The first prospective candidate to be confirmed to fight the Orkney Constituency for a seat in the Scottish Parliament in 2021 is Robert Leslie. Members of the Orkney SNP branch have selected Robert Leslie to be the party’s candidate for the elections due to be held next May.
Speaking after being confirmed as candidate, Robert Leslie said:
“The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the dysfunctional relationship between the Tory government at Westminster and the other countries in an increasingly disunited kingdom.
“The crisis has been handled disastrously by the Tories at Westminster. The SNP Government in Edinburgh has done far better, and the level of trust in Nicola Sturgeon as a leader compared to Boris Johnson underlines this.
“Orkney suffers a major energy inequity due to UK energy policy that isn’t fit for purpose, with the high levels of fuel poverty in the islands the most visible and damaging manifestation of that unfairness. The fact that folk in Orkney have to choose between heating and eating while the county generates more electricity from renewables than it can use is just one reason why voters need to choose a different future next May and send an SNP MSP to Holyrood.”
Other local issues that Mr Leslie wants to address include the need to identify sustainable and efficient replacement ferries for Orkney’s internal ferry service.
“I really feel that the SNP in Orkney has a role to play in moving the debate on from the ‘fairer ferry funding’ slogan that has merely been used as a stick with which to beat the Scottish Government. Local folk are fed up with the old ferries, but there appears to be a lack of vision from Orkney’s current leaders when it comes to progressing plans for a new fleet.”
And if Orkney really wants devolution of powers – as stated by Orkney Islands Council leader James Stockan recently – then Mr Leslie says there is a clear way forward for the islands.
“Instead of courting a Prime Minister who appears ready to break the law, Orkney’s leaders and voters should stand shoulder to shoulder with the SNP as we campaign to take decision-making closer to home – whether that be Edinburgh, Kirkwall, Stromness or Westray.
“The SNP, after all, has done more to recognise the different needs and issues of Orkney and Scotland’s other islands than any previous administration at Holyrood. The Islands Act of 2018, building on the great work of the award-winning Our Islands Our Future campaign, was a great step forward for Orkney and there is work to be done to ensure that the principles of ‘island proofing’ are fully adopted.
“The Act set a precedent for Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles to work closer together in their common interests – and I would welcome more of this.”
But Mr Leslie says issues being played out at Westminster show that Scotland needs to steer a different path.
“With a no-deal Brexit looming, and the UK Government admitting its willingness to break international law, we are seeing a power grab from the Scottish Parliament that puts the Scottish environment and economy at risk – with inevitable impact on Orkney’s agriculture and food and drink sectors.
“Electing an SNP MSP would be a signal from voters in Orkney that, as well as seeking more powers for themselves, they back the democratic right of the people of Scotland to have another referendum on independence. The leader of the Scottish branch of the UK Lib Dems, Willie Rennie, says they are not in favour of another independence referendum. He says his party will be arguing every step of the way to make sure that doesn’t happen. That doesn’t sound very democratic to me.
“It’s time to give Orkney a new voice at Holyrood as we strive to make these islands a fairer, greener and more resilient place in which to live and work as part of a stronger Scotland.”
Robert Leslie has recently taken over as manager of local fuel poverty charity THAW Orkney, while maintaining a part-time role as energy officer with Orkney Housing Association Ltd, where he has worked since 2010.
A previous career in newspapers saw Mr Leslie work at The Orcadian and Orkney Today, as well as a spell at the Press & Journal in Moray. He was born and brought up in Orkney and attended Kirkwall Grammar School, later completing a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Studies through The Open University.
In his spare time, the candidate is a side drummer with Kirkwall City Pipe Band and an enthusiast for live music, although these hobbies have been halted by the current Covid-19 pandemic. He is also the author of the history of Orkney Rugby Football Club. Mr Leslie is married to Kara, and they have three daughters, Ria, Isla and Ruby; two cats, Ginger and Poppy; and a recent addition to the family – Border Collie, Gaia.
Mr Leslie joined the Orkney SNP after learning much about political campaigning with Yes Orkney during the Scottish independence referendum from 2012 to 2014. He then helped with co-ordination and communication during the General Election campaigns of 2015 and 2017, as well as the 2016 Holyrood election.
He has worked for Highlands and Islands SNP MSPs Mike Mackenzie and Maree Todd, and most recently stood as SNP candidate for Orkney & Shetland in the 2019 General Election, increasing the SNP vote and reducing the majority of Alistair Carmichael.
The Scottish Parliament elections are due to take place on 6th of May 2021.