Shetland Times Column - 14 May 2021

As the dust settles on an election campaign like no other, I want to begin with a thank you to the voters in Shetland who put their faith in me to serve as their MSP for the next five years. I am humbled by the support I received from you, my campaign team, volunteers and supporters. Thank you.

I was pleased to increase the number of votes cast, and my vote share to nearly 50%, something that is not common when a candidate seeks re-election after a by-election.

Our message of putting recovery first was picked up by others who realised how well it resonated with voters. Recovery is the priority as the effects on so many people of the pandemic, with job losses, financial hardship and Long Covid, will be felt for a long time to come.

I am, of course, disappointed that we did not achieve a seat through the regional list especially given the number of excellent candidates we had across Scotland.  The results, however, for Liam McArthur, Willie Rennie, and Alex Cole-Hamilton’s record-breaking win with highest ever number of votes, demonstrate that not everyone wants constitutional wrangling for the next five years.

During the campaign I heard from young people about the stress they, and their teachers, are experiencing with “exams that aren’t exams”, the Alternative Certification Model. Last year’s exams debacle is looking less likely to have been a one-off. One parent told me about 40 assessments their teenager is working through in eight weeks, while others have told me about the mental pressure and anxiety of back to back assessments.

It was back to Edinburgh on Monday and, as I promised in my speech at the count, time to roll up sleeves and get on with the job. The oaths and affirmations ceremony takes place on Thursday, and the Presiding Officer will be chosen on Friday.

The First Minister’s announcement on Tuesday that Shetland would move to Level 1 was very welcome. The easing of restrictions was one of the main issues that people raised with me on the doorsteps during the campaign, and the question was often asked as to why we were being held back given the prevalence data, the lack of cases and the great progress with the vaccination delivery programme.

To finally be able to hug our loved ones will be a huge relief. It’s something that many of us won’t take for granted ever again.

I’m sure many are looking for news that has nothing to do with politics or the pandemic, so I’ll end with the news that The Tall Ships Races will return to Lerwick. Congratulations are owed to all involved in the successful bid, and it will be fantastic to see Lerwick as a Host Port for a third time.  Lifelong friendships are often formed during the sail training event and I have family members who still speak fondly of their time aboard the Staatsrad Lemkuhl during previous races. It promises to be a fantastic time and gives us something to look forward to. Roll on July 2023!

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