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Election / Familiar faces and newcomers in the mix as next council elected

Three of the four newly elected Shetland South councillors: Robbie McGregor, SNP, independent Bryan Peterson, and Alex Armitage, Greens. Photo: Shetland News

THE VOTES have been counted, the results declared – Shetland’s next cohort of councillors has all but been decided.

Twenty two out of the 23 Shetland Islands Council members for the next five years are now known, with a by-election due to be held in the North Isles for the last seat after the ward was uncontested.

The 17 elected on Friday are a mix of returning councillors and newcomers – sure to bring a fresh energy to the chamber.

And included in this are three parties – Labour, the Greens and SNP.

This is two more than last time – the SNP’s Robbie McGregor was the only party councillor in the class of 2017.

It was an election campaign which saw issues like the cost of living, fixed links and housing high on the agenda.

The first ward to be announced was Shetland West, with independents Liz Boxwell and John Leask winning the two seats.

Party politics did not wash with the west electorate, with the Green and SNP candidates securing less than 150 first preference votes.

Boxwell received nearly 300 votes against Leask’s 135 – with Mark Robinson narrowly losing out with 128.

Moraig Lyall picked up plenty of votes in Shetland Central. Photo: Shetland News

The ward – which had the highest turnout at 56.5 per cent – had shifted from three seats to two as part of a review of electoral boundaries.

The next ward up for declaration was Shetland Central, which this time around has four members instead of three.

Elected were Moraig Lyall, Davie Sandison, Catherine Hughson and Ian Scott – all four independents who had been sitting members.

Lyall – who became a councillor in 2019 in a by-election – scooped 414 first preference votes, with Sandison picking up 322, Hughson receiving 282 and Scott securing 271.

In Shetland South five candidates went for the four seats, making for a tight contest. The ward also had one more seat than last time due to the electoral boundary review, while it took in Gulberwick too.

It was old-hand Allison Duncan who scooped most first preference votes – 805, nearly half of the total – with Alex Armitage (Greens), Robbie McGregor (SNP) and Bryan Peterson following.

Peterson followed Duncan with 500 votes, while the Greens trumped the SNP 274 votes to 217.

The two Lerwick wards were announced last, with the town and Bressay returning seven councillors in total.

In Lerwick North and Bressay former SIC leader Gary Robinson was elected alongside sitting member Stephen Leask – achieving one third of the vote each – while newcomer Arwed Wenger came third.

The ward had the lowest turnout at 39 per cent.

Liz Boxwell was among the first elected on Friday. Photo: Shetland News

Over in Lerwick South newcomers Dennis Leask and Neil Pearson were joined by veteran councillor Cecil Smith and John Fraser, who was first elected in 2017.

Lerwick South’s Amanda Hawick was the only member of the last council who sought re-election but failed to regain a seat.

It was a close contest in the ward, with Leask picking up just over 300 votes, Fraser securing 262 and Smith bagging 251.

In the uncontested wards Duncan Anderson and Ryan Thomson have been elected in the North Isles, and for Shetland North Emma Macdonald and Andrea Manson are joined by Labour’s Tom Morton.

When it comes to gender representation, only five out of the 22 councillors elected so far are women – the same number as the last term.

The first meeting of the full council will take place on 23 May, where the various roles will be dished out – including convener and leader, and the committee chairs.

Until then it will be a case of brushing up on the councillors’ handbook for the newcomers – and maybe a tipple or two for the winners tonight.

Live coverage of this morning’s count can be found through this link.