AS OPENING gambits in an election campaign go, making national newspaper headlines for linking same-sex marriage to a deadly health pandemic is probably not the one most folk would choose.
But that’s what independent candidate Peter Tait managed to achieve. While he has made a partial attempt to backpedal having told The Shetland Times that “Covid is possibly related to it”, he is unrepentant in his view that same-sex relationships should be regarded as a “sin”.
In a crowded by-election field in August 2019 he came tenth out of 10 candidates with 31 votes and a 0.3 per cent share of the vote. Back then his candidacy majored on a proposal to relocate the monarchy to Scotland.
This time he is placing what many will undoubtedly view as an outdated and bigoted stance on same-sex relationships at the heart of his campaign.
Even in the process of attempting to deny he had conflated coronavirus and same-sex marriage, Tait stated: “I have been unable to get away from the conclusion that the Covid-19 virus has to be seen and accepted for what it possibly is, a well-deserved slap on the wrist.”
When the topic came up at last month’s BBC Radio Shetland election hustings, it was clear other candidates considered the question of same-sex marriage to have been put to bed when it was legalised in Scotland back in December 2014.
Liberal Democrat Beatrice Wishart said that “love is love, and equal marriage isn’t up for debate”, adding “people’s rights should be respected and respected with kindness and compassion”.
SNP candidate Tom Wills, who advised Tait that the best way of expressing his opposition would be not to marry another man, said: “Historically Shetland has been quite a difficult place to be gay, from what I understand, and Peter is not helping with that at the moment.”
Labour’s Martin Kerr, meanwhile, said it was a settled matter and “gay people should have all the rights that are available to straight people”.
Seemingly unhappy after off-the-cuff remarks to another news outlet landed him in controversy, Tait said he would prefer to answer Shetland News’ questions via email rather than the interview format we have used with each of the other five election candidates.
Please read our other candidate profiles here:
29 April – Independence not top of his priorities due to Covid recovery, says SNP candidate Wills
25 April – Labour offers a’genuine and fair recovery for all’, election candidate Kerr says
22 April – ‘We need to stop being backward looking’, Conservative candidate Nick Tulloch insists
17 April – ‘Punching above their weight’ – Lib Dem Wishart vows to continue speaking up for islanders
15 April – Nugent hopeful party’s ‘unique selling point’ will resonate with voters
Asked whether he accepted its legal status was the “settled will” of the Scottish people, Tait said that as a Christian “same sex marriage is the most God-alienating issue practised in our society today”.
“You might be able to justify it under the second commandment ‘love thy neighbour’ however it would be a distortion of the commandment. In any case the second commandment is superseded by the first commandment ‘you shall love God’.
“In other words the word of God is paramount. Under this code same sex relationships are not permitted. I consider this to be a better guide than the ‘settled will of the people’ which I am sure could lead and has led many people astray.”
Does he understand why many people view this as intolerant and discriminatory? “I am tolerant of same sex relationships as long as it is treated as a sin. However, marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman and is an institution not open to same sex relationships.”
Tait’s latter claim is directly contradicted by the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, which won cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament.
But, as he made clear during the BBC hustings, Tait is “still standing on the same thing anyway, I’m not changing my mind”.
He claimed that if he accepted single sex relationships it would “damage my relationship with God because I would be telling a lie. These rules are timeless and apply in the 21st century as they have done in every century since it became an issue.”
Asked to set out his wider platform and priorities for the next five years, Tait replied: “At the last election I stood on a constitutional issue to reform the union, which I considered to be the most important issue we were not doing.
“This time I am standing on an issue which we as a society should not be doing. To achieve either of these goals would be a tremendous achievement. With God’s help it might be possible but I am not superman.”
Referendum would be a waste of time
On the Covid-19 recovery, the retired mussel farmer said the “full scale of the damage” would only become clear after the event.
“Some jobs will have been lost and will not recover. I would hesitate to say which, catering perhaps. Building and constructing seem to be expanding.
“Once we get the all clear some industries like tourism will begin to grow organically. Others like fishing and aquaculture seem to have been remarkably unaffected. People might have to be prepared to change jobs or retrain to fit into the new situation.”
He is opposed to another referendum on Scottish independence during the next parliament because the last one was a “once in a generation event”.
Tait said: “People vote SNP in large numbers to represent them at Holyrood. However, when it comes to actual independence and a dividing of the UK then they seem to hesitate. Therefore, I think a referendum would be a waste of time while we should be concentrating on other things.”
On Brexit, he said we “have to be concerned” about the problems food producers, including Shetland’s seafood industry, had faced with exporting goods to the EU since the end of the transition period in January.
“There doesn’t seem to be a problem about product coming the other way,” he pointed out.
“It illustrates that our government did not have proper advice or expertise at the negotiating table during the Brexit negotiations. There is an attempt being made to renegotiate this point as I write.”
In terms of Shetland’s economy he said renewables was “without doubt the current sunrise industry” but that further large-scale wind farms “may have too much of an environmental impact to be accessible”.
“However, there is scope for offshore wind farms providing they do not impinge on well-used fishing grounds.
“With the proposed Orion project, we can hold up the possibility of hydrogen and ammonia production. This alongside fishing, aquaculture, agriculture, oil and possibly even a space centre means that Shetland should continue to have a bright future.”
Tait favours greater devolution of powers, saying that while some issues were “possibly covered” under island-proofing and the Islands Act, “planning controls might need to be examined”.
He points to Viking Energy’s wind farm as the sort of issue where decisions “might be more appropriately taken in Shetland”.
On the question of trust in our political institutions, he wants to see “a greater emphasis on moral values in all walks of life including politics”.
“We live at a time when everybody has their own value system, some of it quite absurd,” Tait said. “I would like to see an adhesion to a central value system and it should be taught in schools and upheld at all levels of society.
“A short-term solution might be get those in high office or applying for high office to write a document about their personal moral value system so that we know what we are getting before it happens, so as to speak.”
The Scottish Parliament elections take place on 6 May, and there are six candidates contesting the Shetland seat. They are in alphabetical order: Martin Kerr (Labour), Brian 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 here.
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