Whatever views are held about the desirability of reform in a jurisdiction which has just held its first full elections, marking the end of 450 years of feudal rule, the Barclays’ sudden actions resulted in the laying off of more than 100 workers, or a quarter of the island’s work-force, creating misery and hardship in the run-up to Christmas.
The brothers’ right to do this as the owners of the businesses is not in question, but as employers they surely have a moral responsibility to their work-force and in basic human terms their behaviour is little short of shocking.
The hearts of all Channel Islanders have gone out to the people of Sark, and it is right for the States of Jersey to have expressed its support so rapidly and readily.
At this stage this support is of a moral nature – although it is pleasing to hear of the existence of a sizable anonymous donation that has been made available to the Sarkees – and it is notable and commendable that the Sarkees are insisting that although they have a problem, it is not a disaster, and that they have not asked the States of Guernsey for any help.
Sark’s fellow Channel Islanders will be confident that the island has the will and ability to overcome this problem and determine their own successful future.
But there is a strong sense of solidarity with Sark throughout the Channel Islands and if help is needed in the weeks and months to come, it may be that this will have to be of a more focused and practical nature. It is worth noting that there is no shortage of economic, constitutional and legal expertise in the islands, nor of business acumen.
Immediate reactions to events in Sark must include an expression of the desire for the Barclay Brothers – notwithstanding their sizeable and valued contribution to the economy of Sark – to reconsider their actions and pursue their interests in a markedly less confrontational manner.