A new way of doing democracy.
The upcoming elections in May present the people of Shetland with a unique opportunity. The vacuum left by those councillors taking the ‘golden handshake’ will be filled with fresh blood and it is hoped that the new representatives will put Shetland first.
It is the perception of many that we currently have a council led by an elite that takes too many decisions behind closed doors. Also, according to an inside source, new councillors are typically taken under the wing of an official, or one of the established members to learn ‘how we do it here’ – which continues to entrench the current system.
To promote a more open democracy and to help councillors stay in touch with the wishes of the electorate, local resident Stuart Hill is proposing a monthly referendum on questions of importance to Shetland.
He said "Recent developments have made it possible for this to happen. Using the same technology as is used on TV quiz shows, everybody will be able to vote by phone on the monthly question. Using the same process, new questions can be proposed by anyone and will be put forward for voting if they get enough support. Shetland can lead the world with a new, open democracy."
The Shetland Independent News, the free local newsletter to be distributed to all households in Shetland, will provide the means to get the referendum questions out to everybody. Voting will then be by phone.
Stuart said "There is something appealing about applying the ‘Millionaire’ idea of ‘All vote now’. Hopefully this will make people aware that they can have an immediate input into how Shetland is run – and that what they say is important. Councillors will not be able to ignore it and new members can have the confidence that they are being directed by the electorate, not by established vested interests.
Shetland’s unique history gives the opportunity to assert our right to much more control of our own affairs. If the people want this to happen, they need a council with the guts to take important decisions. I hope that this initiative will bring forward high calibre people who previously may not have thought of standing for the SIC.
In the words of Margaret Mead: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.’
It is important that the referendum is run by an organisation independent of the council, and SOUL is prepared to take on this role. Each time people vote, a small part of the cost of the call will be donated to SOUL, enabling this voluntary organisation to employ a dedicated member of staff for the purpose. Local companies can help by supporting The Shetland Independent News with their advertising and, of course, donations are welcome. If you want more open democracy in Shetland, please give generously."
Leaflets explaining how to register for the referendum will be available in shops throughout Shetland in the next few days.
Stuart Hill is Chairman of SOUL, the association dedicated to unearthing Shetland’s unique hidden history.
S.O.U.L. is a non-profit, non-political voluntary organisation working on behalf of the people of Shetland and Orkney. This website is intended to stimulate open discussion and will inevitably change as we find out more.