Listening to SIC councillor Alistair Cooper, on a recent radio programme, commenting somewhat gloomily about the looming economic horizon facing Shetland was a sad reflection on the ability of this and past council administrations.
I’ve always been cognisant of the phrase “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”, not a philosophy the SIC has demonstrated any understanding of in past or recent years. However, all is not lost and Mr Cooper’s doom and gloom synopsis can be addressed.
Firstly we need a brave new band of elected members to take control and make some long-awaited changes in the town hall.
The years of focusing on Lerwick at the expense of the rural areas has accelerated in this administration and needs addressing with urgency. So too does the planning system in the isles which seems more focused on either putting up barriers of red tape, delays, unsustainable costs to outright opposition to folk trying to live and get on with things.
The rural parts of Shetland have the potential to feed us if encouraged, supported and nurtured, but this is now in serious jeopardy if the present strategy of enticing and forcing folk to move closer to Lerwick and its overspill areas of Scalloway, Gulberwick, Tingwall, Weisdale, etc is allowed to continue.
I am seriously thinking of standing in the next SIC elections but it will not be on any of the dysfunctional and tired manifestos of the past.
I seek to reverse the ideology of this and past councils by scrapping the local plan and coming up with a local planning system that encourages rural initiatives and is purposely skewed in favour to support country areas.
No more rural school closures and developments that are in favour of crowded Lerwick. We need policies, a serious political will and development ideas to encourage opportunities and developments in rural Shetland.
We need to cut the commuting to over crowded Lerwick and the SIC (our biggest employer) to support home working for staff who can and want to work in their community.
It’s high time we had a vision and some debate on what folk want a future Shetland to look like, the concept of us all living in or around Lerwick is a social and economic cancer, as is the lack of support for rural Shetland with its diminishing and fragile support close to collapse.
It may even be time to come up with ideas or solutions for Shetland and stick two fingers up to the Scottish government, the EU or Cessminster if that is what is needed to do things that suit the isles.
It’s high time we told Holyrood, Brussels or London what we are going to do to find solutions to a continuously marginalised island way of life, but only after we fix the failure of our elected rural representatives, sitting in the town hall continually thinking only of Lerwick.