WATCH: Lib Dem hopeful Carmichael finds support in Whalsay
A bonnie day in the Bonnie Isle saw Lib Dem candidate Alistair Carmichael argue his case between the rattle and hum of lawnmowers and folk pegging out their washing.
Speaking on the rather bumpy ferry journey, he expected fishing to be high on the agenda in Whalsay, calling for fishing rights to be ringfenced in future Brexit negotiations.
It was an argument the former Shetland and Orkney MP continued to make as he took to the doors.
Having recently signed the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation pledge on the future of the industry, he was “astonished” that the SNP candidate Miriam Brett hadn’t done the same.
Straight off the bat, he told Symbister resident Paul Wishart the CFP had been ” a disaster from the start” and stressed the importance of listening to fishermen.
The dumping of fish and the discard ban needed to be addressed, Mr Wishart said.
“Good fish are being dumped and then they’re complaining there’s no fish in the sea,” he said.
“As for this independence, I’m not for it,” he added when asked by Mr Carmichael.
“We’ve done it once. Just leave it for another 20 or 30 years and then think about it again.”
Armed with copies of the Northern Isles Gazette, Mr Carmichael’s campaign stated “only Alistair Carmichael can beat the SNP here” with a graph showing a 41 per cent victory over the SNP with 38 per cent of votes in 2015.
He believed there was little appetite for another referendum on Scottish independence in the isles and made no bones about it.
With 817 votes between them last time out, he argued to Whalsay voters it was a two-horse race with the SNP for this election campaign.
At another home the anti-SNP message seemed to have been laid on a bit too thick, causing some frustration with one of his campaign leaflets. “There are other ones”, he said, adding “there’s nobody else in the race”.
Mr Carmichael argued he could be a voice for Shetland at a time of uncertainty “when Shetland’s voice could be squeezed out”, nodding to his 16 years experience.
“I think you can probably bet on a cross in the box from this household,” the householder replied with a smile.
Within the first hour, a pattern most definitely seemed to be emerging, with not one resident we spoke to in favour of voting SNP.
“Two years ago you didn’t get the same [anti-]SNP and anti-independence sentiment,” Mr Carmichael said.
“The [independence] referendum experience was not a happy one for a lot of people and it did leave a lot of divisions between families and communities. When it was over the 55 per cent thought ‘that’s over, thank goodness and it’s politics as normal.
“The 45 per cent thought ‘one more heave and we’re there’. Once the no voters realised this was not a question that was going to go away their views started to harden.”
Concerns about the future of the fishing industry continued to be raised as we hit the road once more.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott had joined for the day of campaigning and was out delivering leaflets and knocking on doors to support his political compadre.
Fisherman John Pearson said: “I sincerely hope you win. The fishing is everything in this island,” he says.
Like others we had spoken to he was not a fan of the SNP.
“I really don’t like the SNP and I didn’t want devolution in the first place,” Mr Pearson added, believing Scotland was better with England.
“We really don’t feel Scottish up here. [But] I will certainly be supporting them when they are playing England.”
Heading back towards the pier one woman said she would not be voting Lib Dem, after voting for the party all her life.
“I don’t want another referendum on the EU,” she explained, explaining she planned to vote Conservative because she doesn’t want to go back into Europe because of the fishing community.
Mr Carmichael says he could understand her concerns about a referendum on a deal when leaving Europe. However, he warned: “The chances are if you vote Tory you could end up with a Tory SNP.”
Walking away he stressed to me: “It’s not a second referendum, it’s a referendum on the deal.
“The purpose of the referendum on the deal is that the government has to come back and face people and they have to say, ‘we promised you this and here’s what we’ve got you’.”
It was about “bringing the 52 per cent and the 48 per cent back together”, he added.
Leek and potato soup and a sizeable wedge of cake awaited at a pop-up cafe in Livister Hall.
Like a lot of residents in the isle, folk were reluctant to give their name when quizzed.
Among the busy kitchen with soup and sandwiches on the go one woman said she would be voting tactically, and it wouldn’t be for the SNP.
She said: “I would be surprised to find anybody that’s voting for them … they have absolutely no consideration for the isle or the livelihoods. They would sell it out [the fishing] if they got their independence and get back into Europe.”
For an island “which does pretty well with the fishing”, she said that would be “a kick in the tots”.