Councillors have decided against taking any action in response to three petitions presented by local people expressing concern with the council’s decision making structures, the impact of the Viking energy wind farm project on the islands’ peatland as well as Shetland’s future energy security.
During a meeting of the full council on Wednesday, councillors decided to note all three petitions without discussing any of the detail presented.
Council officers have not been requested to prepare further reports on the points raised in the petitions.
The first petition, which questioned the extent of delegated authority powers used by officers and alleged that councillors were regularly left in the dark, generated some discussion about transparency, councillors’ access to information and the difference between perception and reality.
Having previously asked to address councillors, the petition’s lead signatory Susan Jolly had been sent the link to enable her to join the meeting via Microsoft TEAMS but when called to deliver her deputation she wasn’t available.
Council leader Steven Coutts then moved to note the petition, saying he was satisfied with the way the council works and did not feel in any way “disfranchised” from the community.
”I have been elected into this role on behalf of the community and feel perfectly comfortable in that role,” he said.
“I am also perfectly comfortable with respective roles and responsibly as councillors and our officers.
“I certainly feel not disenfranchised in any way; I feel in control as a councillor and I would question members who feel otherwise, and I am perfectly happy that we note [the petition].”
However, deputy convener Cecil Smith moved for officers to produce a report on the issues raised to enable councillor to discuss the content of the petition.
He said that if ”the community feels that we are not in control” then councillors need to take that seriously. Councillor Moraig Lyall seconded his amendment.
Councillor Ian Scott was then ordered by council convener Malcolm Bell to switch off his microphone after the member for Shetland Central said that information he had requested from council officials in past had not been “satisfactory and far from complete”.
Bell reminded councillors that they were discussing whether reports should be written on the issues raised, not the issues themselves.
Councillors George Smith and Davie Sandison both stated that they have never had any difficulties receiving the often complex information they had requested from council officials.
Following a roll call vote councillors decided by 14 votes to seven, with one abstention, to note the petition.
Referring to the construction of the Viking Energy wind farm, the second petition asked the council to act on its decision of recognising the global climate emergency and thus cease its support for any project that would destroy the islands peatlands, which act as a valuable carbon sink.
Again, council leader Coutts moved to note the motion saying he was satisfied that appropriate processes to assess renewable energy projects and the climate value of peatlands were in place and its recommendations followed.
An amendment by councillor Lyall to instruct officers to produce a detailed report on the subject matter was heavily defeated by 18 votes to two, with a couple of abstentions.
The third petition asking councillors to consider replacing the Lerwick power station with a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant triggered no debate and was noted without going to a vote.
Being contacted after the petitions had been heard, Jolly said she had downloaded the Microsoft TEAMS software and had been instructed to wait in the lobby using a link she had been sent previously.
“I was online and got no meeting request to join on the iPad and had previously advised the SIC it was a different e-mail address to that configured on my main PC,” she said.
“It is disappointing that given this is the first time a member of the public has attempted to join a meeting that there have been technical issues and given that the SIC had my telephone number, that it would appear no attempt was made to contact me in the event that any councillors had any queries to answer/to ascertain if it was a technical difficulty.
“As it stands at the time of writing this e-mail, I cannot even contact the SIC to convey my apologies for technical difficulties (the internet has been patchy this morning too).”
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