Labour’s Westminster candidate for Orkney and Shetland says the most pressing issue for the isles is finding ways of attracting young people back here once they have completed their studies.
Mark Cooper’s remarks came on his first visit to Shetland since being selected to contest the seat earlier this year, ahead of a general election to be held before next June. He said finding employment for new graduates and carving out a sustainable future, particularly in outlying areas, were the key issues for him.
“We need to try to help young people find jobs in the islands so that the islands still benefit from their schools, for example. If they go to Aberdeen to study, they should be able to find a job at home instead of having to move away through no choice of their own,” he said.
“The big concern I have is that everything will become more focused on the mainland, Lerwick and Scalloway, because since the RAF left Unst the population has gone down considerably. Because it’s expensive to get up there, people are not choosing to go up there so the people who are there are in danger of losing access to vital services.
“For example, as the school population goes down it becomes more expensive to run the school. The thing I do not want is for the children’s education to suffer because they are the future of this community. They should be given the same chance as any other children in the islands to reach their full potential.”
Mr Cooper, who has cerebral palsy, has also launched a national drive aimed at improving disabled access to pubs. He wants to work alongside the licensed trade and local authorities to improve the accessibility of pubs and clubs.
The unemployed 24-year-old says sustainability is the main principle behind his politics but would not be drawn on whether he would like to see Viking Energy’s proposed windfarm go ahead: “I just want the best thing for Shetland so I am following the debate closely and that’s all I have to say on that.”
Mr Cooper is holding a public meeting where people can come and discuss any issues with him in Room 10 at Islesburgh at 7pm on Friday evening.