15th October 2019
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By-election hustings: updates as candidates clash

The first of the two by-election hustings is currently underway in Mareel’s auditorium.

Eight of the prospective candidates are in attendance at the hustings, with Ukip’s Stuart Martin still on the mainland and the Conservative’s Brydon Goodlad unable to attend due to medical reasons. He is being represented by Conservative MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston.

BBC Radio Shetland’s John Johnston is hosting the event, with all eight candidates being given a minute to introduce themselves and their policies before moving on to audience questions.

Independent candidate Ian Scott provided an impassioned speech, saying that he has “stood specifically steadfastly against the cuts, the Tories, the Liberal Democrats” before. He also reacted angrily to the news that Mr Goodlad could not be in attendance, shaking his head as Mr Halcro Johnston explained his absence.

SNP candidate Tom Wills began by saying that “Shetland is ready for a change” and asked for 18 months to show what he can achieve in Holyrood, while Lib Dem competitor Beatrice Wishart opened her speech with a defiant message: “If you want an MSP who will speak up for Shetland, I’m your woman”.

The first question of the night revolved around transport, with Ms Wishart and Mr Wills clashing immediately, interrupting each other’s answers as Mr Johnston appealed for both candidates to let the other finish.

Mr Halcro Johnston responded to Mr Wills’ five-point transport plan by saying that “Tom Wills has a load of great ideas but they won’t be delivered”, while independent candidate Ryan Thomson added that “nothing gets done” because “Shetland is the pawn” in mainland politics.

Councillor George Smith directed a question at Mr Wills, asking him how he expected the SIC to afford one of his election pledges, free foot passengers on inter-island ferries.

Mr Wills responded to say that this could be paid for “if, and when” the Scottish government provided additional funding to the council.

Mr Thomson criticised the NorthLink ferries in response to a question about increased capacity on the ferries. He focused his attack on the much-maligned sleeping pods, not for the first time, saying that we had been “lumbered” with these pods and said he was reticent to even call them pods, instead saying “it’s a chair”.

“Bigger ships” and “daytime sailings” were potential solutions that Mr Thomson suggested as alternatives.

On the subject of Brexit, only Conservative representative Mr Halcro Johnston said that he was in favour of Brexit, although he admitted that he voted to remain in the EU.

Mr Scott and Mr Wills attacked the coalition of the Tories and the Lib Dems, with Mr Scott saying that the “Tories and Liberals approved austerity and that they had “turned to the racists and the fascists” which garnered wide applause.

Mr Halcro Johnston responded to say it was “always very amusing listening to Ian but I’m afraid he’s wrong”, which was met negatively by the audience.

Mr Wills said that the SNP “could stop Brexit”, and added that if they were pulled out of the EU by Westminster then a vote for independence could put Scotland back into the European Union.

He expanded on Mr Scott’s point by saying the “reason why people voted for Brexit is because of the coalition of Lib Dems and Tories which approved austerity” to a rapturous reception. Ms Wishart responded to the issue of Brexit to say that it was “time for a peoples vote and time for people to work together across parties” to stop Brexit.

Scottish independence was the next topic up for debate, and understandably provoked perhaps the most divisive reactions of the night.

Mr Scott, Mr Wills and the Green Party’s Debra Nicolson all came out in favour of an independent Scotland, while Mr Halcro Johnston, Ms Wishart and independent Peter Tait were against it. Both independent candidates, Michael Stout and Ryan Thomson, said they would wait to see what benefit Shetland could get from Scotland becoming independent before deciding how to vote, should another referendum come up.

Mr Scott’s positive attitude towards independence was because, he said, “if nothing else we’ll get rid of these damned Tories”.

Ms Wishart wanted the audience to “imagine the chaos” if Scotland tried to break up the union, citing Brexit as an example. She said the vote was supposed to be “once in a lifetime” and that there were better priorities for funding, such as healthcare.

Mr Wills responded to this point: “which has been cut by the Tory/Liberal coalition”, to audience applause.

Conservative representative Mr Halcro Johnston said that “I think SNP talk about independence because its easier than talking about their failings”, and added that nobody would be surprised to find that he was against independence.

20 comments

  1. John Tulloch

    I’m sorry, Tom Wills is havering. Independence will not keep Scots in, or bring us back into, the EU.

    Even if Britain stays in, Scotland will leave, automatically, with “No Deal”, on Independence Day and will have to reapply to join. The EU has confirmed this, in writing.

    Also, if nothing changes, our starting budget deficit will be £12.6 billion per annum (7% of GDP) versus the EU’s limit of about £5 billion (3% of GDP). The UK will stop paying funding that.

