Robina Barton is standing in the Orkney and Shetland Constituency for the Labour Party
Somebody wrote to the Shetland Times last week reflecting on the life experiences of myself and SNP candidate Miriam Brett. I’m hoping it was not to suggest that I’m horribly old!
Nevertheless, it did make me think. The year that Miriam Brett was born I spent Christmas in Westminster. To be exact I was bedding down in Westminster Quaker Meeting House and volunteering at a shelter for the street homeless in Blackfriars. I was 15 at the time. I doubt that would be allowed today – health and safety…. But it was the first of many Christmas/New Year weeks I spent there. Eventually I came to manage the shelter. That was the year I moved to Shetland. The shelter had moved to Union Chapel in Islington, and policies and procedures had moved on. They had to.
In the early nineties, most of the street homeless were middle aged alcoholic males. A lot of ex-army men who had taken to drink, lost their wives and found themselves on the street. We let them drink in the shelter, unlike most other shelters in London, so we usually catered for the folk that had been kicked out of everywhere else. They were decent people at heart, polite until the drink took over, and predictable in their behaviour.
Yes, they could get angry and violent but you always knew they’d eventually calm down and fall asleep. And they had interesting life stories to tell. But as the years went on, the shelter environment got more challenging. The guests got younger, their behaviour was erratic and threatening, drugs were rife and it was altogether a much more frightening environment. More frightening and much, much sadder. Because we were working with young people who had never known what it was to have a settled life or a loving family. Their lives had been chaotic from birth. We banned the alcohol and policed the drugs but we alone couldn’t solve the problems. It’s many years now since I worked the shelter but my father is still involved and I know things haven’t got any better.
I tell this story because when a lot of folk think of London they think of the Westminster bubble, and a city of wealthy self-satisfied people, and it fuels the call for Scottish Independence. But when I think of London, I think of cardboard city, and a young woman, all small and yellow, dying of hepatitis, and two guys spending a night in the shelter doorway with bags of glue clamped to their faces, and a group of men thinking it would be funny to give a lad with mental health problems a cup of p*** to drink. And I think “that is my country too, and it is my responsibility”.
I am never going to support a movement that only cares for Scotland when people the length and breadth of our tiny British Isles are left in poverty, vulnerable and struggling from day to day. The SNP vision of an Independent Scotland seems incredibly small to me. 6 million people out of 60. It’s not enough. And under a Conservative government nothing is going to change.
So, despite their well-publicised divisions and spats, I continue to stand for the Labour party that brought us the NHS and the welfare state. The party that believes in working together for the many not the few. The only party that can come close to challenging Tory dominance. Problems aside, Labour values still endure and I’d back them any day over the SNP, who have no values at all, just an insular approach to life.
General Election 2017: Orkney and Shetland Candidates
Labour: Robina Barton
SNP: Miriam Brett
Liberal Democrats: Alistair Carmichael
Independent: Stuart Hill
Conservative: Halcro Johnston
UKIP: Robert Smith
Like Robina I also lived and worked in London for over 26 years and yes I did come across many people in dire straits and sad to say many of them were Scots. I also saw Wastemonster Governments of both hues building huge projects to the benefit of the greater Metropolitan area. Projects like extending London Underground, cross rail, tram ways, huge water mains, new motorways. Yet when I traveled about Scotland’s motorways I found mile after mile had been constructed without a hard-shoulder to save money but that never, ever happened in England. As for Airport links, in the early sixties travelling every day to Glasgow Uni I watched the conversion of RNAS Abbotsinch to Glasgow Airport we discussed why a rail link that recently provided at the new Gatwick Airport was not being built, not needed, not enough money and this was the message that came from both Labour and Tory Governments.
Now I believe Robina has her roots in the North of England and I’m sure that she has watched the destruction of many industries there and complained about how all big spending gets sucked into London. The truly sad thing is that despite spells in Government Labour did nothing in fact that stealing the Tories clothes they aided and abetted this.
Coming to the approaching GE I notice that Robina concedes that her Party is in total disarray and the pundits give Jeremy Corbyn little or no chance of forming the next Government. I’m sure that Robina already knows that if her Party retain every English and Welsh seat that they had in the last and by some miracle won all 59 Scottish and the Tories retained their present 330 seats they would still be 41 seats short of a majority.
Is it any wonder that with the SNP standing-up for Scotland there is no doubt that they are best placed to represent Scotland and Miriam Brett is the breath of fresh-air that Orkney & Shetland needs right now..