Local election candidates in Orkney are deeply concerned about how Orkney will be affected when the UK exits the EU. A recent survey conducted by Yes Orkney of all 38 candidates showed that all those who responded (28%) saw disadvantages for our islands with Brexit – even with those who voted Leave. Concerns around the negative impact Brexit will have on the Orkney economy was summed up by one respondent:
“The (potential) changes to the CAP system must concern farmers which will make a knock on effect for businesses throughout the county”
The anonymous survey posted out to all candidates was completed by 11 of them. Some chose to send in a leaflet instead and others thought it was not the business of Yes Orkney to be asking candidates their thoughts on a range of issues.
On ‘Our Islands Our Future‘ and the Islands Bill currently making its way slowly through the Scottish Parliament most thought that this was positive for Orkney but some were worried that promises made in the Bill would not be followed through by the Scottish Government. The Islands Bill when passed would see increased powers being devolved to all three Island Authorities giving Orkney much more local control including over the management and revenues of the Crown Estate.
“A collective approach on issues important to island authorities will carry more weight than individual areas pursuing issues alone”
Most of the candidates acknowledged that Orkney Islands Council made far too many decisions in secrecy with one declaring:
“I have spoken to people to whom Council business is of particular interest and they report that they have increasingly to accept what is passed to them by OIC as it is well – night impossible to gain access to the ‘seminars’ and ‘information events’ at which information key to the decision-making process is actually debated and discussed, the result being that the committee and full-council meetings only serve to formally endorse decisions that have, in effect, already been made.”
This could explain why many decisions taken by the OIC are baffling to the Public and come as a surprise to those most affected by them as in the case with the shock closure of the Language Unit. Not all candidates thought this with one giving reasons for the secrecy and another saying that it was not as bad as people make out. Perhaps to make council business more open those elected would hold surgeries and communicate more with their constituents. On this question there were many positive responses and if this was actually followed through then the Public would certainly find it easier to communicate with councillors given that in the last council many did not answer e:mails or letters.
It may be that this was the first time candidates for Orkney Islands Council have been asked to respond to a survey and those that did should be commended for taking the time to do so. When nearly all candidates in Orkney stand as ‘Independents’ it is often difficult for members of the public to know what their views are and to see a collection of responses. Although the survey was anonymous it appears that some did attach their names to their answers having no problem with making known their views on issues of such importance to Orkney. It is a great shame that the majority of candidates chose not to share their views at all and actually objected to even being asked what they were.
Let’s hope that future elections see more surveys of this type being done by a variety of interest groups and that those elected open up the governance of our islands to those that elect them.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame
Polling takes place on Thursday 4th May from 07:00am to 10:00pm with the electronic count to take place on Friday 5th May