THIRTY two candidates have put themselves forward for the 22 seats on Shetland Islands Council for this May’s election – with all three standing in the South Mainland ward guaranteed victory as there are no other candidates.
Incumbent independent candidates Allison Duncan and George Smith will both serve another term, while Quarff-based SNP man Robbie McGregor comes onto the council for the first time under his party’s banner. Billy Fox, the other South Mainland councillor, decided not to stand again.
Nine of the 22 councillors who have served on the local authority for the past five years are stepping down.
All but one of the four candidates for the Lerwick North ward will find their way onto the council.
With SIC convener Malcolm Bell the only candidate standing again in that ward, there will be at least two newcomers out of independents John Fraser and Stephen Leask, and Conservative candidate Thomas Williamson.
Allan Wishart and Michael Stout, who chaired the environment and transport committee, are standing aside.
Next door in Lerwick South, of the existing four councillors only Jonathan Wills is stepping aside. Looking for another term are Peter Campbell, Cecil Smith and Amanda Westlake, and looking to join them will be Frankie Valente and Beatrice Wishart, who has worked for Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael for many years.
A second Conservative candidate, Isobel Johnson, is looking to win election in the North Mainland. Local businesswoman Emma Louise MacDonald and incumbents Alastair Cooper and Andrea Manson are also standing.
There are six candidates vying for three seats on the West Side. Political leader Gary Robinson and existing ward councillor Theo Smith are seeking another term, while current North Isles member Steven Coutts, who lives in Weisdale, is looking to switch wards. They will be challenged by Catherine Hughson, Debra Nicolson and Ian Tinkler.
Change is definitely afoot in the North Isles, where none of the existing councillors – Gary Cleaver, Robert Henderson and Coutts, who has switched to the West Side – are contesting the ward.
There are five candidates for the three isles seats, covering Whalsay, Unst, Yell and Fetlar: businessman Ryan Thomson, Lynsay Cunningham, Cecil Hughson, Alec Priest and Duncan Simpson.
In the central ward, education committee chairwoman Vaila Wishart is stepping aside but Mark Burgess and Davie Sandison are seeking re-election. Joining them in the contest are Julie Buchan, Yes Scotland campaigner Brian Nugent and socialist Ian Scott.
On the current council only three of the 22 councillors are women, but there is a chance of the gender imbalance improving with 10 female hopefuls among the 32 candidates standing.
That number is a considerable drop on the 43 who sought election five years ago, and means 69 per cent of those who are standing will be successful.
With the exception of the SNP’s McGregor and the two Tory candidates, all of the other 29 candidates are standing as independents – in keeping with an unofficial local consensus to keep party politics out of Lerwick Town Hall, which has held for well over a decade.
McGregor is the first SNP councillor to win election in Shetland after they fielded two unsuccessful candidates in 2012.
- With the South Mainland uncontested, elections to the six wards in which there will be polls will take place between 7am and 10pm on Thursday 4 May.