|Candidate Name||Ryan James Andrew Thomson|
|Electoral Ward||North Isles|
|Description (if any)||Independent|
A bit about me:
I was born in 1985 and was raised in Baltasound, Unst, where I lived until 2009. I attended Baltasound Junior High School from Primary one right through to Secondary four. I now reside in Wadbister and own Tagon Stores in Voe. I continue to have strong links in the isles, with many family members living in Unst, and I return home as much as I possibly can. I am married to Lesley and we have three boys.
Why I am standing:
I believe that the Shetland public, particularly those in rural areas, have felt an increasing distance between themselves and the Toon Hall. Between school closures, botched consultations, and a general focus on centralisation, rural and island communities have lost faith in the Council. It doesn’t have to be like this.
What I promise to bring to the Council is freshness, complete transparency and regular ongoing communication with islanders and the public. When I announced my plans to stand for Council people approached me offering good luck wishes, but also offering advice and information on what they want to see in their Councillor. They want a Councillor who is approachable and one who they can talk to regarding issues affecting them. I promise to be the person to stand up for the North Isles communities, to fight our corner and to make decisions for the benefit of the islands.
We need someone representing our islands who isn’t afraid to speak their mind, to stick up for the isles and put us first. At this very important time Shetland needs a clear vision for the future for all our islands. Continuous cutbacks from central government mean there is a serious threat to our way of life and we need someone strong minded to help prevent cuts to our education system which would have a devastating effect on rural communities. I believe the North Isles are particularly vulnerable to these cuts and I will fight strenuously to prevent that from happening.
If elected I will work strenuously with all five islands to try and make sure the schools are preserved despite unprecedented cutbacks from the Scottish Government alongside the end of the moratorium and probable pressure from the SIC to reduce rural education budgets. I will also work hard at rebuilding the broken trust between the rural communities and the SIC.
All five of the North Isles have at some point had threats placed upon them in regards to reducing the level of education on our islands. Education is certainly a topic I am passionate about. As a former pupil of Baltasound Junior High School, I know the importance, not only of a local secondary school to a child, but to a school in a remote location.
I know the importance that a school has to the local population. It’s not just about being able to put your bairn to a local school, it’s also about what a local school represents – a future. A school in the isles means that people can start a family, or move back to raise their bairns on the isle, knowing that there’s a local school they can attend. It has far-reaching economic implications.
Losing a school wouldn’t just rip the heart out of that community, but it would also have a serious detrimental knock on effect to every single business on that island. We must preserve all schools.
As a business owner, I’m not naïve to the financial reality facing the Council, but if I am elected I will make the case to other councillors that we must take a long-term view to the sustainability of our rural communities. The slow decline of any of our Northern Isles will ultimately be far more costly to Shetland than the small savings made by shutting schools – both economically and culturally.
Ferries are our lifeline. Regular and convenient links for businesses and residents is essential to ensure the future of all the North Isles, the people and the businesses. If elected, as a representative for the North Isles ward, I am committed to ensuring that these links are protected and improved where possible.
I believe going forward the idea of fixed links will be mooted more and more. The link would incur a high one off fee but could be paid for using a toll. Each island should decide for themselves if they want to push the idea of fixed links. I fully understand this is a complex issue for some islands and a ‘blanket plan’ for fixed links to islands wouldn’t work. If elected, I will engage with all community councils to find a solution which best works for each island.
Balance the Books
The national plan appears to be continued austerity, Shetland will continue to be hit by this plan along with the rest of the country. The previous council (2012-2017) responded by cutting funds to Executive, Corporate, Development and Infrastructure with modest increases to Education, Community Health and Social Care, and I feel we must continue along the same path.
The new Council must:
- Continue to work towards getting the resources Shetland needs to operate, continued negotiations with the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland over financial assistance with our inter-island ferries is a necessity.
- Look at spending to save and different ways of working including the prevention and indeed potential reversal of continued centralisation towards Lerwick.
- Make sure we protect our reserves while making sure the new Council offers the public value for money.
- Explore all options on the table but be very cautions not to make decisions that will save money in the short term but would contribute or result in long term loss.
Centralisation is happening both locally and nationally and has hit rural Shetland hard. I will continue to engage with local community councils and indeed the communities themselves to help create employment in our islands.
Twenty-two councillors will be elected in May across all seven wards in Shetland and we must make sure we are working together as a team for not only our own wards, but for Shetland overall. If we do this then all wards will benefit.
Your vote is vital. Please contact me if you wish to discuss issues that are important to you. I do hope you consider me for your 1 vote on May 4th 2017.
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