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Politics / UKIP told by councillor to get its facts right

UKIP Scotland has been given short shrift by a senior SIC councillor following an ill-informed attempt to make common cause with the local authority by highlighting its policy of abolishing the Scottish Parliament.   

The anti-immigration party’s regional officer Janice MacKay wrote to councillors on Tuesday to draw their attention to UKIP’s “scrap Holyrood” platform, stating she believed that “we have a common goal in this matter”.

Her email asserted, without providing any evidence, that “there is a widespread view held by the electorate in Orkney and Shetland that they would wish independence from Scotland”.

It continued: “It may be that our policy meets these objectives as the local authorities would continue to function as they currently do but with the next layer of government being Westminster rather than Holyrood.”

SIC councillor Ryan Thomson
SIC councillor Ryan Thomson. Photo: Shetland News

But North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson – the chairman of the Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee who previously stood in the 2019 Holyrood by-election – was swift to rebuke MacKay.

“I absolutely cannot support your policy of abolition of the Scottish Parliament,” he wrote in response.

“I also take extreme exception to your conclusion that ‘Orkney and Shetland wish independence from Scotland’, and I would like to hear what evidence you hold for this, particularly if you are going to be making such sweeping statements during your campaign.”

In the 2019 by-election, won by the Liberal Democrats’ Beatrice Wishart, UKIP candidate Stuart Martin picked up 60 votes (0.51 per cent) out of 11,824 cast. Martin finished ninth out of 10 candidates on the ballot paper.

Shetland’s constitutional status has frequently been raised in the context of debate about the possibility of Scottish independence.

The current council is actively considering the scope for greater autonomy within Scotland and the UK. But, while there are long-standing concerns within the isles about the SNP’s centralising tendencies, there has not been substantial clamour for severing ties with Edinburgh.

Thomson said the “very last thing” local authorities needed was to “function as they currently do”, adding that he supported further autonomy not only in Shetland but for “all local authorities across Scotland”.

“Devolution was never meant to stop at Holyrood,” he added in his response to MacKay. “It should be further worked upon, not abolished.

“Finally, I’d also like to hear what evidence you have that Shetland Islands Council have any sort of common goal with UKIP, but particularly on this matter. If you could provide this, it’d be most enlightening.”

UKIP is fielding Robert Stephenson as its Highlands and Islands candidate in May.

Its website describes him as an “anti-devolution revolutionary” who is “doggedly determined to rid Scotland of its troublesome professional politicians of whom there are far too many”.