THE TWO main contenders to win the Orkney and Shetland seat at next month’s general election have again occupied campaign hubs directly opposite each other on Lerwick’s high street.
During the bitterly fought Holyrood by-election in August of this year, the Liberal Democrats, operating from former accountancy offices at 122 Commercial Street, saw off a challenge from the SNP, who had set up their campaign headquarters in a former butcher’s shop across the street.
Now, just three months later, Shetland is set to be treated to a re-run of the spectacle, this time for the UK parliament and with less money to burn on visiting politicians.
During the June 2017 snap election, the Liberal Democrats’ Alistair Carmichael easily won the contest with 48.6 per cent of the votes against the SNP’s Miriam Brett, who polled 29 per cent of the votes.
While both are staunch supporters of continued membership of the European Union, the main difference is whether Scotland should continue to remain in the union of nations that is the United Kingdom or would it be better off to go it alone as an independent country.
Around 60 per cent of the electorate voted to remain in the EU during the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Speaking during Saturday’s opening of the Lib Dems’ campaign office, candidate Alistair Carmichael promoted an active campaign focusing on the issues that matter to local people, and supporting Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom against SNP calls for independence.
“We have voted in two referendums in recent years – on Scottish Independence in 2014 and on leaving the European Union in 2016. On both occasions Liberal Democrats were on the same side of the majority view of local opinion,” he said.
“In this campaign only the Liberal Democrats stand on a platform of keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom in the European Union.
“In August the SNP threw everything they possibly could trying to win the by-election. They spent more in Shetland than they did on campaigning across the whole of Scotland in the Brexit referendum of 2016.”
The SNP, meanwhile, opened their hub two days earlier. The party’s candidate Robert Leslie said the general election was one opportunity for Scotland’s people to take control of their own future.
“I learned my campaigning through joining Yes Orkney early in the referendum for independence, being active from June 2012,” he said.
“I then joined the SNP in November 2014 and have worked for Mike Mackenzie when he was an MSP for the Highland and Islands and now for Maree Todd in the same role.
“I was honoured to help the late Danus Skene with his general election campaign in 2015 and then be Miriam Brett’s main contact in Orkney for 2017.”
Addressing party workers, he added: “I know everyone in this room will put every effort into this campaign and it will be crucial to get our vote out.
“With the public clearly turned off by the Brexit chaos of Westminster and the legacy parties there, this is our opportunity to say the Scotland’s people want to take control of their own future.”
The other four candidates are in alphabetical order: David Barnard (Independent), Coilla Drake (Scottish Labour), Jennifer Fairbairn (Scottish Conservatives), and Robert Smith (Brexit Party). To find out more about all the candidates please go to our special election page at www.shetnews.co.uk/category/features/general-election-2019/