Brae pupils quiz candidates on Trident, food banks and Miliband

Four out of five parliamentary candidates, minus Ukip candidate Robert Smith, faced a grilling from Brae High School pupils on Tuesday in a hustings chaired by teacher Irvine Tait.

The first question, whether we should renew Trident, received an unequivocal “yes” from Conservative candidate Donald Cameron. He said: “We live in uncertain times and face threats from rogue powers. It’s an insurance policy.” However he added that we should work towards multi-lateral reduction talks later.

The hustings at the Brae School. From left: Labour candidate Gerry McGarvey, LibDem candidate Alistair Carmichael, chairman Irvine Tait, SNP candidate Danus Skene and Conservative candidate Donald Cameron. Photo: Rosalind Griffiths
The hustings at the Brae School. From left: Labour candidate Gerry McGarvey, LibDem candidate Alistair Carmichael, chairman Irvine Tait, SNP candidate Danus Skene and Conservative candidate Donald Cameron. Photo: Rosalind Griffiths

Liberal Democrat candidate Alistair Carmichael said the nuclear deterrent should be replaced, but “not on a like for like basis”. It should be smaller, “down a rung or two”, and he would like all nuclear powers to “take a step back”. He wished nuclear weapons had not been invented, but was “realistic” about it and nuclear countries had to take responsibility for them.

Old conflicts could spark up, he said, and “the world is not a safe place”.

SNP candidate Danus Skene said the “unusable” Trident system should not be renewed, and pointed out it relied for use on the command system of the US as part of Nato.

He declared himself to be a “unilateralist” in not wanting it, and said: “I can’t see any scenario in which it would be used.” And unlike most insurance policies, which can be discussed after an event, after the use of the nuclear deterrent: “None of us will be here.”

Labour candidate Gerry McGarvey said Trident makes us more secure, and added: “We’re all keen to address the reduction of harm in the world, it’s a fragile place. Putin is not a nice guy and anything could happen.”

The referendum was the next topic. No, said Mr Skene, there would not be another one within five years unless there was a significant constitutional change in the UK, such as voting to leave the EU, and it would have to be an issue in a Scottish election. It had, however, “moved the tectonic plates”.

None of the others wanted another referendum, Mr McGarvey said: “The people have spoken”, Mr Cameron said the referendum experience had been, and was still divisive, and Mr Carmichael said: “Absolutely not.” He promised that the powers for Scotland promised in the Smith Commission would happen.

To the question is Ed Miliband fit to be Prime Minister, Mr McGarvey said: “Hell yes!” He said he disliked the American style of debate which focused on personalities, but Mr Miliband had put forward a cogent case for what his party represented.

Mr McGarvey rejected the prospect of being linked with the SNP: “Why would I want to enter a coalition with a party whose sole purpose is to annihilate Labour? The easiest way to get Labour is to vote Labour.”

Mr Cameron said he hoped David Cameron remained Prime Minister as he offered more hope for the next five years, and rejected tactical voting: “You should vote for who you want.”

Mr Carmichael said he would not particularly like either Ed Miliband or David Cameron to be Prime Minister – both have failings of personality and politics.

It was mentioned that Mr Miliband lived in an expensive house and Mr Skene was Eton-educated – the latter said people should be judged by their actions.

When asked if people could trust the Lib Dems after they had promised not to put up tuition fees, Mr Carmichael said coalition was a compromise but he listed other achievements – the economy was under control, inflation was low, taxes had been cut for low earners, the NHS budget had been protected in real terms and much more.

Mr Skene said he did not enjoy the prospect of living in “foodbank Britain”, which was echoed by Mr McGarvey.

But Mr Cameron said the coalition had delivered economic security.

The final question required the panel to name the personal qualities they would bring to the post of MP.

Mr Skene said: “It’s not for me to judge”, but cited his experience and ability to listen. Mr Carmichael said: “I’m very modest”, and Mr McGarvey said: “There are four men here with integrity, people know what the parties represent, we’re prepared to listen and take on board what people say.”

And Mr Cameron ended the proceedings by saying: “I’m impatient, I want to get things done.” He reiterated: “Vote for what you believe in.”


Add Your Comment
  • Robert Smith

    • May 4th, 2015 12:04

    My invite must have gone missing in the post!

  • John Tulloch

    • May 4th, 2015 12:50

    Aye, Robert, they couldn’t have you rolling up, telling young people the truth, could they?

    No. the young people had to endure the usual humbug from the SNP and Labour:

    Labour presided over de-regulation of the banks and boosted public spending when they should have been paying off debt. Both these actions exacerbated the destruction of the UK economy visited by the 2008/9 banking crisis.

