The two main issues (Vic Thomas)

Now we know the brave souls who are putting themselves forward for the thankless task of being a local councillor, electors can focus their desires, concerns, suggestions etc and ask their candidates what their aims and objectives are.

To focus minds aside of individual community issues, there are two key issues facing the next council which need highlighting.

Firstly the matter of year-on-year local authority cuts. It’s going to get far worse than past councils have faced and as the SIC mantra has seen the biggest or intended cuts centred on rural communities, be it school closures, gritting, rural development, housing, etc, we have a growing divided community far worse than the Viking Energy issue.

The SIC’s philosophy for years of “target rural communities” for savings – has seen hundreds of people move to the Lerwick overspill townships of Scalloway, Tingwall, Whiteness, Whiesdale, Gulberwick and as far south as Sandwick – has created a real divide. Further focus on cuts will disproportionately increase this in favour of all things Lerwick.

The second serious issue is SIC planning. Shetland has the most draconian planning system in Scotland and nothing to do with Scottish government regulations. It’s down to a weak SIC, led by dominant senior planning officials who operate a local plan that is not fit for purpose any more and can be changed in the town hall easily.

Shetland is the most expensive council area in Scotland in which to build a shed, house or anything. It’s not the cost of shipping wood or whatever into the isles, it’s the planning, building regulations (which now insist on very unhealthy air tight houses) and rip-off building costs. The same house in most parts of Scotland is half the Shetland cost per square metre.

Aside of this the arrogant planning attitude that Shetland is a wealthy community and they can rip folk off shows. The SIC and planning do not understand how difficult it is for young or less well of folk to find loans, mortgages, etc for building. Many Scottish councils allow amazing low cost housing options recognising the fiscal and onerous regulatory conditions.

The new council needs to rope in senior officials who think they are more in control than elected members and are supported by a 40-plus years of an independent council with no joined-up plan.

So the two main issues facing a new council are:

1. Lerwick versus the Shetland rural community.
2. Planning. Councillors can change the disfunctional local plan and seek new and innovative affordable housing.

The reduction in central government funding is only as bad as the poor vision or lack of ingenuity. There are many ways to solve funding issues if the choking regulatory framework is amended to suit the current conditions.

Vic Thomas


Add Your Comment
  • James Paton

    • April 9th, 2017 0:38

    Only two Vic? It’s the economy (sustainable) stupid! What a narrow minded, negative, uncreative and visionless manifesto to put before the people. A manifesto of ideas and approaches i.e. positive messages might be a better approach. Going ‘negative’ is just so easy. The vast majority of the Shetland electorate are spectacularly disinterested in their collective future, and have been for many years now, as election after election at UK, Scottish and more importantly local level.

    • Vic Thomas

      • April 10th, 2017 22:19

      In response to James Paton.

      I am not standing in the elections James so I’m not in any position to put forward a manifesto, I did consider it a while ago and had a manifesto suggesting several positive ideas but came to the conclusion positive ideas would fall on many pairs of Independant ears and be lost in the melle.

      My concerns were not negative and conversely if the two issues I referred to were addressed many doors for new ideas, businesses and housing could be encouraged.

      I question your simplistic view of “sustainable” and what do you mean about “economy” ?

      Companies who pollute the water or the air folk downstream / downwind drink / breathe talk about “suststsinsble profits”. Sustainsbilty is one of the most misused terms. Ditto “economy”

      Who’s economy are you refering too? The whole of Shetland? What’s does that mean? If your a young couple in Hillswick or Yell and want to build or improve a house, start a business or want your future bairns to go to school in the area, your economic outlook is very different to folk in Lerwick where houses are going up all over the place, new school, new businesses and all the other services.

      Ok you choose to live where you live but if political, regulatory requirements, their costs and long term council cuts encourage folk struggling to live in rural parts, to move closer to Lerwick your creating an even bigger problem as sites in Tingwall etc become too expensive and planning demand you build what they want but not you, your creating a nightmare scenario.

      If the SIC are seen by the SNP government or whoever might take over in the future, that they are encouraging (by dint of the difficulties their administration forces folk in rural areas to move closer to Lerwick) you could see a government say to Shetland ” you choose to live there etc so we are further cutting your grant support and if you don’t like it move to Aberdeenshire”

      It’s amazing his many ideas are out there but when ideas are stifled because of regulations, delays & costs, it’s a real shame.

      Vic Thomas

  • Ian Tinkler

    • April 9th, 2017 12:23

    Let us put this very simply. The Scottish, SNP administration wants independence from the UK as its primary (and only?) goal. Shetland and its natural resources (oil, wind, and fish) are vital to finance that independent Scotland. Could Shetland Island Council be in a stronger bargaining position? I doubt that, yet, “An Audit Scotland report showed that Shetland had lost 23 percent of its funding over the past seven years.” With more savage cuts to come from the Scottish Government anticipated. Just why does our “political leadership!” on the council do nothing? Not even a moan but just a “toadying up” to various Island Ministers and political nonentities. If I am privileged enough to be elected, I would not even talk to these MSP/ SNP ministers outside a video link, until the grant cuts to Shetland are reversed. OIOF what a disaster for Shetland, 10 plus meaningless expensive meeting and absolutely nothing of merit achieved! Full autonomy should be our goal, but first, the 23% Grant cuts reversed. It is time for our Council to grow some teeth.


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