Maree Todd MSP: Challenges & Change Ahead for Orkney

Well, the past fortnight has certainly flown by as folk in Orkney not only had to decide which candidates in the Orkney Islands Council elections to vote for, but also found out who would be on the ballot paper for the snap UK General Election on 8th June.

For people who live and breathe politics this is an extremely exciting period to be involved in and every day brings a new twist. However, I entirely understand that some folk may feel overwhelmed by the pace of change nationally and internationally. And it seems that change will also now come locally, with the shock announcement by award-winning former OIC Convener Steven Heddle that he will not run for either of the new leadership roles in the new council.

Having met Steven several times since I was elected as an MSP last year, I am sorry not to see him continue as a leader after having such success in the previous council. Together with his colleagues in Shetland Islands Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Gary Robinson and Angus Campbell, Steven won awards for the Our Islands Our Future campaign, which was a well-focused project seeking recognition of the unique challenges faced in island communities.

These challenges are unlikely to be reduced with the prospect of a hard Tory Brexit, and the impact of the UK’s departure from the EU looks set to be the focus of the campaign for votes.

I am delighted, for this reason, that the SNP has a candidate who can combine an in-built commitment to her constituency and a working knowledge of Westminster. For Miriam Brett, born and brought up in Shetland and a regular visitor to Orkney, has for the past two years been working as senior economic adviser to the SNP’s Westminster group.

Having watched Miriam rise to prominence during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, I know first-hand of her passion for politics and recognise in her a very sharp mind. It was no surprise, then, to hear from friends in Orkney that Miriam has made a strong impression with folk she has met while kicking off her campaign in the islands over the past week.

This is going to be a whirlwind campaign, but there already appears to be an appetite for change in the islands. And what a change that would be: from an MP associated with underhand and dishonest actions during the 2015 General Election, to one born and bred in the Northern Isles and who sharpened her political skills as a grassroots activist in one of the most engaging political campaigns in Scotland’s history.

Voters in Orkney and Shetland will weigh up the key issues over the next four weeks, but in what is likely to be another two-horse race – following the slashing of Alistair Carmichael’s majority by the late Danus Skene from 9,928 to just 817 – it may well be that they decide it is time for change. Electing Miriam Brett as their MP would be a really positive move.

The is a regular fortnightly column by local SNP MSP Maree Todd

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