness, I’ve never found Mr Tulloch to be particularly ‘aggressive’, on this and other forums, [Ok, maybe just once] and I do wish him luck with the WIR group, but I’ve never really understood why they chose to latch on to a dying party? Not only in Scotland, but in the rUK?… WIR Shetland could have been much more successful dealing directly with the Scottish government with NO affiliation to ANY political party, the opportunity to put their case forward was lost by [bizarrely] ‘boycotting’ the first minister’s visit to Shetland. But, Hey ho!…Lesson learned?….Perhaps.

    • iantinkler

      • April 6th, 2016 22:30

      Robin Stevenson. You know just how I feel about Nationalism and its supporters. It is clear “Wir Shetland” may lose a few members whom would rather have a nationalist MSP, than suport Tavish in a tactical blocking move. My opinion only, as always as I am speaking for myself, thank God, with supporters like that , who needs enemies. Wir Shetland will be far stronger without them. The lesson learned here is that we a certainly better off as a group, with the wheat separated from the chaff. We are far better this happened now when so little damage can occur. It is a far less damaging for “Wir Shetland” than Sillars antics are to the SNP!! “FORMER SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars has said he “couldn’t care less” if the party expels him for campaigning for its left-wing rival RISE in May’s election.” He was deputy head of the SNP, frequently endorsed by Salmond and sturgeon., Amanda Hawick held no office at all in Wir Shetland and as far as I am eware, this is her first ever contribution to Wir Shetland!!

  • Henry Condy

    • April 6th, 2016 22:27

    Robin, I see we are back to statistics and mind confusing numbers when it is so simple, for example if you have ten thousand people ( Take your time gents ) and nine thousand don’ t vote , ( it’s not mandatory although it should be ) the one with the highest count out of the remaining thousand wins. SIMPS, night all.

  • David Spence

    • April 6th, 2016 23:19

    In this particular case, I think John was wrong to push Amanda into a situation where she had to disclose Council matters. Quite rightly, I think, she was correct not to get into Council matter’s in regards to the subject at hand.

    I also think it was wrong of John to act on behalf on ‘ Wir Shetland ‘ in supporting Tavish Scott. As Amanda has said, this matter should have been to a wider audience within Wir Shetland for it to be debated and a decision made.

  • Tommy Robertson

    • April 7th, 2016 10:25

    Backing Tavish is not a “tactical blocking move” when he is the only realistic prospect to win the seat. It is at most a cheap PR move at the expense of what fragile cohesion Wir Shetland had.

    • Ian Tinkler

      • April 7th, 2016 11:56

      Tommy Robertson, Well I did not see, and never did any PR gain for Wir Shetland here, just that supporting Tavish is the best and only move to block the Nationalists taking Shetland. If WS is so fragile, now would be the best time to find out. However, either way WS has certainly made its mark on Shetland. One only has to see the SNP response to WS from day one to see how WS has concentrated minds. It is this type of response which is putting huge publicity out for WS, Shetland autonomy being the name of the game, not Nicola’s hollow promises.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • April 7th, 2016 13:15

        “Supporting Tavish is the best and only move to block the Nationalists taking Shetland”, ..Really?

        So let’s get this right! You and WIR Shetland would sacrifice your own [and everyone else’s] political beliefs, NOT to benefit Shetland, NOT to have a bigger say in Scottish politics, NOT for the betterment of these islands, but to simply ‘Stop the SNP?’….My o my, How progressive you’ve shown yourself to be Ian?… No wonder Amanda resigned?

  • Ian Tinkler

    • April 7th, 2016 14:51

    Robin Stevenson, as I have written, many, many times , I do not write for Shetland, I express my own views. Wir Shetland, does not, like the SNP muzzle peoples views. You will have to ask Amanda her reasons for resigning, from W S. She claims to have the entire electronic transcript of her conversation with John Tulloch. I have asked her to publish, as yet she has declined to do that. As I have stated very frequently, my views on Nationalism, are like Einsteins and De Gaules,”Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.” – Albert Einstein
    Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first. Charles de Gaulle
    Stop the SNP, certainly, Shetland will never benefit from Scottish Nationalism.

  • Kathy Greaves?

    • April 8th, 2016 14:25

    That Amanda Westlake who is a committed SNP supporter joined WirShetland raised some eyebrows as the two groups have some diametrically opposed purposes, aims and beliefs.

    WirShetland aims to be self-governing with interests markedly different from Scotland and the rest of the UK, not just because of our remote location in the North Sea, but historically and culturally too. None of this would be in the SNP manifesto I guess, not having read it myself.

    Cllr Westlake complained that the WirShetland group, via the committee, had chosen to back our MSP Tavish Scott in the forthcoming elections without referring to all its members. Did the SNP leader refer to all of Scotland or have a poll amongst its members to ask if they wanted to remain in the EU or to leave?

    No. But I don’t see any indignant newspaper headlines about this, not a word. Maybe they are not afraid of holding double standards, thinking the public won’t notice.

    Also we all should be concerned about some rural schools closing: it is right that this issue should brought to the attention of the public now and not at the last minute when it is a fait accompli.

  • Kathy Greaves

    • April 8th, 2016 14:31

    Furthermore, to say that being asked a question twice is being bullied would say to me that Amanda has never been bullied, just ask anyone who has suffered from real bullying. Don’t suggest it was the tone of the post either, as online posts can be read in whatever manner the reader wants.

    Is it not better that the media reports on the real issues which are affecting these islands and not pander to attention-headline-seeking news bites.


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