SNP candidate Tom Wills’ election campaign has received a late boost in the form of an endorsement from former independent candidate Ryan Thomson.
Thomson, who is chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee, won 1,286 votes in the August 2019 by-election.
That equated to a share of nearly 11 per cent in a contest won by a margin of just over 15 per cent by Liberal Democrat Beatrice Wishart, with the destiny of those votes likely to be a significant factor in determining the outcome this time around.
In a social media post on Tuesday, Thomson said he would be voting this Thursday “in a different way to what I have before”.
“In 2019, I stood in the by-election because I felt Shetland needed real change,” he said. “I was beyond humbled to receive over 1,000 votes from folk who thought the same.
“I still think that. Shetland does need change. Shetland needs fixed links. Shetland needs better connectivity. Shetland needs infrastructure investment. There is no question in my mind that would be better served with an MSP at the heart of the Scottish Government.”
The North Isles councillor added he had got to know Wills during the campaign two years ago and described him as “a dedicated, hard working individual who I know, if given the chance, would be a superb ambassador for Shetland on the national stage”.
“That is why, on Thursday, I am voting SNP for the first time. To take my quote from 2019, it is still very much ‘time for change’.”
Received wisdom locally is that those who previously voted for Thomson – who was briefly a Lib Dem member following his 2019 candidacy, but joined the SNP last week on 28 April – will divide fairly evenly between Wishart and Wills.
In addition to the SIC’s solitary SNP councillor Robbie McGregor, Wills has also gained the backing of Lerwick North member Stephen Leask, who resigned from the Lib Dems last autumn.
Nesting-based councillor Leask offered the following endorsement: “I’m no SNP member, but I’ll be voting for Tom as I feel he has the enthusiasm, energy and intellect to work collaboratively with the Scottish Government, for the benefit of the Shetland people.”
In 2019 Wishart won 48 per cent of the vote to Wills’ 32 per cent in a 10-strong field to replace Tavish Scott, who had held the seat for the Lib Dems since the parliament was founded in 1999.
Four other candidates have put their names forward to become Shetland’s next MSP in Thursday’s poll: Labour’s Martin Kerr, the Conservatives’ Nick Tulloch, Restore Scotland’s Brian Nugent and independent Peter Tait.
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