One of the candidates in next month’s council elections has pleaded for constituents not to vote for him, calling his appearance on the ballot papers a “cock-up”.
Thomas Williamson, who is a Conservative candidate for Lerwick North, has so far refused to release a manifesto and has now revealed that he hopes to lose the election.
It emerged this week that Mr Williamson was contacted by Tory party officials and asked if he would stand, despite having no interest in being a councillor.
The process is known as standing a “paper candidate” in order to soak up a greater share of the national vote.
Despite being used in larger areas there is no evidence of it ever occurring in Shetland before.
Mr Williamson, known locally as “Skerries Tom”, said he had received a phone call from “two guys from south”. He had been asked questions about council elections and answered yes or no. It had been a “crackling line” and then he “got cut off”.
Describing the whole episode as “a cock-up”, he said he had not signed any documents indicating his intention to stand and was shocked to discover he was a Tory candidate when the SIC published its notice of poll.
When The Shetland Times visited his home at Robertson Crescent in Lerwick on Tuesday, Mr Williamson was not willing to let a reporter into his home to discuss his claims.
On his doorstep he reiterated allegations that he had received a call from “buggers doon sooth” and that he had heard nothing further about it until he saw his name in the notice of election.
When asked if he was hoping that constituents would not vote for him he replied “yes”.
However, a statement from the Scottish Conservatives refuted Mr Williamson’s claims.
The statement read: “Mr Williamson was asked if he’d like to be a candidate, he agreed, and was told in detail what it would involve. He also signed the paperwork agreeing to be a candidate, as all local government candidates have to.”
Documents obtained by The Shetland Times further suggest that Mr Williamson had agreed to stand for election. His nomination form shows that he signed a declaration which gave consent to appearing on the ballot.
The documents were witnessed and seconded by his election agent Maurice Mullay, chairman of the Shetland Conservative Association, whose signature is also included.
Mr Mullay, said there was no question of Mr Willaimson having been coerced into standing.
When asked whether Mr Williamson had told him that he hoped to lose the election Mr Mullay said that he “had not indicated” that at the time.
Mr Mullay confirmed that both Mr Williamson in Lerwick North and Isobel Johnson in Shetland North were standing as part of a “paper exercise” by the Scottish Conservatives.
The practice of fielding so-called “paper candidates” was “fairly common practice on the mainland in larger towns and cities”, Mr Mullay said.
With one paper candidate declaring he hoped to lose the vote The Shetland Times attempted to contact the second, Mrs Johnson, only to discover that she was on holiday.
When asked if this made a mockery of the election, with neither candidate campaigning to win their seat, Mr Mullay said it was his “personal view that anybody who stands should put their heart and soul into winning the seat and representing the constituency”.
• See full story in this week’s Shetland Times