Saturday, 1 May 2010

A Look @: The Scottish Islands

Three councils here, but just two constituencies! The constituency and council area of Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles or Outer Hebrides in English) and the island chains of Orkney and Shetland are the last Scottish seats. Far from Edinburgh, let alone London, the three island chains are fiercely independent. All three councils are controlled by independents. Of 29 councillors Na h-Eileanan an Iar has only six (4 SNP, 2 Lib Dem) that are affiliated with a party while Orkney and Shetland both have none each.




Swing Needed



Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Angus MacNeil




LAB Gain

Orkney and Shetland

Alistair Carmichael




LD Hold

Na h-Eileanan an Iar is the islands that are, in English, known as the Western Isles or Outer Hebridges. In terms of population Na h-Eileanan an Iar is the smallest constituency in the entire UK. This is one of the few areas in Scotland where Scottish Gaelic is commonly spoken, hence the proudly Gaelic renaming in 2005. The seat is also held by the SNP at Holyrood. The SNP MP is Angus MacNeil who has one big plus next to his name and two big minuses. The plus is that he initiated the police inquiry into the 'Cash for Peerages' scandal, which has now been forgotten in lieu of bigger and better scandals, but which won him many plaudits at the time and it is likely to be better remembered within his constituency. The minuses are to do with accusations of a 'drunken romp' with two teenage girls and his expenses, which will look very hypocritical following his anti-corruption plaudits due to his actions in the 'Cash for Honours' affair. Considering the local issues at play here, and the importance of local politics in such a community, I am going to go against the odds, and the national swing and call this one as a Labour Gain for Labour candidate Donald John MacSween, a local councillor and charity activist.

Orkney and Shetland is a Lib Dem safe seat. Initially one would expect Scottish nationalism to be strong here, but with the distance from Scotland and a strong sense of their history and identity Orkney and Shetland do not necessarily consider themselves all that Scottish. As such the strongly localist and nonconformist Liberal Democrats dominate. Indeed, since 1830 Orkney and Shetland has only been won for non-Liberals in four elections (1835, 1900, 1935 and 1945. All these wins were by the Conservative Party or their Tory predecessors). The seat was once held by former Liberal leader Jo Grimond, and by Jim Wallace who would go on to be the first Deputy First Minister of Scotland. The current MP is Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat Spokesman on Northern Ireland and Scotland. Popular amongst Lib Dems, Carmichael represented the Lib Dems in the Scottish TV debates. Carmichael refurnished his London flat on expenses, but the fact that most of the new furniture came from Argos is likely to blunt criticism. Orkney and Shetland is unique amongst Scottish constituencies in that the seat was split in 1999 for the Scottish Parliament. Both are held by Lib Dems, and Orkney was held by Jim Wallace until 2007, whereas Shetland is held by Tavish Scott, who won 66.7% of the vote in that constituency in 2007 and who has been made leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. An absolutely certain Liberal Democrat Hold.


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