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Election / Campaign round-up – 7 April 2021

WITH JUST four weeks to go until election date on 6 May candidates in Shetland have been focusing on centralisation, the possibilities of a new hospital for Lerwick, more teachers for local schools and the advantages of fixed links rather than ferries to connect the islands.

Beatrice Wishart

Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate Beatrice Wishart has called for an end to centralisation, citing the planned centralisation of air traffic control at Inverness as another example of governance not working for island communities.

“The centralisation of HIAL is just another chapter in the long book for the SNP,” Wishart said.

“They have a track record of hoarding power and responsibility away from those it will actually impact. I don’t believe that is right when better alternatives exist.

“The response to the plans around air traffic control has been incredibly vocal and should be sending a signal to Holyrood that such projects are not welcome in Shetland and I welcome other candidates who have chosen to stand against the Scottish Government on this.

“I do not believe it is too late to turn back on this and find alternative solutions to modernising air traffic management in the Highlands and Islands. If re-elected I will continue to rail against this project and protect local jobs.

“Power is best served when it is as close to the people it intends to support, and I do hope the next Scottish Government stop these types of projects which do nothing but damage to local communities.”

Tom Wills

SNP candidate Tom Wills, meanwhile, highlighted his party’s recovery plan for the NHS and added that it should include a new Gilbert Bain Hospital for Lerwick.

“The SNP has set out a clear commitment to keeping public health in public hands and building and maximising hospital capacity,” Wills said.

“Having been born in the Gilbert Bain I have a fondness for it, but it’s an old building and as we integrate health and social care and modernise the NHS, it’s clear that a replacement is now needed.

“If elected as Shetland’s MSP, I will continue to make that case very strongly.”

Ariane Burgess

THE Scottish Greens have unveiled plans to recruit an additional 36 teachers in Shetland to help schools recover from the coronavirus pandemic. 

This pledge comes as part of a proposal to recruit 5,500 teachers across Scotland over the next few years.

The party’s manifesto, which is set to be launched later this month, will make the pledge to help reduce class sizes and teacher workload, which unions have warned has become unmanageable during the last five years.

The Scottish Greens’ Highland and Islands list candidate Ariane Burgess said: “To ensure young people in Scotland get the best possible education, we need to ensure teachers in Shetland have the time and resources they need. That’s why the Scottish Greens are committing to the recruitment of 36 additional teachers for local schools.

“Even before the pandemic teacher workload levels in Scotland were amongst the highest in Europe.

“We urgently need more teachers in the classroom to spread that workload, giving them more time to prepare and to teach, rather than get bogged down in paperwork and administration.”

Brian Nugent

BRIAN Nugent, the local candidate for Restore Scotland, has called on Shetland Islands Council to “sharpen up their proposals” on building fixed links after learning that a tunnel connecting the Western Isles with the Scottish mainland via Skye has been put forward as a possible transport solution.

“The question is: why the Western Isles, why not the various links that could be built in Shetland?” Nugent said. “Fixed links do seem a way forward.

“SIC have made such suggestions, time for them to sharpen up their proposals and get them in to the Scottish Government.

“A bit of imagination could see the huge SIC oil fund loaned to the Scottish Government, and the funds used to build tunnels in Shetland.

“For islanders, the time for trips would reduce, some trips could be undertaken that otherwise would not happen, access to NHS facilities – unavailable on the island – could be a drive away, tourism businesses would benefit, and the building of the tunnel could be a jobs benefit for islanders.”

The Scottish Parliament elections take place on 6 May. There are six candidates contesting the Shetland seat. They are in alphabetical order: Martin Kerr (Labour), Briand Nugent (restore Scotland); Peter Tait (Independent), Nick Tulloch (Conservatives), Tom Wills (SNP) and Beatrice Wishart (Liberal Democrats).

To find out more about all of the candidates standing in the election, including those on the regional Highlands and Islands list, visit our Scottish Parliament election 2021 page below.