Steve Sankey: On The Campaign Trail (Again…)

I’m a candidate for the Orkney Greens (Scottish Green Party) in the ward of East Mainland, South Ronaldsay and Burray, and with the OIC election a mere month away, it was time to start campaigning in my local patch of South Ronaldsay.

I know the island well. I’m a wildlife tour guide, and there are few bits of Orkney that I don’t know. But even I was unprepared for my mystical journeys along farm tracks, around barns, and the approach to houses, in the sometimes difficult search for a front-door or a letter-box!

Some Orkney houses of course don’t have letter-boxes. That’s okay, as many doors are left unlocked. But what if the door is locked? I have various lateral methods of resolving this issue, involving leaflets slid into door jambs, leaflets left under stones, or leaflets shoved into rusting gate posts. There will yet be other solutions.

I stood as an election candidate last year in the Scottish Parliamentary election of May 2016 when I was a List Candidate for the Scottish Green Party in Highlands and Islands Region. At number 5 on the SGP H&I list I had zero chance of being elected, but the 696 votes (7%) for the Scottish Green Party cast in Orkney certainly helped John Finnie MSP get re-elected to Holyrood. There were several hustings to attend, both general and specific (on agriculture, organised by NFUS), and lots of opportunities to engage the electorate along the way – but it wasn’t quite the same as now, chapping doors and delivering leaflets like a real local election demands.

So what are the issues on the doorstep? Several have been raised to date: a poor broadband service, a poor mobile signal, no resolution of either the barriers or Burwick. a secretive Council. But in South Ronaldsay, one issue is towering above all others, if you’ll excuse the pun – the proposed wind turbine development at Hesta Head, and everyone seems to have a point of view.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the Orkney Greens are not supporting the turbines at either Costa or Hesta, for the simple reason that we object to the policy mis-match between a shocking 63% fuel poverty (85% in elderly households) and ‘big-business’ power generation going straight off, South. We advocate empowered communities, and large windfarms don’t fall naturally into a community-initiated model. Add to this the host of planning policies, conservation difficulties, and supplementary guidance on energy and landscape that point against the development of the windfarm at Hesta, and our lack of support perhaps isn’t so surprising.

But it’s a windfarm proposal, and the electorate has polarised views. I’d suggest that for every vote won there are certainly others to be lost, and so what is a poor candidate to do? My approach with this issue, and indeed all others, is simply to be honest. Folk will vote for you, perhaps, if you’re clear about issues, and if they don’t agree, they won’t. That’s democracy, and it appears to be alive and well at present on South Ronaldsay.

This is a regular column by a representative of the Scottish Greens

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