Powers could ‘devolve’ Sumburgh airport to Shetland, says Wills

A candidate in the upcoming Scottish elections is calling for the SIC to use powers for Sumburgh airport to be “devolved” to Shetland.

The SNP’s Tom Wills has suggested the council could use the Islands Act to take control of the airport.

His move follows concerns about Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd’s (Hial) plans to centralise air traffic control from Sumburgh to Inverness, costing local jobs.

In a blog post published this week, Mr Wills said the SIC could use the act, which was created to “empower” island communities, to take control of services and contracts.

As well as the airport, Mr Wills suggested the Aberdeen ferry contract and the management of Shetland waters, including the Crown Estate revenues from salmon farms, could be taken under local control.

“These things need to be considered carefully,” he wrote.

“For example, Shetland cannot afford to fund the external ferry contract, but who is better placed to influence the tendering process than the people who depend on the service?

“The mechanism for devolving powers to Shetland is there if we want to use it.”

Mr Wills said there were “strong arguments” for more localised powers by empowering Shetland’s community councils and the SIC.

He called on rival Lib Dem candidate Beatrice Wishart to support his calls to empower community councils.

He highlighted figures showing how the UK had “abnormally large” council areas, compared with the rest of Europe.

Mr Wills said the 2014 independence referendum had “kicked off many debates” around democracy, including the “Our Islands, Our Future” campaign, which led to the Islands Act.

“This piece of legislation means the Scottish government must consider any requests for more powers to be devolved to councils,” he said.

“The SIC is currently considering options for political and financial self-determination, but has yet to submit any specific requests for more powers.”

Mr Wills said community councils were “the fundamental unit of local democracy”.

While he acknowledged those in Shetland were better funded and more active than many others, he noted their budgets were small, limiting their activities.

“I think we should explore whether community councils could own assets and how we can encourage younger folk to get involved,” Mr Wills said.

“This really comes down to giving them more clout and more cash.

“That money will have to come from somewhere, but I think we should be putting put a higher value on this base layer of local democracy.

“I support self-government for Scotland not as a matter of destiny, or any sense that Scotland is more special than anywhere else – but as a means to an end and a means of empowering communities across Scotland.”

Mr Wills’ blog can be read in full on his tomwills4shetland.org website.


Add Your Comment
  • Steven Jarmson

    • April 2nd, 2021 18:40

    Wasn’t it the snp who ignored the recommendation to devolve the crown estate to local, coastal communities.
    Now, Wills thinks the cult leader will give away the power she has been grabbing.
    Snp only division and mistrust.
    They fear strong communities.


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