Maree Todd MSP: Sensing a ‘change in the islands’

Maree ToddNow that we are getting down to the nuts and bolts of this winter General Election campaign, it is clear that Nicola Sturgeon has been head and shoulders above the other party leaders in the televised debates ahead of the 12th December vote.

No wonder voters south of the border would welcome a politician of her calibre.

Contrast what Scotland has done under Nicola Sturgeon with the voting record of someone like Jo Swinson. While Scotland has maintained and expanded the Education Maintenance Allowance, Jo Swinson voted to scrap it south of the border.

The SNP has been spending over £100 million a year since 2013 mitigating to protect people from the worst aspects of Tory welfare cuts. Jo Swinson voted to introduce the Bedroom Tax.

So did Alistair Carmichael, of course, who described it as a ‘necessary change’ when he was Scottish Secretary in 2013.

In Orkney and Shetland the Liberal Democrats have been in power for decades. However, there are signs from this campaign that folk are changing their minds on re-electing a man whose voting record is so tainted.

His record also includes voting to introduce Universal Credit and Personal Independence Plans, and voting not to make an exception for those with a cancer diagnosis or undergoing cancer treatment from the 365-day limit on receiving contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance.

When I hear that voters in Orkney are starting to describe themselves as ‘we used to be Lib Dem’, then there is a sense that the tide may well be turning.

Of course, I know that our SNP candidate, Robert Leslie, will not be getting carried away. He knows the Lib Dem majority in 2017 was 4,563 – well up from the 817 two years previously. However, having helped with the Holyrood by-election campaign run by Tom Wills in Shetland this summer, I had a sense that there is change in the islands, and that has been reflected in these recent stories from Orkney.

While Brexit may dominate in much of the media, many voters see the climate emergency and how parties will tackle it as much more pressing. I hope these voters will see through claims by Alistair Carmichael that he is putting this issue front and centre of his campaign.

If any vote speaks volumes about his commitment to that cause, then voting three times against greater regulation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract shale gas must be it.

Contrast that with Robert Leslie’s energy efficiency and fuel poverty work, and his commitment to finding a way to use Orkney’s plentiful renewable generation potential for the benefit of all residents. His desire for this kind of positive outcome from our need to address climate change should be attractive to anyone wanting to ensure no one is left behind as we make the transition to a low-carbon economy.

If you want to escape Brexit, put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands rather than Boris Johnson’s, and have a greener, fairer future, then vote for the SNP next Thursday.

There are 6 candidates standing in the Orkney and Shetland Constituency to be held on Thursday 12th of December.

David Stephen Barnard, Independent

Alistair Carmichael, Scottish Liberal Democrats

Coilla Anne Drake, Scottish Labour Party

Jennifer Fairbairn, Scottish Conservative and Unionist

Robert Fraser Leslie. Scottish National Party (SNP)

Robert Watt Smith, The Brexit Party

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

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