    We shall have to cut spending/raise taxes by some £7 billion p.a. on an annual budget of about £70 billion, to satisfy the EU’s economic conditions for joining.

    That means we shall face years of withering austerity, just when we need to spend more to stimulate the economy.

    We also need to set up our own independent central bank which the nationalist think tank “The Common Weal” says will take nine years from an Indy Yes vote.

    So we shall be out of the EU, with “No Deal”, for at least, seven years from Independence Day.

    Scots are canny folk. They will not vote for such an independence prospectus.

    Reply
    • Brian Hill

      John, your oft repeated notion that an independent Scotland will start with a budget deficit of £12.6 billion (or indeed of any other amount you care to imagine) is an entire fancy. What (if any) debt an independent Scotland may have to take on as a share of the current UK’s debt, in the event of Scotland becoming independent, will be a matter for negotiation and agreement (bearing in mind of course that it is entirely normal for independent nations to service debt).

      Similarly, matters such as whether, and for what fees (I can imagine it running into £billions per annum), the rest of the former UK might be permitted to retain its weapons of mass destruction on Scottish soil will be for negotiation/agreement in the event of Scotland becoming independent.

      Reply
  2. Neil Sutherland

    I wish I was there.
    I’d ask all the unionist candidates for a single positive case for their union.
    I would not hold my breath waiting for their answer.

    Reply
  3. John M Scott

    Ian Scott and Tom Wills have very selective memories. The austerity cuts introduced by the last Conservative/ Lib Dem coalition were in response to the mess Brown and Blair made of the British economy. The outcome of this prudent handling of the deficit was obviously popular with the British people; because David Cameron’s government won an overall majority in the subsequent election.

    David Cameron also delivered on another election pledge; to have an in/out referendum on Europe. How can the SNP criticise any party for that; they have never delivered on an election pledge in their life.

    Finally, the only racism and fascism that has come out of this by-election has been promoted by the SNP; anti-English racism. The SNP are Tartan Fascists.

    Reply
    • Peter Hamilton

      Had it not been for the global economic crisis, and Blair’s US led wars, Brown’s finances could have seen him becoming PM. This shows the harm in getting too friendly with the US, not that there will be much of a choice for the remnants of the UK after Brexit.

      I won’t dignify John M Scott’s final comment with a response other than to note that it is Trump and Farage that have been too close to white supremacists. Happily neither seem that popular north of the boarder. The SNP promote an inclusive civic nationalism which can’t seriously be compared to that of the far right.

      Reply
      • Michael Garriock

        ……and the peril of getting too friendly with the EU is being dictated to and bled dry by a Union of Socialist Republics ruled by a Germanic/Franco dictator, aided an abetted by a random collection of Belgians.

        Best off going it alone and not being shackled up to some ‘superpower’, either actual or wannabe.

    • Brian Smith

      John M Scott’s remark reminds me of something a reviewer wrote in the Shetland News in 1933: ‘The depths of ignorance are surely plumbed here’.

      Reply
  4. Johan Adamson

    It’s like I wasnt even there. No mention of Labours position on Brexit or Independence. Thanks guys

    You’ll have to listen tonight folks, there isnt even any mention of VE which was discussed

    Reply
    • Malcolm Henry Johnson

      Labour has a position on Brexit! Where did you find out about this Johan?

      Reply
  5. John Tulloch

    @Brian Hill, It is you who fantasise, not I.

    I did not mention “national debt”. So let’s set aside the “smoke and mirrors”.

    I am talking about the £12.6 billion gap between Scottish tax revenue raised last year and money received from Westminster. We have been running similar, sometimes larger deficits for many years. Unless something changes this will become our annual budget deficit on obtaining independence as Westminster will no longer fund the shortfall.

    Don’t take it from me. A couple of years back, the SNP’s own Sustainable Growth Commission conceded that we would start independence with a budget deficit of 5.9% of our GDP, around £9.5 billion per year, and proposed a multi-year plan to reduce it to less than 3%, which just happens to be the EU’s maximum permissible limit.

    Reply
    • Brian Hill

      John, as Scotland is not yet independent then it cant have been running a deficit for any, let alone for many, years. The application of the notional informal accounts of a devolved Scotland tell us next to nothing about the finances of an independent Scotland (see this article from a while ago by Dr Craig Dalzell https://wingsoverscotland.com/out-of-the-cave/ )

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        @Brian Hill, Ok, if we are to be pernickety:

        The UK funds the difference between our tax revenues and what Holyrood receives from the Exchequer so we are talking about a so-called “notional deficit” that has been ongoing for many years. This is recognised by the SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission.

