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General Election 2017 / A two-horse race or a three-way battle?

Some of the election pamphlets distributed to the 33,000 strong electorate of Orkney and Shetland . Photo: Shetland News

THE GENERAL election campaign is coming to an end this week after Prime Minister Theresa May’s surprise move to hold a snap election on 8 June.

Six candidates threw their hat into the Orkney and Shetland ring, and like the last general election in 2015, many consider it to be a two-way battle between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.

But other parties, including the Conservatives, believe the election won’t be as clear-cut as many predict.

Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael has presided over the seat for the last 16 years, continuing his party’s dominance over the constituency, which has stretched to nearly seven decades.

Despite his majority being reduced to just 817 votes in 2015, and surviving an election court case relating to a government leak, 51 year old Carmichael remains favourite for the job again.

The former Scottish secretary – who previously worked in law – has regularly defended his past record, and has pointed to his experience in key areas like fishing, crofting and transport.

But his SNP-fearing election literature regularly posted through the letterboxes of the 33,000-strong electorate paints a picture of a politician peering nervously over his shoulder at Miriam Brett.

The 26 year old Shetlander, who has worked as a policy advisor for her party in Westminster, is expected to put up a strong fight for the SNP come polling day on Thursday and has added extra spice into the local campaign.

She has spoken passionately about austerity and a key focus has been to take aim at the Conservative government, as well as express concern over Brexit.

Brett sparred against Carmichael at debates on topics like Scottish independence and the SNP government’s record, and is looking to build on the record of the late Danus Skene who received almost 38 per cent of the vote on 2015.

Taking the bronze medal at the election was the Conservatives’ Donald Cameron, but this time around Jamie Halcro Johnston is representing the party.

The 42 year old, who works between Edinburgh and his family farm in Orkney, has pointed to the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum as one of the main reasons why people should vote Tory.

He has used Brett’s decision not to sign the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation ‘Brexit pledge’ as ammunition, and, echoing his party leader May, has spoken about the need to secure the best deal for the UK when leaving the EU.

Labour’s Robina Barton has found her voice in this election after coming fourth in 2015, with the 39 year old speaking passionately about wanting to deliver a more equal society.

She has worked across a number of fields, including tourism, social care and heritage, and has spoken of her desire to see the country’s reliance on food banks come to an end.

With Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his party gaining momentum in the polls across the UK, Barton might have had more of a chance if she had been standing in another constituency not historically dominated by one party.

UKIP’s Robert Smith has again failed to show his face in the isles during this campaign, owing to his busy career as a fisherman.

Electoral Calculus predicts a closely fought election for the northern isles.

But the 51 year old’s lack of election material online also reveals a candidate who is perhaps standing more for party representation than political enthusiasm.

Independent candidate Stuart Hill, meanwhile, is this election’s wildcard, with the pensioner standing in an effort to seek independence for Orkney and Shetland, which he claims is not legally part of the UK.

The campaigner says he has no interest in actually sitting as an MP should he be elected, but it’s fair to say his chances of winning the seat are slim.

Eyebrows were raised last week when major research firm YouGov published the first of its election estimations, which are compiled through key demographic analysis and previous voting behaviour, and don’t take into account local variables.

The first prediction suggested Brett was in line to beat Carmichael, but as of today (6 June), the Liberal Democrats are on 42 per cent and the SNP on 26 per cent.

The Electoral Calculus website meanwhile estimates that the Conservatives could come a close third with 28.3 per cent of the vote, which is just under five per cent behind estimated winner the Liberal Democrats.

Fancy a flutter? A number of betting websites currently have odds on which candidate will win the Orkney and Shetland seat.

William Hill has Carmichael as the clear favourite with odds of 2/7, but Brett isn’t far behind at 5/2. The Tories, meanwhile, are an outside bet at 25/1.

But as every politician worth their salt will tell you, the only poll that truly matters is on 8 June.

Shetland News will report live from the election count in Kirkwall overnight on Thursday, with the result due in by 6am.

Here are short statements from the four main candidates recorded at the end of the Althing debate last week (in alphabetical order). Independent candidate Stuart Hill and UKIP man Robert Smith did not participate in the debate, However, Smith has now submitted his own short video which we have added to this article.

Robina Barton for Scottish Labour:


Miriam Brett for the SNP:


Alistair Carmichael for the Liberal Democrats:


Jamie Halco Johnston for the Scottish Conservatives:


Robert Smith for UKIP: