SNP finance secretary John Swinney was being brutally honest when he said, recently, that difficult decisions lie ahead. Locally there will be council cuts and a few possible school closures. Some £1.6 billion of savings are required by the Scottish government in the year ahead, thanks to UK Labour economic mismanagement and larger than needed Tory-Lib cuts.
The SNP, if re-elected as the majority party, will continue to deliver smaller, more joined up and more cost effective public services. We may also have to deal with bigger cuts, in the future. Any Scottish government has to balance the budget. Taxpayers’ money in Scotland and at local authority level has to be managed more effectively. This is true in Shetland also.
The SNP is lucky to have in experienced Highland councillor Jean Urquhart a bright, able and highly competent candidate, who has a detailed understanding of crofting, farming, fishing, aquaculture, fuel prices, transport, ferries and tourism. Many of these rural and west Highland issues are also those of Shetland. She will speak up for Shetland, not snipe from the sidelines.
In the two northern Scottish constituencies to the south of us, the Lib Dems are under severe pressure. The ineffective Jamie Stone and the highly respected John Farquhar Munro have retired. In these marginal seats, Rob Gibson and Dave Thomson, both well known in Shetland, require swings of only 4 per cent to 5 per cent from the Lib Dems to the SNP to win. Jean Urquhart’s honesty, integrity and common sense shines through and is being well received in Shetland.
Four years ago, Jean received the highest percentage SNP vote, in her Loch Broom constituency, in the entire Highland Council. This tells us a lot about how she is regarded by the people.
The main plank in Lib Dem candidate Liam McArthur’s campaign in Orkney is to have RET extended to Orkney. This ignores the fact that the four different routes to Orkney from mainland Scotland would all be priced differently. Nobody in Shetland, Lib Dems or otherwise, wants to have RET for their external ferry services as, under the RET formula, prices would greatly exceed those presently charged. This unfavourable price increase would also apply to the more distant Kirkwall to Aberdeen route and would work to the detriment of Orkney farmers, when exporting their animals. So the Lib Dems have totally different policies in neighbouring Orkney and Shetland.
Far from attacking the SNP on RET, without recognising the consequences, Liam McArthur should be congratulating the SNPs John Swinney and Stuart Stevenson for recognising the pitfalls. A one-size-fits-all type of RET will not suit Orkney and Shetland, where different arrangements are thus needed.
I almost felt sorry for Tavish Scott, after reading last week’s Shetland Times. Is he really as dishonest and unprincipled as Charlie Gallagher suggests? However one has to say, he does “set himself up” by saying different things in different places.
This cheap posturing by Lib Dems, Tavish Scott from Shetland and Liam McArthur from Orkney, on centralisation of police, ambulance, fire services and other issues, is both unworthy and untrue. What matters is the quality of the service at the local, Shetland level. The SNP have delivered 1,000 more police than in 2007, while crime is at its lowest level for 32 years.
We deserve better. Be part of better and support the SNP candidate, Jean Urquhart.
SNP election agent for Shetland