Maree Todd: Growing Interest in Orkney for an Independent Scotland

Maree ToddI’ve been hearing positive things from Orkney SNP members following their attendance at the Dounby and County shows at the end of last week. From what I gather, there is growing interest in the case for independence among islanders who attended the agricultural showcases, reflecting the mood across Scotland right now.

I did have show week pencilled in for a visit to Orkney, having thoroughly enjoyed the experience previously. Instead, I ventured even further north last weekend, returning to Shetland to help SNP candidate Tom Wills with his by-election campaign.

There is a real sense of progress as Tom and his team make their way around Shetland. The tide may well be turning after 70 years of electing Liberals. While the SNP are definitely the underdogs in a constituency that has been solid Liberal and Liberal Democrat for so long, there is definitely an appetite for change. It could be that 16 and 17-year olds will hold the key to the by-election. It is plain that young folk in the islands don’t want Brexit. It’s time to send Boris Johnson a message that we won’t be cut off from Europe.

Orkney folk will no doubt be watching the result very closely after polls close on 29th August. I’m looking forward to getting a sense of any change of mood in Orkney myself when I visit next week.

There have certainly been some eye-opening developments around the topic of independence for Scotland in recent days. Not least has been the recent Lord Ashcroft poll that showed 52% of decided voters would back Yes in another referendum, compared to 48% for No. This came on the back of the installation of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, after his election as the leader of the Tory Party at Westminster.

It is now clear that many people are unhappy about Brexit – with a no-deal exit looming at Halloween – and unhappy about Boris as the leader of an increasingly fractious United Kingdom. These voters are considering all options in front of them, including independence for Scotland.

However, if voters themselves are now giving a clearer signal about their attitudes towards independence and the need for another referendum to decide Scotland’s future, the same cannot be said for two of the main parties. London Labour and its Scottish branch office are at war after shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Labour wouldn’t stand in the way of a second referendum if there was evidence that Scots wanted it. This completely undermined Scottish leader Richard Leonard, who has always said any move for a second vote would be blocked.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson also seems to be running scared of democracy, apparently changing her mind on a second referendum. In 2016 she said it shouldn’t be blocked constitutionally, but is now attacking John McDonnell’s comments.

Whatever the stance of these party leaders, the likelihood of the Scottish people being given another vote on their future is suddenly a far stronger one than just a few short weeks ago.

This is a regular column from local MSP Maree Todd, SNP. All list MSPs have been offered the same space to share their views in The Orkney News

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