OIC’s only Green Councillor, Steve Sankey, has announced that he will be retiring at the council elections on May 5th. Steve, who made political history in becoming the first Green Party Member to be elected to OIC, for the Ward of East Mainland, South Ronaldsay and Burray, said:
“Although it was a difficult decision, in the end it just came down to the fact that I’m simply ‘retiring’, and I have no desire to be a Councillor in my 70s! I have a business to continue to run and enjoy for another few years, a wildlife tourism business which like many others in Orkney has been badly impacted by COVID, and needs some time invested in it to re-build and stabilise things.”
“It’s been an honour and a privilege to represent my Ward, and I’d like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the voters who elected me in 2017, and to my colleagues and the officers of the Council for their support over the years. This hasn’t been an easy decision for me because being a Councillor is rewarding and there remains so much more to do, but I’m comforted in the knowledge that other Green candidates will step forward, especially younger candidates and females – both these dimensions are badly needed in the Council chamber.
Standing in Steve’s stead in the East Mainland, South Ronaldsay and Burray Ward will be Eric Page.
Eric grew up in Orkney and lives in Kirkwall with his young family. His priorities for the Ward will include maintaining roads and infrastructure, notably the barriers, keeping the Hope’s recycling facility open and addressing the mental health crisis within our communities.
“Steve will prove a hard act to follow as I know he has helped hundreds of constituents over the years with whatever issues or difficulties they might have had. He’s also saved the ‘Hope Household Recycling Centre from closure not just once but twice, and this is such an important community facility.
“I’m committed, though, to keeping this and other important local issues such as the future of the barriers prominent in the political domain so that we get improvements and resources in what is essentially a rural Ward stretching from Tankerness and Deerness to the South Parish.”
The Scottish Greens are the only national political party to be represented in Orkney Islands Council although some ‘Independent’ councillors are members of political parties they don’t stand as such.
Helen Woodsford Dean has already been selected to contest West Mainland for the Greens ( Helen Woodsford-Dean to Contest West Mainland for the Scottish Greens ) and Councillor John Ross Scott (Independent) joined the Scottish Greens and will contest his seat, Kirkwall East, under that party banner.
At the last council elections in 2017 the results were as follows; Independent- 18; Orkney Manifesto Group – 2, Scottish Greens – 1. In 2020 a by-election was held following the death of Councillor Kevin Woodbridge. The Labour party did field a candidate but the seat was won by Heather Woodbridge, daughter of Keven Woodbridge, standing as an Independent.
Also in 2017 James Stockan, Rob Crichton and Magnus Thomson were elected in the uncontested seat of Stromness and South Isles. James Stockan is the leader of Orkney Islands Council.
Voter turnout in Orkney varies across the islands but overall it was 49.7% which means over half of the Orkney electorate choose not to take part in the election of their councillors.
Praising the contribution to the OIC of Steve Sankey, Councillor John Ross Scott, said:
“Steve has been pivotal to the rise of the Green movement in Orkney. He co-founded the Orkney Greens in 2014 and remains their Co-Convenor. He’s well known by all the Green Parliamentarians, and even by many opposition MSPs, and will be sorely missed in the Council chamber. I’m delighted that he plans to stay active within the Greens in Orkney, and we all wish him well in the years ahead.”