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Letters / Musings on the hustings

At last, a hustings worth attending without the personalities punch-up and shouting above each other.

Well done BBC Radio Shetland and Adam Guest and team for organising and presenting it so well. One candidate got much more time than the others though.

The stage was set at Mareel on Tuesday night for the clash of the candidates. Fortunately, no rough stuff. All very sedate and gentlemanly. No women candidates, which says a lot about local democracy still under-represented by women. Queen Emma was there, but very low profile; like her leadership.

The panel were made up by 60 per cent youth or at least three younger, energetic, intelligent and articulate candidates. Green, red and blue. The yellow candidates were a bit pasty looking. Jaundiced, like their performances. Harsh? Unkind? Me?

Alex Armitage’s much needed new Green dawn, with Mr Savage and Mr Painter providing new New Labour change – but in a ‘cashless society’?  Not sure how that’ll work. Neither are they.

And old Old Tory, Painter-ing a future no one recognised, and from a Tory too.   Passionate, radical in some instances, politics abounding then, but not from Robert and Alistair, who struggled to come alive, despite Alistair’s dispatch box dreariness and economics with the actuality on delivery. A verb is meant to mean some doing, rather than talking about doing! Passive Aggressive? Certainly passive.

A shame the Reform party candidate couldn’t make it in person to provide deeper colour, if not extreme colour – send everyone out of the country except The Britons, whoever they are.  No one left to build the houses we need, pick your vegetables, run our tourism, hospitality and fishing industries.

There was more in common with the candidates than differences, except for the Conservative candidate who got the odd laugh when promising an agenda a bit at odds from his boss – funding for tunnels for example.  First thing he’d do if he wins, he said!

The questions covered as wide a range, given time constraints, but generally quite Shetland specific and some local hot potatoes. Among them, tunnels, drugs and energy prices/fuel poverty.

Alistair promising more money for fuel bills seemed a bit far fetched, given his party in government in 2010-15, siding and abetting the Tories, bringing in the first wave of cost of living crisis – austerity – by putting millions of people into poverty instead of millions borrowed into their pockets to re-kick-start the economy.

The huge sums the government borrowed from the Bank of England did nothing but line bankers’ bonuses and heighten mortgage rates – the opposite of what it was supposed to – so plenty of forked tongue from Carmichael. Guilty as charged Alistair.

Dr Armitage came in for a bit of flak from Alistair, unfairly I thought, as he both did not understand and misrepresented Alex’s radical – much needed approach – to tackle the drug epidemic and deaths in Shetland through harm reduction and cutting out the criminal gangs making huge amounts of money.

As all the other candidates were very ‘conservative’ on this tricky issue – mirroring the silence in Shetland about the dealing with death and not doing the right thing and not just the easy thing – more drugs dogs, which despite their finds, are not significantly stopping supply. Still so easy to get gear – in my neighbourhood anyway.

I had to laugh at more of the same passive verbs from Alistair about ‘addressing’ the tunnel (vision) issue. Talk, talk, talk. You’d think he’d invented tunnels. After the Tory spin UK Government funding them – NOT! A pipe dream maybe but no tunnels.

Only the Greens said they’d get the money from the ambitious green transition approach and take money from the ample rich. Honesty – we liked that as the clapping indicated.  Shetland’s HS2!  A successful version. Raising money through much more local piers of autonomy to raise the finance internationally, with a government guarantee.

The young Labour and Tory candidates are not to be dismissed. Integrity and on message manifestos and well capable of public speaking. Alistair, dues nit have the advantage here, and the other candidates have more about them energy-wise. No pun intended.

So, I’d rank Alex and Alistair about even, with Alistair hogging the speaking time – just like in the House of Commons. But speaking is not action, with deadlines, deliverables and dedicated funding. The Lib Dems have a long track record of undeliverable promises and very poor judgement getting into bed with the Tories, shabby seeds for many current calamities and horrors heaped upon us. Five years of talk about regulating the regulator and still nothing has happened!

I’d rank Robert as a close third, but he is sadly let down by his party’s record at Holyrood. Likewise, Alex had to dodge the Arianne Burgess stupidity foot, or is it fish, in mouth bullets. Thankfully Alex is far more savvy, experienced and knows the community better than she and any other candidates given he is a local councillor, resident children’s doctor and guardian of local services.

But make up your own mind – please. Listen again through BBC Sounds at the BBC Radio Shetland Facebook page. Whoever you think is your man – sadly in Shetland & Orkney, no women candidates – get that X in the right man’s box.

Whatever you do on Thursday 4 July – independence day at that – go and do your duty to your community, your family, your future and vote.

Decide for yourself and your family and friends the brighter future for the next five to ten years. It’s too important not to care about.

James J Paton


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