THE GREEN Party’s lead candidate in the Highlands and Islands says he is “very hopeful” of a positive result in the upcoming Scottish Parliament election after visiting Shetland at the weekend.
John Finnie, who joined the party in 2014 after leaving the SNP, toured the isles to learn more about the issues affecting Shetland, with energy high on the agenda.
On Friday the MSP visited logistics company Peterson to hear about Shetland’s potential for landing decommissioning work in the future before having a meeting with Viking Energy about its controversial 103-turbine windfarm project.
Later in the evening he held a public Q&A with around a dozen local supporters in Mareel.
The following day the former police officer met the owners of the Scalloway Hotel to learn more about the business becoming the first living wage paying hotel in Scotland, before taking a trip to the Bigton shop.
Speaking during his visit, the MSP said there is a growing support for the Greens’ mantra of “people, planet and peace” in Shetland which has been galvanised following the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
The party hopes to land one representative in each of the eight list regions at the upcoming Holyrood election on 5 May. The latest opinion poll suggests that as many as 10 per cent of the electorate may give their second vote to a Green candidate.
“The Green Party, like every other party, would be wrong to take the electorate for granted,” Finnie said.
“But the Highlands and Islands previously had an elected Green MSP, Eleanor Scott, who served the area very well. We’re not in any way complacent, but we’re hopeful of having a very good result.”
Much of Finnie’s visit to Shetland revolved around the oil and gas sector and how the isles can prosper in the future once stocks are depleted by turning to renewables and tapping into decommissioning.
“I think the downturn experienced elsewhere hasn’t been experienced by Shetland,” he suggested. “What we’re keen to ensure is that the transition away from oil and gas to renewables is as smooth as possible.
“We visited a decommissioning yard on Friday about the significant investment there has been from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Government.
“I think that’s a very clear signal about a potential future direction for Shetland.”
The Scottish Greens feature in the Highlands and Islands regional list section of this year’s election, with the party only gaining around 5 per cent of the votes last time around in 2011.
Finnie, however, believes the party can encourage those in Shetland unsure where their vote lies to go green.
“I think there are always challenges for parties trying to persuade people,” he admitted.
“But viewed over the longer term, things that we think now as matter of fact, like recycling, reducing waste…these were green policies.
“We need to understand that people still associate the Green Party largely with environmental issues. To me the environment is everywhere – it’s not just moorland, open seas, hills. It is where people live.
“It’s a twin-strand that we take in relation to policies. Of course we want environmental justice, but we want social justice too.”