Letter from Westminster 18.07.08

AS MP for Orkney and Shetland I have many illustrious predecessors.

Jim Wallace and Jo Grimond are perhaps among the best known to the current generation but there are others.

One for whom I always have had a sneaking admiration is Cathcart Wason who was MP for Orkney and Shetland from 1900 until 1921. He was famous for having passed the time in the House of Commons by knitting.

As someone whose knitting experience extends to one square knitted as a 10-year-old which was then pressed into service as an action man blanket, the idea of knitting in the House of Commons is one which has always attracted me. I fear, however, that I would not have the courage to do it myself.

I did, however, get to do the next best thing last Thursday as I joined other MPs to cast on a few stitches in support of the Save the Children campaign “Knit one – Save one”. The campaign wants as many people as possible to knit a baby hat which will then be sent for distribution in developing countries where they will help to cut the number of new­born babies dying from pneumonia.

I have been struck over the years going in to homes in the Northern Isles by the number of people (mostly women) who are immensely skilled knitters and I hope that better knitters than me (there can not be many worse) will support the cam­paign by going to www.savethe children.org.uk and downloading the pattern and campaign pack and getting knitting.

If you don’t have internet access then call my Lerwick office on 690044 and we shall post you out the necessary information. In the meantime, I have completed two rows of my hat in painfully slow measure. I think I have a project for the summer recess.

My other project is acting as chairman of the campaign to elect Tavish Scott as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. The election is caused by the sudden decision of Nicol Stephen to resign as our Scottish leader.

Nicol is no stranger to people in Shetland, having visited many times over the years. He is someone I have known since the early 1980s and have always admired. He resigned because he felt that the respon­sibilities of being party leader, con­stituency MSP and father were more than he was able to juggle.

I have a lot of sympathy for his predicament. I know from my own experience that politics is rarely a family friendly occupation. I am immensely sorry that he felt he had to resign and his resignation is a loss to Scottish politics and the Liberal Democrats in particular.

I have no doubt that Tavish is the best qualified to take over the job and am excited by the prospect of his leadership. The party has never done badly by taking its leaders from the Northern Isles. Whether or not he is able to emulate Cathcart Wason with the knitting needles I did not think to ask.

Alistair Carmichael MP


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