The first of seven general elections hustings set to be held across the Orkney and Shetland constituency took place at Lerwick Town Hall this evening (Friday) – though only a third of the candidates actually attended.
With less than three weeks remaining until the country goes to the polls for the first December general election in nearly 100 years the Lerwick Althing event offered candidates the opportunity to vie for the backing of the Shetland electorate.
But in the end the only names set to appear on the ballot paper on 12th December in attendance were the Liberal Democrats’ Alistair Carmichael (aiming to defend the seat he has held for 18 years) and Labour’s Coilla Drake.
Tom Wills, the SNP candidate in August’s Holyrood by-election, stepped in for party-mate Robert Leslie – who we were told will participate in the other six hustings. Robert Smith of the Brexit Party, Conservative Jennifer Fairbairn and anti-monarchy independent David Barnard were unrepresented.
Chairman Andrew Halcrow took a straw poll at the start of the event asking how many of those in attendance had already made their mind up and all but a smattering of hands shot up.
Over two hours the two candidates and SNP stand-in discussed the economy, pensions, Brexit, Scottish independence, climate change and much else in between.
But with three left-of-centre parties, at least as far as the general wisdom is concerned, fielding the questions there were little fireworks, a lot of agreements and only a few impassioned spats, those mostly coming when Mr Wills and Ms Drake aimed shots at the constituency’s long-serving MP.
And in the end it was all for nought (or just abut nought, anyway). A closing straw poll found that none of those who had already chosen their party had changed their mind. Among the handful of undecided voters only two were swayed by the evening’s contest.
• For a full report see next Friday’s Shetland Times.