Hopes have been voiced that the old St Ringan’s church building will be ready to play host to council meetings before the end of the current SIC term – a move which would take political debate away from the Lerwick Town Hall.
South Mainland representative George Smith says he believes the decision taken before the pandemic to re-purpose St Ringan’s as the heart of council debate will be “good for democracy”.
The old church building is being vacated by the library service as part of its move to the refurbished old library building further along the Lower Hillhead.
Elected members agreed on the £1.6 million rejig in June 2019 amid concerns the existing town hall chamber was no longer fit for purpose.
Speaking today [Monday], Mr Smith said he hoped the old kirk would be ready to house council meetings before next year’s May elections.
“Hopefully, what will be ready before the end of this council will be the new chamber,” he said.
“The intention is still to have the chamber in St Ringan’s.”
He added it would depend on how fast any work required at the old church building could be done.
But he stressed those participating in meetings would see the benefit of having the new location.
“The layout, the design, would be much more sympathetic to having good facilities for those involved in the meeting – whether that be councillors, the media or members of the public wanting to hear the debate.
“That would be an improvement, and that can only be good for democracy.”
His comments come in the midst of a lengthy hiatus in council meetings, with the next cycle only due to begin from 15th November.
That cycle is also likely to be the last run of meetings this calendar year.
However, in a significant move, meetings are once again likely to be held in person, with elected members having the option to request to dial in remotely, should they wish to do so.
Mr Smith said he believed most councillors would prefer to attend in person, although he added: “The hybrid model is probably here to stay”.