That old saying that a week is a long time in politics isn’t always entirely accurate. When Theresa May performed yet another U-turn – which certainly sets her apart from Maggie ‘The Lady’s Not For Turning’ Thatcher – and called a snap General Election last Tuesday, my immediate thought was the short time that the SNP had to find a candidate for Orkney & Shetland.
In this instance a week has not been a long time. It has also been sad to have to find someone to take the place of the late Danus Skene, who ran Alistair Carmichael so close in the 2015 General Election, slashing his majority from 9,928 to just 817. However, as I write this we are close to being able to announce someone I believe will be a very strong SNP candidate for the Northern Isles, and who will build on the massive shift in votes triggered by the positive campaign run last time by Danus.
We are now, of course, in a very different political landscape. The backdrop to this campaign is a looming hard Brexit manipulated by an increasingly right-wing Tory party in England. Add to that the fact that the calling of the General Election coincided with news that several Tory MPs may face criminal charges over election expenses from the 2015 campaign, and the quagmire that the UK Government finds itself in becomes even more apparent.
Alistair Carmichael, it has to be said, is no stranger to the court room. It will be interesting to see how the Orkney and Shetland electorate views the fact that their representative at Westminster admitted to having lied about his role in an attempt to smear First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during the 2015 campaign.
Danus Skene built his case for becoming the MP for Orkney and Shetland around the themes of prosperity, good government, and fairness. However, he also held Alistair Carmichael to account for his role, as LibDem Whip, in propping up a Tory Government that was more unfair in its impact on ordinary people than even that of the aforementioned Mrs Thatcher.
We have seen how the Tories have carried on this attack on the lives of families and individuals as they struggle under the austerity agenda. A strong voice for Scotland is more necessary than ever with the threat of an increased Tory majority that would give them heart to increase the pressure on our most vulnerable folk.
And with the UK Treasury having said that Brexit will leave the UK poorer, it has never been more important for the electorate in Orkney and Shetland – and across Scotland – to question how best we can protect ourselves from the increasingly hardline Tories.
So, the stage is set for a swift and intensive campaign leading up to the vote on Thursday, 8th June. The voters of Orkney and Shetland can take a step further than in 2015 and elect a strong SNP voice to represent the islands at Westminster. You could say ‘Now is the time’.
This is a fortnightly column by local MSP Maree Todd, SNP