MSP stops short of calling for Up-Helly-A’ reform
An MSP has refused to enter the Lerwick Up-Helly-A’ sexism debate, but insisted traditions should change.
Highlands and Islands Tory member Jamie Halcro Johnston was speaking while visiting the isles with the Scottish Conservatives’ interim leader Jackson Carlaw.
It comes after SNP colleague Maree Todd insisted it was “indefensible” to bar women from the fire festival’s procession.
“I’m from the Northern Isles and I recognise that our communities have a huge amount of tradition,” Mr Halcro Johnston said.
“It’s important, looking forward, that some of these traditions do change – but I think that’s a decision for communities to make rather than politicians.
“I totally recognise a need for change and I would hope that there opportunities for women to increasingly get more and more involved in it if they want to do that.
“But I don’t want to visit Shetland and make a pronouncement. I think it’s for local communities to do make those decisions.
“I’m certainly not indifferent to the cause. I think there are some really good points on both sides.”
Mr Carlaw, who is standing in as Tory leader while Ruth Davidson is on maternity leave, was at the Dales Voe decommissioning site in Lerwick as part of an effort to visit as many different parts of Scotland as possible.
This week Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott argued politicians should not get involved in the gender debate on Up-Helly-A’, while council convener Malcolm Bell said the festival would change if that was what the community wanted – although he argued it was not for the council to take a stand on it.
• See today’s Shetland Times for coverage on the Up-Helly-A’ debate, including an exclusive story on a former committee member who has spoken in favour of women in squads.