VOTE COUNTING in the 2017 elections to Shetland Islands Council is underway at Clickimin Leisure Complex.
With the Shetland South ward already decided (all three candidates – Allison Duncan, Robbie McGregor and George Smith – will be councillors), it is expected the other six wards will be declared by around lunchtime.
1157: – Reaction from Lerwick’s two wards. Beatrice Wishart in Lerwick South: “I’m delighted, and humbled as well by the support that I’ve had.”
“The priorities are the same as everybody else. We want to make sure that we can balance the books and the end of the day, the council lives within its means, and we want to get something sorted about education, transport and social care.”
Cecil Smith, re-elected with the most first preference votes in the ward: “I’m quite happy to be re-elected. I would thank the community in Lerwick South including Gulberwick and Brindister for supporting me.
“You never really know what’s going to happen. I knocked on all the doors and spoke to a lot of people, and I felt it was very positive. I’m quite happy to work with the other three colleagues.”
Ominous picture for the next five years: “There’s been a lot of challenges in the last five years, and there’s going to be much, much more in the next five years. I think we will need to work together as a team, and accept that we’re different, as we’re all independents, but we need to respect each others’ thoughts.”
Amanda Westlake: “I’m absolutely delighted that the electorate has voted for me and I promise that I won’t let them down. I’ll get on with my job on Monday morning.
Peter Campbell. “I’m pleased to be back and to have been trusted with another five years. I’m looking forward to serving the Lerwick South ward.
“I think the campaign went very well. It was very supportive of the work of the previous council and felt that there was a lot of good work done by it, and I think that was reflected in the number of sitting councillors who have been returned. There was a feeling that things had gone fairly well over the last five years.”
Across in Lerwick North, convener Malcolm Bell: “I’m delighted to be elected. It’s been a long, hard campaign. The three active candidates in Lerwick North have worked really hard, and I think people have appreciated that, despite the fact a number of people said there wasn’t a candidate, because the fourth candidate didn’t campaign. The three campaigning candidates still got out there and got speaking to people, and I think that’s gone down well.
“I think the low turn out could be attributed to a number of things. We’ve had a number of elections recently, and referenda, but clearly the general election being announced in the middle of the campaign…I noticed a tail-off in interest as soon as that was announced. The so-called paper candidate – I was getting questions yesterday from people saying ‘do I need to vote, because there’s no contest’. There is a contest. There’s a whole number of things that contributed to the relatively low turn-out.”
John Fraser: “I’m absolutely delighted. It’s been a difficult few weeks, but it’s been a very enjoyable few weeks. In reality the hard work starts now. I don’t underestimate the magnitude of the task at hand. I give my absolute assurance that I will give it my all.
Challenges ahead: “There’s a whole number of things that will take place. Obviously we will have to maintain the efficiencies that have been created by the previous incumbent. I think they’ve done spectacularly well. We must be lobbying the Scottish Government effectively to give the core funding that they’ve promised with regards to the internal ferries, and the lifeline links between Shetland and the Scottish Mainland.”
Stephen Leask: “I’m very pleased, and very humbled. I think it’s been very hard for me. I’ve been working six days a week, running a business short-staffed. It’s been really difficult to get around everybody.”
1150: – That’s all the wards declared now. The headline news will be SIC leader Gary Robinson losing his seat, though that outcome had been widely predicted.
The 2017-2022 council will be a younger one. The gender balance has improved, albeit only slightly, to feature five women (up from three) and 17 men. There are 12 councillors returning, albeit one (Steven Coutts) in a different ward, and 10 new faces.
Overall turnout was 49.1 per cent.
1133: – No surprises in Lerwick North, where the Tories’ “paper candidate” Thomas Williamson – who used the campaign to urge people not to vote for him! – won only 26 first preference votes. Victorious were Malcolm Bell (715 first preference votes), Stephen Leask (130) and John Fraser (124). And the turnout was lower at 42.8 per cent.
Across town in Lerwick South, three councillors have renewed their mandates: Cecil Smith, Peter Campbell and Amanda Westlake. The new face in the ward is Beatrice Wishart, who was second only to Smith with 394 first preference votes. Smith won 429, while Campbell won 299 and Westlake won 190 – narrowly ahead of Frankie Valente (180 votes) who is the only candidate to miss out. Turnout was only 43.7 per cent.
1112: – Some reaction from Andrea Manson, who polled the highest number of votes in Shetland North: “All I got was positive feedback when I was going around the doors.”
On the Tories’ so-called “paper candidate” Isobel Johnson: “We all still had to go and campaign. We had to assume that she was going to come from a blindside at the end with some amazing speeches or something, but I don’t think anybody has seen her. I don’t think she participated in the campaign at all.”
What about the task she faces having been re-elected? “We’ll still have to live within our means, and as our means seem to get less and less as the Scottish Government cuts the grants every year, there’s going to be some hard decisions. But then again we can always fight that, as we have to get our fair share. We have to try to support the local economy as much as possible, while keeping the good services that people expect.”
She’ll be joined in the chamber by local businesswoman Emma MacDonald. “I think I’ll bring a fresh approach because I’m a little bit younger, and hopefully I can learn from the other two as they’re more experienced. I can hopefully bring a bit of a younger viewpoint. I’m hoping to keep my Facebook page open that I had set up, and my Twitter page, because social media is a good way to get a hold of especially the younger folk.”
1110: – Just the two metropolitan wards, Lerwick North and Lerwick South, still to declare at the Clickimin.
