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Politics / Party politics in the council chamber? Independent councillor becomes SNP Shetland branch secretary

Meanwhile another independent councillor – Stephen Leask – has joined the Labour party

AN INDEPENDENT councillor has become the secretary of the Shetland SNP branch – but he says there will be no conflict of interest between the two roles.

North isles councillor Ryan Thomson

Ryan Thomson, who represents the North Isles, has been a member of the party since April and has stepped in to become the secretary of the local branch.

Meanwhile independent Lerwick North and Bressay councillor Stephen Leask re-joined the Scottish Labour party shortly before former prime minister Rishi Sunak called the snap election.

It comes after Shetland Islands Council (SIC)’s political leader Emma Macdonald, also an independent elected member, joined the Liberal Democrats last year – and has since joined the local branch’s executive committee.

She said at the time that her political party membership would not interfere in her status as an independent councillor.

Only three of the SIC’s current 23 councillors were elected on a party ticket – Scottish Green’s Alex Armitage, Scottish Labour’s Tom Morton and the SNP’s Robbie McGregor. Speaking after last week’s general election, in which the SNP came second in Orkney and Shetland with 17.3 per cent of the votes, Thomson said his independent status will “remain unchanged”.

“I have observed several councillors are now more openly aligned with their political parties in an official capacity,” he said.

“While my own political allegiance has been well known, I am now formally committed to assisting my political party in its efforts towards becoming a prosperous independent Scotland and cementing Shetland’s status within that independent nation.

“My role within the council will not change. I will continue to represent the North Isles to the best of my ability for the remainder of this council term.”

Lerwick North councillor Stephen leask.

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Meanwhile Leask said he did not view being a Labour party member as a “significant issue” in terms of his work as an independent councillor.

However, he said it might be something to think about if he were to stand in the next SIC elections in 2027.

Leask added that having briefly been a member of the Liberal Democrats in recent years joining Labour was “going back his roots”.

Labour came fifth out of six in the Orkney and Shetland election last week with 7.2 per cent of the votes.

During the election campaign independent Shetland South councillor Allison Duncan, whose register of interests does not include being a member of any political party, publicly showed support as an individual for Liberal Democrat candidate Alistair Carmichael.

The SIC has historically been made up of independent councillors but there has been a small smattering in decades gone by, including the Lib Dems and Labour.

Councillor Allison – Flea – Duncan supporting then Lib dems candidate Alistair Carmichael.

Meanwhile in a recent interview with Holyrood magazine, Shetland North councillor Morton said he was encouraged by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to stand for the party in the 2022 SIC elections.

He was elected after only three candidates put themselves for the three seats in the ward.

“I thought I had absolutely no chance because most councillors here are independents and I thought it was very, very unlikely anyone would vote for a party,” Morton was quoted as saying.

“I put myself forward as an official Labour candidate and lo and behold nobody stood against me. I’m one of three councillors for this ward, but nobody voted for me.”

During the las SIC elections in 2022 seven candidates ran with a party backing – three Greens, two SNP, one Sovereignty and one Labour.

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