        UK funding will cease on Independence Day and the notional deficit will become (with some “divorce” adjustments), our budget deficit.

        The current UK funding of £12.6 billion equates to around £2000 per head of population, per year.

        With independence that money will have to be found elsewhere – borrowing or tax hikes – or cut from public services.

  6. ian tinkler. Dr.

    “John, as Scotland is not yet independent then it cant have been running a deficit for any”, what utter nonsense. Since when did you have to be independent to go broke? Try telling that one to your bank manager. Dr Craig Dalzell! who? wings over Scotland! still based in England, hard to make it up but you manage it Brian.

    Reply
  7. Brian Hill

    John, I’m sorry if it appeared pernickety, but my fundamental point was that you cant predict the future finances of any putative future independent Scotland based on the notional (and many commentators would say deeply flawed/skewed) accounts of a devolved Scotland within the current UK state. No amount of repetition of those (as some would say flawed) figures alters the arguments.

    Reply
    • John Tulloch

      Brian,

      You’re putting words in my mouth. I’m not attempting to predict future finances. Merely, observing that we would start from a very bad place, losing the £12.6 billion annual UK funding.

      But please, don’t take it from me. The SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission propose a multi-year programme of deficit reduction and Oxford University Professor Gallacher has studied the most recent figures. He concludes:

      “Any more realistic look……. starting from Scotland’s actual fiscal position, swiftly shows…(IndyScotland)….would quickly amass unsustainable levels of debt, and the cost of servicing it would require large cuts in public services.

      “….today’s relatively high spending is supported by large UK fiscal transfers, and to avoid cutting it large borrowing would be needed.

      “That swiftly adds up to very large debt, which cannot be afforded.

      “All this strategy would achieve is to delay the inevitable big cuts in spending until Scotland is heavily indebted and so has to make even more cuts.”

      Paraphrasing your own words, Brian, “No amount of SNP prevarication can alter the facts.”

      https://www.nuffield.ox.ac.uk/media/3707/2019-05-arithmetic-and-independence-final-post-gers.pdf

      Reply
      • Alan Kyle

        I’m no economist by any stretch of the imagination. But could we not use the £30bn+ that Westminster uses in defence, HS2 (circa £100bn), bribing the DUP (£1bn), or building a “national” stadium (circa £1bn) on our behalf, to subsidise the “deficit”?

      • Brian Hill

        John I have looked at the report of the Sustainable Growth Commission (“Scotland – The New Case For Optimism”) and was pleased at its overall conclusions.
        Broadly it concluded that
        “We can lift the growth performance of the country to take living standards to equal the
        best small countries in the world over a generation;” and “Our public finances can be put right sustainably from the unsustainable position we
        inherit from the UK system at present.”
        Those are the more optimistic contentions which I take from the Commission’s report, as to what can be done when an independent Scotland takes full control of its own resources

      • John Tulloch

        Aye, Brian, as you say, “those are the more optimistic contentions…from the Commission’s report,…”

        Here is the summary of the Growth Commission’s analysis for kicking off Indy (p38) :

        3.144 As a result of the above analysis we anticipate that in 2021-22 the actual inherited deficit would be, on very conservative assumptions and an acceptance of the GERS analysis, 5.5% of GDP. The difference is explained by the savings from defence (0.4%) and UK central programmes (0.8%) and the impact of net assets/liabilities on the anticipated debt servicing element of the United Kingdom Annual Solidarity Payment (0.4%). This is further adjusted to 5.9% of GDP to exclude North Sea Revenues.”
        (NB Oil excluded as reserved for new sovereign wealth fund – JT))

        Also, they recognise the need for a multi-year deficit reduction plan (p42).

        “Creating a credible and sustainable fiscal framework & policy:

        3.184 Target a deficit value of below 3 per cent within 5 to 10 years.”

        Just like I said, deficit reduction from 5.9% to 3% i.e. about £5 billion per annum.

        https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5afc0bbbf79392ced8b73dbf/t/5b0a973f88251baf56415ebe/1527420876886/SGC+Full+Report.pdf

  8. Mr ian Tinkler

    So much in a name, “The SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission”! Brian Hill, do you not feel that commission may not be a tad of bias towards an Independent Scotland? All a bit irrelevant really, once in a generation and all that.

    Reply
    • Stuart Hannay

      Yes. They should’ve given it a catchy, more appealing name like “Operation Yellowhammer”.

      Reply

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