‘Other than marching against the Iraq war through the streets of Lerwick, one of my earliest memories of being politically active was listening to Alistair Carmichael speak about human rights at our Amnesty International group at Anderson High School. I struggle to comprehend how the person who spoke so passionately about social justice could prop up a Tory government to oversee cuts that disproportionately harmed the vulnerable, or describe the abhorrent bedroom tax as “a necessary change”.
If the mountain of leaflets is anything to go by, it is clear that there has been a concerted effort to make my candidacy about another referendum. In reality, my party and I have a strong and principled record of challenging an increasingly reckless agenda at Westminster. We have been consistent in our opposition to inhumane welfare cuts, consistent in the need to inject the economy with the investment necessary to stimulate meaningful growth, consistent in our opposition to £120bn of public money squandered on redundant nuclear weapons, and consistent in our drive for a robust and sustainable future energy strategy.
Even as the third largest party, we have managed to push through u-turns on proposed cuts that would have harmed household incomes, pushed through landmark legislation to end violence against women and forced a review into tax evasion. That is what getting on with the day job looks like, and that is precisely what I intend to do.
I read the letter from the Tory candidate about why a vote for the SNP is a vote for cuts with some bemusement – the irony of a Conservative complaining about cuts after imposing years of austerity was not lost on me. The Scottish Government funding from Westminster is an overall figure, much of which cannot be used to fund public services. By the end of 2015-16, £2.3 billion worth of cuts were made to the budget available for public services in Scotland by the Liberal Democrat and Conservative government, in the name of counterproductive austerity that has failed society and failed our economy.
The most logical step would be to stop austerity at its source, and that is precisely what I will fight for. The vision set out in my party’s manifesto is bold and progressive.
I will reject austerity, and push for investment in the UK economy to allow it to flourish. On pensions, I will remain determined and committed to securing the triple lock, and supporting the incredible Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign.
The majority of people here voted to remain in the EU, but even many of those who voted to leave have real concerns about the extreme Brexit now being pursued.
I will stand up for our local sectors. I will continue – in all circumstances – to demand the scrapping or radical reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. Securing the rights of EU citizens who have made our isles their home will be a priority. Diversity has enriched our community, and I will be unapologetic in my desire to provide EU citizens the security they deserve. Moreover, I will demand the UK government pass on the £190 million additional EU ‘convergence uplift’ funding for our farmers, and push to ensure that the UK Government fights for our local farmers.
One of the most prevalent issues of the last few years has been that of the presence of food banks across the UK and indeed in our isles. When the Liberal Democrat and Conservative coalition took power in 2010, 61,468 emergency food parcels were provided to people unable to feed themselves. By the time the austerity coalition years ended, that figure was over 1,000,000. According to the Trussell Trust the main reasons that people are forced to go to food banks are low incomes, benefit delays and benefit changes.
I will fight for the minimum wage to match the Living Wage, taking it to over £10 an hour by the end of parliament to tackle the problems experienced by low-income households. I will furthermore fight to see damaging welfare reform policies reversed to alleviate the pressure on households. Moreover, SNP MPs will continue to oppose disgusting policies such as the rape clause and the bedroom tax.
In my current role as an advisor, I supported our MPs to back a commitment to Universal Service Obligation, and will now call for it to cover up to 30 Mbps with a mechanism to ensure rural areas are not left behind, as well as pushing for mobile connectivity.
To ensure that our community is not unfairly treated, I will push to regulate delivery charges for rural communities – It is wholly unfair that we pay a disproportionate charge. Furthermore, similar to the City Deals provided for areas such as Stirling and Aberdeen, I will push for UK Government funding for an Islands Deal for Orkney and Shetland.
Orkney and Shetland have voted Liberal Democrat for nearly 70 years, but I do not believe that they are the party they once were. I offer a fresh voice that will fight for our voice to be at the heart of the Westminster agenda, that will stand up for our local industries throughout the Brexit negotiation process, and that will be a champion for the Northern Isles. I hope that tomorrow, when you enter the polling station to cast your vote, you will vote for change.