Big changes ahead as senior council posts set to become vacant

WITH SHETLAND Islands Council’s leader and convener confirming their plans not to stand in the May election, there will be change at the top in the chamber.

But Steven Coutts (Shetland West) and Malcolm Bell (Lerwick North) are not the only senior members deciding to call time on their council career, with experienced development committee chairman Alastair Cooper (Shetland North) also retiring.

The next local government election is taking place on 5 May and, like some previous years, there stands to be a shake-up in the make-up of Shetland’s council.

Added into the mix this time is an expected increased emphasis on party politics, with the Scottish Greens and the SNP set to field candidates. So far two Green candidates, Alex Armitage and Debra Nicolson, have declared they will stand.

So, what about the other members of the 22-strong Shetland Islands Council? Less than ten of the sitting councillors have so far declared their intention to stand again, meaning there is plenty of opportunity for those interested in becoming a councillor and representing their community.

Lerwick South member Peter Campbell says he will be hanging up his boots. The former teacher was first elected in 2012 before being returned five years later.

Lerwick South member Amanda Westlake is worried about the impact a three per cent council tax rise will have on the working poor.Lerwick South member Amanda Hawick. Photo: Shetland News

Amanda Hawick, who also represents Lerwick South, said she is “almost certain” to throw her hat into the ring again.

She was recently appointed as an executive board member at The View magazine, which gives a voice to women in the justice system, but is confident of having the time to stand again.

Hawick said the best thing about being a councillor is representing the electorate. “Since my first election in 2012, I have dealt with hundreds and hundreds of constituents issues with great success,” she said.

She is likely to be joined on the Lerwick South ballot by John Fraser – who currently represents Lerwick North and Bressay.

Having spent over 20 years in Nederdale, the councillor – who now lives at the Observatory – feels it appropriate to shift wards.

Lerwick South’s Cecil Smith said he has not made up his mind yet, while Stephen Flaws, who won a by-election in the ward in November 2019, could not be contacted.

Councillor Stephen Leask will also be standing again.

In Lerwick North and Bressay Stephen Leask is planning to stand again in the three-councillor ward.

He said he has felt “very honoured” to represent the area since being elected in 2017.

Meanwhile, Shetland West’s Catherine Hughson and Theo Smith both said they were mulling things over.

Due to boundary changes Shetland West is to drop from three councillors to two, with Shetland Central expanding to four, bringing the total number of elected members to 23.

Here Ian Scott is keen to throw his hat into the ring once more. He said he has enjoyed the role – especially the “small things where you can make a difference”.

Both his fellow councillors Davie Sandison and Moraig Lyall said they needed more time to make up their mind whether to stand again.

Sandison said he wanted to speak to family and other councillors as well as weigh up his other interests before making a decision, while Lyall said she had been “grappling” with the question for some time but had not yet reached a conclusion.

In Shetland South the council’s only non-independent member, the SNP’s Robbie McGregor, said he would like to stand but his party is going through the usual selection process.

SIC councillor Allison Duncan described the minister's comments as a "pretty negative response".Southend councillor Allison Duncan.

South Mainland stalwart Allison Duncan is happy to confirm his intention to stand again as he still has “unfinished business” to attend to.

Education and families committee chairman George Smith, the third of the South End councillors, said he has not made up his mind but will have done so by the final committee meeting on 7 March when he plans to declare his intentions.

Following changes to the boundaries of council wards, Shetland South will be represented by four councillors from May onwards.

Among those who are expecting to stand again is Shetland North’s Andrea Manson, who was first elected as a councillor in 1983.

She also referred to a “lot of unfinished business” from the current council, when responding to Shetland News.

Council depute leader Emma Macdonald said she was still undecided at this stage and thinking things over.

Meanwhile in the North Isles, environment and transport committee chairman Ryan Thomson has confirmed his intention to commit another five years should he be elected.

Duncan Anderson said he was still undecided while Alec Priest could not be reached.

Anyone thinking of standing in the May election can access advice from the council website here.

Shetland News