    Labour and the SNP, Ed Miliband and Alex Salmond, in particular, passed their respective Climate Change Acts in 2008/9. Their climate change policies have resulted in nonsenses like the UK having more solar energy fams than Spain, France and Italy, combined; and industrial scale wind farms being railroaded onto small rural communities in the most beautiful parts of our country.

    This renewable energy boom has been charged, directly, to consumers’ energy bills and, assisted by the Scottish government’s ban – against the advice of their own expert panel – on using modern oil/gas drilling technology, has lead to a huge rise in energy prices.

    More expensive energy means more people in ‘fuel poverty’ who, by Labour and the SNP’s own account, face the desperate daily dilemma ‘heat or eat’. As there are no ‘heat banks’, they will buy ‘heat’ and go to ‘food banks’ to ‘eat’, thus increasing demand for and use of, food banks.

    To blame the coalition for fuel poverty and food banks thus is humbug, of the worst possible kind.

  • Aaron Foord

    • May 4th, 2015 13:33

    Seems Robert Smith cannot be bothered to attend anything in Shetland, this not beig the first time I have read of a debate occuring minus his presence. If the best he can do is publish an advert in the Shetland Times, as per his facebook page, then I doubt we can expect anything from him if he were to be elected. Shame, as UKIP have some good policies, just not the commitment from their members to back them up.

    • Robert Smith

      • May 4th, 2015 15:52

      Aaron, I’m assuming you missed my explanation for missing the Radio Hustings. I’m a working fisherman and the debate coincided with the first spell of neap tides and workable weather since October. As the only candidate financing their campaign entirely out of his own pocket, it would have been an unacceptable loss for me and my crew.
      I wasn’t invited to the Brae event.
      If I was to be elected, I would have a salary and a generous expense account that would pay for unlimited trips to Shetland.
      If you knew how much I am sacrificing to do as much as I am, you may be a little more forgiving.

      • Aaron Foord

        • May 4th, 2015 20:34

        Actions speak louder than words. As much as I believe that UKIP have their finger on the pulse as far as certain policies go, all I see from you are words and no actions. I wonder how many other candidates think that canvassing just means posting on facebook? Many people I know support the party, but have no confidence in a candidate that only appears online. If standing means you are ‘sacrificing so much’ then perhaps you should not be standing at all. Either you want to represent us, you want us to vote for you and you want to demonstrate why we should vote for you…. or you want to go fishing. Its not rocket science. I do not know who I shall vote for, but I know it won’t be UKIP based purely on our candidate, not the UKIP policies.

      • John Tulloch

        • May 5th, 2015 14:57

        @Aaron Foord,

        The corollary of what you’re saying appears to be that, unless one has wealthy sponsors to fund one’s election, or are ‘of independent means’, we have no business standing for parliament?

  • Leslie Lowes

    • May 4th, 2015 17:03

    Congratulations to Irvine Tait for organising a hustings with local candidates for his pupils in Brae to question and probe their policies. A very healthy start to both a political and civic education. What a huge privilege it is to be able to educate young people dynamically in this way. Perhaps one day soon one of those pupils may be on the hustings for themselves. Irvine can take credit for that too when it happens.

  • James Leask

    • May 4th, 2015 22:16

    Seems a bit dodgy that the UKIP candidate was the only one not invited out of all the parties standing, bias on the organisers part? Is it even allowed that you just cherry pick who you want to give a platform to when a school is involved, I thought they were meant to be impartial?

    • Robert Duncan

      • May 5th, 2015 11:08

      It may simply have been difficult for them to contact Mr Smith, who has no publicly listed contact information relating to his campaign.

      • Robert Smith

        • May 6th, 2015 19:06

        They managed fine last time and my contact details are with the returning officer in Shetland and Orkney.
        If you feel the need to contact me my details are no secret:
        01856 831560
        07711 700638

  • Michael Johnston

    • May 6th, 2015 0:24

    The SNP are only interested in independence. They cannot be trusted to be constructive in the UK Parliament. We require a strong UK Government not one that is hounded by SNP who are trying to break up the UK. SNP are loud, aggressive campaigners inciting Nationalism and discourteous to anyone who opposes them. There may be mixed views about Lib Dems taking the responsible role to help Govern the UK with a serious economic crisis to deal with, but we also have to consider having a candidate we can trust to care about our interests on these islands. Most will agree that Alistair Carmichael has served us well and deserves our loyalty.


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