Letters: More Young People & Women Need to Stand for OIC Elections

Dear Orkney News,

The May 2022 Council elections are fast approaching and, hopefully, this time Orkney will be able to elect a more representative group of Councillors. I am particularly keen to see more young people and women stand to ensure that the Council is more akin to the population it represents.

Young people are the lifeblood of our community, but as research has shown, in Orkney – up until recently – they have not been given a major say in the way the county is run. Instead of demeaning them, we should be doing all we can to nurture our young and get them to stay and take a leading role in Orkney life.

Aged 27, Heather Woodbridge was elected to Orkney Islands Council in 2020 and has made a real impact, but the second youngest Councillor right now is Magnus Thomson, aged 45, and most of the rest are aged over 60.

Excuses abound among the elder ranks of councillors that young people do not have the experience to govern but how are they expected to gain experience if they are prevented – mostly by us the electorate – from taking part.

The ongoing push to get more women to stand is also important. At present only four of the current 21 Councillors are women. The excuse made by some regarding the dearth of female representatives is that they are not up to, or keen on, the cut and thrust of politics but that is just not true. I have come up against many a feisty female Councillor in my time all of whom could run rings around their male counterparts.

Don’t get me wrong, you do need older people with experience and know how as part of the mix on any council. As well as steadying the ship and using their knowledge to bring about prosperity to the areas they represent, they should be there to encourage, nurture and mentor young newcomers. A dominance of retired, or soon to be retired, grey haired or balding men in the council chamber can so easily lead to stagnation and a dominance of closed views. This needs to end.

It is time we looked to our neighbours in Norway for inspiration. There, every political party – and there are many – ensure that there is one candidate under the age of 32 on each of their party lists. In this way young blood is injected into each councils and new politicians are born leading to a more progressive, forward-thinking yet balanced approach to governance.

As co-author of the ‘Being Heard’ reports on young people engagement – I have over the past three years tried to encourage young people in Orkney to make their voices heard on issues that are important to them such as transport, climate change, mental health and equalities. You only need to look to the lack of real interest in Health and Social Care by many sitting councillors and the harrowing debates held on Climate Change and over whether the Pride Flag should fly in Kirkwall to see just how out of touch from reality many of the current Councillors are.

So, come on all you women and young folk over the age of 18, at least consider putting your names forward for election. I have over the past 40 years had the thrill and enjoyment of representing the public and doing my best for them and I am convinced you will can do so too. The remuneration is not a lot at £18,604 per annum but it could fit in well with anyone who has a flexible part time job, and child care packages are available.

The Green Party has been working hard to get young people and women to stand in the 2022 council elections but I see little or no evidence on the part of the ruling Independents ‘group’ to do likewise. This may seem like a turkey voting for Christmas but I would be more than happy – as a Councillor of 28 years – to give any women or young people help and advice on what being a Councillor and participating in public life entails and mentor them into making the difference.

Application forms will be available in March and they are easy to fill in. So now is the time for all young people and women to contemplate stepping up to the plate.

John Ross Scott, Councillor: Kirkwall East

The elected councillors for Orkney Islands Council in 2017

2 replies »

  1. Every election I vote for Rachael King. Not because she’s female, but because she’s sound.
    I only hope that she’s standing again.

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