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Election / Election campaign round-up 9 March

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart and SNP candidate Tom Wills are the two main contenders in the May elections. Photo: Shetland News

WITH the election to the next Scottish Parliament just two months away, Shetland News will regularly publish campaign statements issued by the candidates.

SHETLAND MSP Beatrice Wishart marked International Women’s Day (8 March) by calling for changes to be made to the Scottish Parliament so that it is more women friendly, after many prominent female MSPs decided against standing for election again due to work balance conflict between public duties and private life.

Wishart said the current hybrid measures in place due to Covid-19 should continue in the next parliament to help women in their duties as elected representatives.

“Equality is one of the four founding principles of the Scottish Parliament. But too many women have made the decision to step down explicitly because sitting in Holyrood is incompatible with family life and attracts undue and insufferable abuse,” the Lib Dems MSP said.

“Taking inspiration from this year’s International Women’s Day theme, I think we can choose to challenge the parliament to be better than that.

“We should make the hybrid operation a long-term reality that lets women in rural and non-central belt communities take part and balance family life. We should take the opportunity to make things better for the future.”

SHETLAND SNP candidate Tom Wills has lent his support to calls from his party colleague Dave Doogan MP for a better, “more meaningful” compensation package for the country’s seafood industry following Brexit.

Wills also echoed comments from Seafood Scotland claiming that the UK’s good reputation for fish exports was being lost day by day.

“Much of Scotland’s seafood industry has been plunged into crisis by the Tory government’s badly considered Brexit deal,” Wills said.

“Considering the Tories have had since 2016 to form their deal, and that so many people told them this could happen, they really have no excuse for the current mess.

“The UK Government need to get back around the negotiating table to resolve these issues quickly, and while they do that, they should pay the seafood industry meaningful compensation for the damage they’ve caused through their own incompetence.”

ATTENDING a hustings by the National Rural Mental Health Forum, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has highlighted the need to improve mental health services in rural communities across Scotland.

She said particular vulnerabilities were felt in rural communities and called for support being available readily and locally.

“In rural places and islands like Shetland, where communities are more spread out, loneliness and isolation can take hold more easily,” she said.

“The pandemic restrictions only made us more vulnerable.  Urgent investment in services and workforce planning is needed to ensure that problems are addressed and people get the help they need when they need it.

“Frontline staff work around the clock, and I know the community is immensely grateful for the work they do. But there simply aren’t enough of them to cope with demand. There have never been enough of them.”

THE SNP has been experiencing a surge in new memberships in the wake of first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s appearance before the Scottish Parliament’s inquiry into the government’s mishandling of sexual misconduct complaints against Alex Salmond.

Shetland’s SNP candidate Tom Wills said: “I’ve spoken to our colleagues in Orkney and can confirm that we’ve had a significant number of new members join Shetland and Orkney branches in the last few days.

“I would like to personally welcome all of our new members.”

Campaigning for the Shetland constituency seat has been underway for some time. Liberal Democrat MSP Beatrice Wishart is again being challenged by the SNP’s Tom Wills. Labour has nominated Western Isles man Cameron Thompson to join the race, while the Conservatives have still to name a local candidate.

The Greens have said they will focus on the Highlands and Islands list, as has Reform UK Scotland, the Scottish branch of Nigel Farage’s new party. UKIP have put forward Robert Stephenson for the Highlands and Islands list vote.

Shetland News will commence with a more thorough reporting of the election campaign once the Scottish Parliament is in recess as of 25 March.