I have voted Labour at every election since 1970, except in those when I chose the Scottish Socialist Party. On this occasion I won’t, for several reasons.
1. The performance of Shetland Labour Party since 2014. Labour in Shetland used to be an active and vocal party. Three years ago, however, they shared a platform with the Tories and Lib-Dems, on the grounds that by doing so they were somehow showing solidarity with the working class in England.
2. Of course that wasn’t a tactic confined to Shetland Labour Party. The result of it was that vast numbers of voters abandoned Labour in Scotland.
3. (The tactic is still being pursued in some areas: consider the Aberdeen Labour councillors who have just gone into a coalition with the Tories – in the midst of a general election).
4. Since 2014 Labour in Shetland has said nothing publicly about anything, although much needs to be said. A few weeks ago one of their members, usually referred to as a Labour “activist” in the press, told me that he would rather “read a book” or “go to the pictures” than take any political action here.
5. Labour got seven per cent of the vote in Orkney and Shetland in 2015, two per cent more than UKIP – compared with the SNP’s 38 per cent. You don’t need to be John Curtice to spot that a vote for Labour in this constituency, or for the Lib-Dems, or the Tories, is a vote for the status quo, the dreary local politics of the post-1950 era.
As a result of these unfortunate circumstances, I am going to vote for Miriam Brett on 8th June. She has a chance of changing things. After all, the SNP’s policies in Scotland and at Westminster are much the same as Labour ones. And, curiously, I think that independence in Scotland would be more palatable to the working class than the perpetual Tory rule currently on offer.