Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael has become the latest northern isles election candidate to sign the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) Brexit pledge.
NORTHERN Isles Conservative election candidate Jamie Halcro Johnston says he is “very confident” that fishing will not be used as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations.
The Tory candidate is calling on those frustrated with the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to give him their vote and claims election rivals Alistair Carmichael and Miriam Brett “both want to essentially stay in the CFP”.
Halcro Johnston said he was “proud” to have signed the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s “Brexit pledge”, which encourages government and industry to work together to restore control of the UK’s waters.
The candidate, meanwhile, confirmed to Shetland News that he could actually become an MSP after the Westminster general election on 8 June if the Tories win in Moray.
Highlands and Islands list MSP Douglas Ross is standing for MP in the constituency and if he wins he is expected to resign his Holyrood seat – and the next Tory in line on the party’s regional list is Halcro Johnston.
However, he is “100 per cent committed” to fighting the Northern Isles Westminster campaign, which is widely expected to be a battle between current Liberal Democrat MP Carmichael and SNP hopeful Brett.
Tories 'most successful' at standing up to SNP
Speaking during a visit to Shetland last week, Halcro Johnston – who works between Edinburgh and his family’s farm in Orkney – said a strong Conservative government offers the best chance of striking the most beneficial deal as the UK negotiates its departure from the EU.
He said another major issue of the campaign is “standing up to the SNP and their plans for an independence referendum”, something which he feels the Conservatives have been the “most successful” at doing both in Westminster and the Scottish Parliament.
“I think if you look at the parties that, in Scotland and Orkney and Shetland, have a real a credible chance…the SNP want to have another independence referendum and take us straight back into Europe, and that means going back into the CFP,” Halcro Johnston said.
“The Liberal Democrats are standing on a platform on ‘we want another EU referendum’. I think what we’re trying to do, is we’re offering the result of the EU referendum…Theresa May has triggered Article 50…we’ve honoured that result.
“We’re coming out of the EU, and now it’s all about working together to get the best possible Brexit deal for the UK.”
He blamed Scottish First Minster Nicola Sturgeon for attempting to cause “panic or uncertainty” recently after tweeting about a letter from UK minister Andrea Leadsom to the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation in which she appeared to suggest some elements of the CFP might be incorporated into domestic law.
“I know that the local fishermen’s association and the Scottish Fishermen’s Association are happy with the letter,” Halcro Johnston said.
“I think most Concentrative candidates will be signing that Brexit pledge. It’ll be very interesting to see if Miriam Brett and Alistair Carmichael sign it in Shetland.”
Crofting subsidies to remain in place?
The election hopeful, who has contested the Orkney seat in Holyrood on the last two occasions, added that he is confident of subsidy support being place for farmers and crofters post-Brexit.
The UK government has pledged to maintain subsidy payments through to 2020, but it is unclear what will happen after that.
“Farming has had a lot of problems in the last few years with the delays in payments from dodgy computer systems, and the SNP’s incompetence in actually getting that sorted, and that’s left a lot of farmers really struggling with cash flow,” he said.
“Obviously, subsidies is a very big part of their income. I’m very confident that there will be support going forward. But as well as that, one of the key areas post-Brexit is to make sure that we’ve got the best possible access to markets, so we can get our produce there.”
Halcro Johnston said he is “aiming higher” than attempting to secure Shetland’s third vote after the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.
“It suits the Liberal Democrats to say it is a two-horse race between them and the SNP, but they’ve been a pretty weak opposition to the SNP,” he said.
“In the Scottish Parliament, they’re an even weaker opposition to the SNP. The SNP, it suits them as well, because they are bringing the whole of the nationalist vote together to try to combat the unionist vote.”
On a national level, Halcro Johnston - whose party is set to continue its efforts to cut net migration to below 100,000 a year - said he thinks “all parties agree that there have to be controls on immigration into this country”.
Candidate disagrees with May's fox hunting stance
Prime Minster Theresa May recently suggested she would offer Tory MPs a free vote on whether to bring back fox hunting in the UK, and while it is not an issue relevant to the Northern Isles, Halcro-Johnston said he does not support the practice.
“I think there are two arguments that people make. One is that it’s traditional, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a reason to continue something if we continue with something like that. Is it a kind of pest control? I’m sure there are better ways to do it.”
The candidate believes there is an increasing support for the Tories across Scotland following the recent council elections and he suggested they could put up a strong fight in the Northern Isles.
“The last Scottish local government elections last week showed that there is a huge surge in support for the Conservative across the whole of the UK, but really so here in Scotland too,” he said.
“I think people see that we’re the ones providing the opposition in Scotland, and providing strong government in Westminster, and they want to support that.”
Also contesting the Northern Isles seat will be Labour’s Robina Barton, Robert Smith of UKIP and Stuart Hill for Shetland and Orkney Sovereignty.