23rd October 2018
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West Side woman enters council election race

With the council elections drawing closer, another candidate has said she will stand.

Debra Nicolson says she will stand as a council candidate in the West Side.

Tresta resident Debra Nicolson says she will be canvassing for votes in the West Side, with the school closures debate among the issues fuelling her desire to enter the council chamber.

“I attended one of the public meetings at Aith school and that was really well attended,” she said.

“Some of the ideas that people were coming out with on how we could save money and still keep the schools open – I was really inspired by that. I just don’t feel the council took that on board and they didn’t listen.”

Ms Nicolson is a former secretary of the Walls and District Show and is heavily involved in drama productions, including those with the West Side Players.

She said she would be keen to get out and about as a councillor and put the community’s views forward.

Hearing from others, she said the “main thing that comes up is decentralisation” and wanted to campaign for more affordable housing on the West Side.

“There’s this feeling that everything is being centralised in Lerwick with those 200-plus houses they are planning to build at Staney Hill. I believe there is a need for affordable housing,” she said.

More widely, she believed Shetland Charitable Trust should be more democratic and there should be directly elected members. Failing that she argued the trust should not reduce councillor-trustees.

As a plea has been made for more female local politicians, Ms Nicolson said she would also welcome more women and younger people on the SIC.

Ms Nicolson said seven women ran for the council last time, with three voted in “which is not bad odds”.

The current council cohort had done “a good job with the finances,” she said, though, “I think there are other ways of looking at things and maybe you need to look outside the box more”.

Transport is also an issue and she said she would aim to improve bus services to the West Side. Ms Nicolson added inter-island ferries was still a matter that councillors had to tackle as a lifeline service.

“I really want to get out there in the community and I want to push forward the issues people have had and they have not been listened to”.

About Adam Guest

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as a senior news reporter at The Press and Journal, The Barnsley Chronicle and as a freelance reporter for The Doncaster Free Press. Alongside news reporting I specialise in music and sports journalism. Pork pie lover.

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12 comments

  1. Jack Brunton

    What “school closures debate”?
    This looks like a pretty blatant attempt to gather votes.

    Reply
    • Debra Nicolson

      I was using this as an example of the council not listening to the community. But I am not convinced that the council will not try to close schools in the future, especially with continued decreased funding coming from the Scottish Government.

      Reply
  2. Iris Sandison

    Re ‘What “School closures debate?”…. just give it time!

    Reply
  3. ian tinkler

    Rural Schools under threat again!
    Gary Robinson, election manifesto, 17 April 2012. “We must recognise and support the achievement of pupils and staff at Aith JHS who gained some of the best exam results in the country. I stand on my track record of supporting schools in the Shetland West ward.”

    18:40 Friday, 13 September 2012. Radio Shetland interviewed Gary Robinson on , the eve of the Education Committee debate on school closure proposals.
    Councillor Robinson stated that “although I stood at the last election on a ticket supporting local schools, that he could not rule out support for closure of six schools.” Aith Junior High was one of those six.!!!

    TIME FOR A DEBATE PERHAPS. Go for it, Debra. We can vote for each other. https://www.iantinklerwildcroft.com/

    Reply
    • Gary Robinson

      It might come as a surprise to Ian Tinkler but I stand by what I said in my election manifesto.

      As for his quotation of what I said on Radio Shetland, the meeting he refers to took place after a dire warning that the council’s reserves would be gone by 2017 if we didn’t curb our spending. I don’t believe we could have given any guarantees in such circumstances, because if that had happened the schools would no longer have had the £8 million a year they got from the reserves.

      At that time, the council’s reserves had crashed through the £250m “floor” set by the previous (2007-2012) council and were rapidly falling towards the £150m mark. There would have been a very big hole in the Education budget if that had happened.

      But that is not what happened. Happily, this council has managed to turn around the reserves. The next council will inherit public finances in a much better state than they were when I was elected leader of the council. If Mr Tinkler cares to look, he will find that all the West Side schools are open. There are no current proposals to close any of them.

      Reply
      • Ian Tinkler

        So Gary Robinson, after serving on the Council for five years your were blissfully ignorant about the poor state of Shetlands Council’s reserves when you gave your pledge, to the children of Aith school, that you would fight to keep their school open.? Some five months later you realised your ignorance and suddenly decided you could no longer support these children and their school? Was it is only coincidental that was after the Council election you changed your mind about supporting that school! One can not help but ask why did you give such a pledge when in ignorance of the state of Council reserves and finances? Surely as a serving Councillor (2007-2012) it was quite wrong to give pledges when so ignorant and incompetent of the facts!!

      • Ali Inkster

        The turn around in the reserves has more to do with the turn in the stock market Gary and precious little to do with anything this council has done.

  4. Mona Walterson

    At a council meeting in February, 2015, it was decided to put any school closures on hold until at least 2017. We are now nearing the end of February 2017. Debra Nicolson is right to voice concerns and I will be very happy to giver her my vote at the SIC elections in May.

    Reply
  5. ian tinkler

    Jack, please note the dates. The Bogey man is just silent until the elections are over!!! “The Councillors backed a recommendation by the Education and Families Committee to put the consultations on secondary departments at Mid Yell, Whalsay, Baltasound, Aith and Sandwick schools on hold till at least 2017, when the children’s services department will come forward with a revised timeline.”
    https://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/2015/02/18/council-puts-school-closures-on-back-burner

    Reply
  6. David Spence

    I fear the situation with the schools as well as other Local Authority supported finance will get considerably worse in the years to come.

    No thanks to the Brexit lot (England) and a Tory Government hell bent on dismantling state run services and replacing them with the private sector, the Council will fined it exceedingly difficult to keep education and other services running before they capitulate and dance to the song the Tories are singing……..it will not be the SNP, as their strings are still controlled by the Tories.

    Compounding this situation further will be the trade deal with the USA (the one and only reason the Tories had the EU Referendum) and where market forces will dictate the standard and quality the private sector will provide (in most cases, due to the mentality of profit first, service second – a substandard system) which will be pretty poor in all respects.

    Given Shetlands location and small population, it is almost a certainty Shetland will be of the lowest order and priority.

    Shetland can become independent and free to make its own future, the better. Shetland can do it, and should do it.

    Reply
  7. ian tinkler

    David Spence, is right, this comes down to the very survival of rural communities on Shetland upon which, the entire culture of our islands depends. Do not look to vile Tories, Trump and Brexit, but just look a little closer to home. Funding cuts from the SG/SNP, £7 million plus to Shetland with greater cuts expected. These cuts are throttling Shetland. That at a time, when the UK Torie Government has increased grant monies to Scotland, the SG/SNP cuts funds to us!! The very funding of our essential Shetland services, ferries, schools and health services are threatened with becoming unsustainable. Even the political Leader of the SIC, Gary Robinson of OIOF fame, has admitted as much. An autonomous Shetland, with control of Shetland Finances and fully self-sufficient Shetland assemble/ council could easily afford, these essential Shetland services.
    The alternative is bleak, further Government funding cuts, Schools threatened and closed, endless centralisation, just an austere continuation of what the SIC Political Leader that has delivered for the past five years.
    http://www.shetnews.co.uk/news/14083-new-ferries-deal-in-2018-vital-to-protect-services
    https://www.iantinklerwildcroft.com/porkies

    Reply

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