As reported in The Shetland Times this week, the lack of knowledge of local issues displayed by SNP candidate Miriam Brett at her candidacy launch rally was jaw-dropping.
Asked about the fishing, she said “SNP policy is to radically reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). And if we can’t reform it, it should be scrapped.” This is laughable.
If the SNP wishes to rejoin the EU they will find the CFP, among others, is non-negotiable because it is “part of the existing body of EU law”. That’s why Britain was forced to accept “common access to fishing grounds” in the 1970s. You accept the CFP in its entirety or you don’t join. End of.
The SNP knows this. It has been confirmed by EU fisheries commissioner Karmenu Vella and to speak of “radically reforming” or “scrapping” the CFP is fantasy. Smoke and mirrors.
Regarding the promised – reneged on – £7 million per annum to help reduce Shetland’s crippling inter-island ferry fares, Ms Brett said: “As far as I’m aware there are discussions that have been going on with the likes of Humza Yousaf, the local authority and Transport Scotland.”
She is clearly “unaware” of the content of the discussions, has no view on the SNP’s renege and no suggestions for resolving the situation. In fact, Shetland’s ferry funding was removed from this year’s Holyrood budget as part of a deal between the SNP and Scottish Greens to win budget approval by parliament. How convenient.
This level of ignorance of such a high-profile local issue is staggering. Not least, because former SIC councillor Jonathan Wills is one of her backers, sitting there, directing the discussion towards national issues. You’d think he would know more about the ferries issue than that? Never mind, she “wholeheartedly support(s) a reduction in cost for ferries”. But hey, don’t we all?
Despite Ms Brett and SNP Shetland’s purported determination to run a “positive” campaign, the emotive, anti-Tory, anti-Lib Dem catchphrases were the main diet of the evening, along with the ongoing “stealing of Labour’s clothes”.
No comfort was offered to isles voters who have seen SIC government funding drop by 23 per cent (about £20 million per annum) since 2011 while the Scottish government enjoyed a funding increase from Westminster. Indeed, it appears never to have been mentioned at all. It’s a wonder Dr Wills didn’t ask about that too?
The reason why local issues were sidelined is plain. The SNP’s track record, its attitude to Shetland and Orkney and its policies, have been so grievously damaging that all talk of local issues must be drowned out in a cacophony of “evil, greedy Tories” and “lying FibDems”.
Nothing about the SNP has changed since a year ago when they were routed at the polls by Tavish Scott. Only the faces relaying the message are new. As Wellington said of Napoleon’s army at Waterloo: “They just keep coming in the same old way.”
There is a reason for that. By their policies in the isles, they have painted themselves into a corner and have nowhere else to go.
Isles voters are not stupid. They saw through the “Braveheart” blarney last time and they will see through the “Youth/Time For Change” spin this time.
I repeat my oft-stated advice to the SNP: If you want to win Shetland and Orkney you must change your ways. Change your attitude to the Northern Isles and change your damaging policies. Then you may get somewhere.