12th December 2019
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General election: updates from Mareel hustings

The BBC Radio Shetland general election hustings was held in Mareel on Monday evening.

Five of the six candidates attended the event, with Brexit Party candidate Robert Smith the only absentee.

A crowd of around 70 people were on hand to grill the candidates, with Radio Shetland host Daniel Lawson giving each candidate an opening minute to introduce themselves and their policies.

Anti-monarchy candidate David Barnard went first, saying that the recent events involving Prince Andrew had raised “serious questions” about the monarchy, and finished by saying that: “A monarchy has no place in Britain in 2019”.

Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael said there were three big issues in this election – Brexit, climate change and a second Scottish independence referendum.

“Climate change should be at the heart of our political debate,” Mr Carmichael said, before adding that “we can’t delay any further” to make the issue a priority.

Labour’s Coilla Drake said she was an “ordinary person” who also wanted to concentrate on climate change, as well as funding for the NHS. She followed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s position, stating she would like to see a new Brexit deal negotiated with the EU and put to the British people in a referendum, with no Brexit the other option.

Jennifer Fairbairn, the Conservative candidate, said her priority was to “uphold democracy” and to see Brexit through “as soon as possible”.

The SNP’s Robert Leslie said that Orkney and Shetland had not voted for Brexit yet “we could suffer most” from the country leaving the EU. He added he would like to remain in the EU and help reform it from within as part of an independent Scotland.

The Brexit Party’s Robert Smith did not attend, but his stance of a ‘clean-break Brexit’ with a free trade deal with the EU was announced to the room.

Unsurprisingly, Brexit proved the hottest topic of the evening with several questions based around that subject.

Ms Fairbairn, the Conservative candidate, surprised most in attendance by repeatedly going against party policy – firstly by saying she supported the actions of Gina Miller, who took the Conservative government to court over Brexit, because she was “upholding democracy” and secondly by saying that the government’s ‘settled status’ scheme for EU citizens needed a “total overhaul”.

More in this Friday’s edition of The Shetland Times.


  1. Ali Inkster

    So it would seem the only candidate willing to represent the more than nine and a half thousand brexit voters in Orkney and Shetland is working fisherman Robert Smith of the Brexit party. It would seem Boris promise that all tories elected in this election would back his brexit plan was a bit of the mark. Or maybe it shows that his brexit plan is not brexit at all if their candidate For the isles is willing to back it.

  2. John Thomas

    Good to see that the Brexit Party is not drawn into this level of debate. I am sure Robert Smith was absent because he was busy getting Brexit Done. Too right that a clean-break Brexit is what we need. Like was said before, a free trade deal will be the “easiest in human history”. Wise words from Liam Fox, and still yet to be disproved by the ‘facts’.

  3. John Tulloch

    Robert Leslie, SNP, is obviously unaware of the impact of independence.

    The EU has stated repeatedly that (even if Britain remains), we (Scotland) will be automatically out of the EU on Independence Day – with “No Deal”.

    “When part of the territory of a Member State ceases to be a part of that State, e.g. because that territory becomes an independent state, the treaties will no longer apply ”

    Westminster will no longer fund our “notional budget deficit”. It will become real. Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish Growth Commission proposed a multi-year plan to reduce it to EU-acceptable levels.

    We must also have our own, independent central bank and therefore, our own currency. That will take nine years (Commonweal think tank) and will require tens of billions in foreign reserves.

    If Britain ‘remains’ there would be a “hard UK border” with EU tariffs (63% of trade). Negotiations will be with Brussels, not Westminster.

    It will take at least 10 years, with austerity, to rejoin.

    And if/when we do we shall join the euro and pass control of our economy/trade and fishing/agriculture to the EU.

    SNP EU/Brexit policy is nonsense. Scots are shrewd people and will not buy it.


  4. Robert Smith

    No, I was absent because I was at sea.

    • Peter Hamilton

      …with Rees-Mogg hiding below decks?

      • Robert Smith

        I think she was campaigning in the SW of England.

    • Jim Gilbert

      Not surprising. The Brexit party are all at sea.

    • John Scott

      At least you were at sea doing an honest days work Robert, unlike the other candidates.

      Nobody will know more about the negative effects of European Union membership than you!

  5. Brian Smith

    I’m a bit baffled. I read tonight that Jo Swinson has apologised that she and her Lib Dems backed the Tories’ austerity policies. But last night I saw Willie Rennie backing those policies to the hilt. What a party.

    • Malcolm Henry Johnson

      Jo was talking about the past. Willie was thinking about the future.

  6. Peter Hamilton

    Now 4 have quit, including Rees Mogg. Like what Robert did there though, referring to Jacob’s sister, formerly of the Brexit Party, and no longer campaigning for them in the South East of England.

    You’ve got to ask how a spare bedroom tax would impact on that family… including in their second and third homes and any additional properties in their portfolios.

  7. Malcolm Henry Johnson


    For the first time in forty years and possibly for the last time during my life, we have the chance to support a manifesto that includes widespread nationalisation and the restoration of worker’s rights. These are policies that any self-respecting socialist would have regarded as red lines before Thatcher came along and “modernised” British politics.

    After Brexit and Scottish independence, we will return to the natural battle between left and right. It will even take place within the SNP itself, once the phoney pre-independence “party of national unity” approach falls apart. During these debates, the left will highlight support for Corbyn’s radical policies as evidence that these are still relevant and can still win votes. Meanwhile, the right will highlight the lack of support for Labour as evidence that strong unions and public ownership are no longer winning policies and should be abandoned forever.

    If you can’t use your vote to get your candidate elected tomorrow, at lease use it to make a statement. The ideas behind Labour’s bold policies need to be kept alive. They will be as relevant in an independent Scotland as they will anywhere else.

    • Johan Adamson


  8. John Tulloch

    It’s important that unions be strong but not omnipotent, as in the 1970s when many major industries were still nationalised. We meed balance.

    Combining the two is all very fine for those who, like me, benefited from working in the public sector however it leads to a two-tier workforce, with those in the private sector footing the bill, in taxes or high product prices, for the privileged ones in the public sector.

    That also hits private sector pay as employers must maintain viability with their increased costs.

    Having said that, re-nationalisation of electricity would be hilariously apt because government would become directly accountable to taxpayers and/or bill-payers for the soaring costs of energy arising from “decarbonisation”, associated with the lunacy of unilateral “declarations of climate emergency” and policies like Labour’s “net zero 2030”.

    The IPCC does not call for that and condemns unilateral action as being unhelpful in achieving international agreement.


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