Friday, June 30th, 2017
My election to OIC on Thursday 4th May was described by the local and national press as ‘historic’ since I was the first person ever to be elected in Orkney from a ‘mainstream’ political party to a council full of Independents! Whilst it’s good to see the SGP described as ‘mainstream’, it remains to be seen as to whether one voice amongst many can make a meaningful difference, but I’d like to think it will, and already I’ve had opportunities both formal and informal to press the green case. I’ve even been described in a good-humoured moment by my fellow councillors as ‘the leader of the opposition’! Any real ‘wins’ may still be hard won, and much will depend on inter-personal communications between councillors, but it’s a ‘new’ council with 10/21 new councillors, so an interesting blend of old and new….
I’d like to emphasise and acknowledge the help that I received during the election campaign from my colleagues and volunteers both locally and within HIGP. Certainly my election agent, and Orkney Greens’ Co-convenor, Chris Giles, had his hands full with two local candidates to look after. Add in half a dozen active volunteers in Orkney (you know who you are!), and help from James et al from the branch, and the scene was set.
Over the last couple of months the work has been unrelenting – mostly an exceptionally good induction training programme, but also a round of council meetings and committees for real. I sit on several committees, most of which align well with my election manifesto priorities, but my main focus for the first quarter has simply been to survive the induction process, and to watch, listen and learn.
My first impressions have included surprise at the cultural differences between my career ‘home’ of the third sector, and my new home at least for the next 5 years of the public sector. A risk-averse and procedurally-driven culture is not a natural environment for me, and so I’ll have to adapt my expectations accordingly. One example is the ability and ease with which I can brief our suite of MSPs on such issues of importance to Orkney such as the Islands Bill and the Education Governance Review. Historically the local authority has relied on direct Ministerial contact to press ahead with issues. I’d like to think that there will be opportunities in the years ahead where I might be able to make a meaningful difference with the help of our MSPs”.
Cllr Steve Sankey, Scottish Greens, Orkney Islands Council.