1105: – Reaction from the North Isles ward. Ryan Thomson, who made a political name for himself by spearheading a Shetland-wide campaign for a better ferry fares deal: “I’m very pleased to be elected. I’m very, very humbled. It’s fantastic that the community has put their faith in three young folk and we’ll certainly go out of our way to make sure that we look out for the community and represent the communities as best as we can.”
And Alec Priest: “I think the three of us will try to be a bit more proactive to things, rather than reactive, as the council has had to be. Trying to find alternatives to cuts before the cuts are being decided on. It’ll be a bit more work for us, but I think we can get ahead of the game.”
1044: – A declaration in the North Isles ward. Successful candidates are Alec Priest, Duncan Simpson and Ryan Thomson. Turnout was 63.7 per cent. Whalsay man Simpson polled the most fist prefrence votes with 453, while Ryan Thomson won 372 and Alec Priest 327.
As expected, in Shetland North, Alastair Cooper, Emma MacDonlad and Andrea Manson are the successful trio. Manson took a convincing 509 first preference votes, Cooper was second with 395 votes and MacDonald won 240. The Tories’ “paper candidate” Isobel Johnson was a distant fourth with 48 votes. Turnout there was 48.1 per cent.
1032: – “That’s politics”, says Gary Robinson of his defeat: “I’m disappointed obviously, but I think Shetland West was always going to be a tough ward. It’s where my heart was, and is, and I’d rather have fought and lost the Shetland West ward than move anywhere where else, so it was chance I took at the end of the day.”
1028: – Ballot papers for Shetland North and the North Isles are now being counted. In the North Mainland, it is expected that incumbents Alastair Cooper and Andrea Manson will be joined by Emma Macdonald, with the Tories’ “paper candidate” Isobel Johnson the most likely to miss out.
The North Isles, probably the most competitive ward after the West Side, will see three of the five candidates elected. None is currently a councillor, and it must be one of the most youthful contests the local authority has seen. Candidates are Lynsay Cunningham, Cecil Hughson, Alec Priest, Duncan Simpson and Ryan Thomson.
1023: – Theo Smith on his victory: “I’m very pleased to be elected. I thought that after you’ve done one term, you should put yourself to the test to see what folk think of you. I really can’t thank voters enough.”
On the campaign: ““It was pretty low-key. The big issues are always going to be schools, transport, roads, social care. I think over the years the West side has been possibly slightly neglected, and especially in the good years. They haven’t got a Sullom Voe, they haven’t got a Sumburgh Airport, so they’ve been kind of left I think to their own devices. The people of the Westside are really, really resilient, and I admire them for that.”
Her thoughts on the next five years: “I think it’s very challenging. The previous council have done a really good job, but I do think there are other ways we can look at spending money.”
Steven Coutts, who ruptured his achilles and had to campaign with his leg in plaster: “I’m glad that the Westside has their faith in me for the next five years. I’m keen to make sure I can deliver.
“I think the campaign was obviously a challenge for me, getting around the doors with a ruptured achilles and a foot in a cast. I think the help I received from my family was really important, but I did receive a good welcome from folk in the Westside too. They’ve put their faith in me, and now it’s up to me to deliver on that.”
1015: – Davie Sandison won a commanding 320 first preference votes in the Shetland Central ward. He said it was “fine to get out there and test the temperature with the folk in the ward”, though he was disappointed by a “quite low” turnout of 40.9 per cent.
Mark Burgess also did well, polling 260 first preference votes, while the outspoken Ian Scott won 191 and finally wins election to the SIC after many years of trying.
1008: – So, despite building up a strong profile outwith the islands through the award-winning Our Islands Our Future campaign for islands autonomy, Gary Robinson has failed to build up enough political support back home. The issue of Aith school, where he was deemed not to have supported the secondary department, appears to have cost him the seat.
It’s a resounding victory for Theo Smith, who secured some 521 first preference votes to earn himself a second term as councillor. A good showing from Catherine Hughson, too, who polled 194 first preference votes to win her seat.
Steven Coutts, having shifted from his native North Isles to the West Side (he now lives in Weisdale), will be delighted to have won the support of a different community, and one where he is perhaps less well-known. His campaign was also hampered by having his leg in plaster.
0952: – Returning officer Jan Riise takes to the podium to announce the first results. In the Shetland West ward, SIC leader Gary Robinson has lost out. The three elected councillors are Steven Coutts, Catherine Hughson and Theo Smith. Turnout was just over 60 per cent. There are no places either for Debra Nicolson or renowned keyboard warrior Ian Tinkler, who finished sixth.
On a lower turnout of 40 per cent in Shetland Central, Ian Scott has finally won election after many attempts. Davie Sandison and Mark Burgess have both been re-elected. That means Julie Buchan and Brian Nugent miss out.
0947: – We’re about to get the results for Shetland Central and Shetland West.
0935: – There has been some speculation that council leader Gary Robinson’s place in the Shetland West ward could be under threat. That constituency, along with Shetland Central, will be declared within the next half hour.
Robinson says he is “taking nothing for granted” in the election in what is one of the most competitive wards. He is one of six candidates in the Shetland West region, which offers just three seats.
“I think the campaign went quite well,” he said. “I think there was a real focus on the local issues and think there’s a real clarity around what the issues were in the ward. I think all the candidates were really focused on that.”
The topics he believes were in the minds of most voters were schools, housing, roads and transport. Is he confident of securing his seat? “I take nothing for granted – I’ll find out soon I suppose.”