Orkney & Shetland

2015 Result:
Conservative: 2025 (8.9%)
Labour: 1624 (7.1%)
Lib Dem: 9407 (41.4%)
SNP: 8590 (37.8%)
UKIP: 1082 (4.8%)
MAJORITY: 817 (3.6%)

Category: Marginal Liberal Democrat seat

Geography: Scotland, Highlands and Islands. The whole of the Orkney and Shetland council areas.

Main population centres: Kirkwall, Stromness, Lerwick.

Profile: Orkney and Shetland covers two groups of Islands to the North of Scotland and, after the Western Isles, is the second smallest seat in terms of electorate. Orkney is about 10 miles north of the Scottish mainland and is a group of 70 islands, 20 of which are inhabited. The largest is Mainland, which includes both of the towns in the Orkneys, Kirkwall and Stromness. To the north, Shetland is an archiapelago of around 100 islands, 14 of which are inhabited. The only town is Lerwick. Industry includes sheep farming, crofting, fishing, crafts and more recently oil transportation. The two largest oil depots in Europe are situated on Flotta in the Orkneys and at Sullom Voe on Mainland island in the Shetlands and provide a major source of employment.

Politics: Orkney & Shetland is one of the most reliable Lib Dem seat in the country, having returned Liberal and Liberal Democrat MPs since 1950, including former Liberal leader Jo Grimond. In 2015 it was the only Scottish Lib Dem seat to withstand the SNP tide. In the Scottish Parliament Orkney and Shetland return separate MSPs, both Liberal Democrats, since 2011 their only constituencies in the Scottish Parliament.

Current MP
ALISTAIR CARMICHAEL (Liberal Democrat) Born 1965, Islay. Educated at Islay High School and Aberdeen University. Former Solicitor. First elected as MP for Orkney and Shetland in 2001. Government deputy chief whip 2010-2013, Secretary of State for Scotland 2013-2015. Carmichael is seen as being on the left of the Liberal Democrats and has argued against the party moving towards market liberal policies. Resigned from the frontbench 2008 to support a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. After leaving government he admitted lying about having leaked a diplomatic memo about Nicola Sturgeon and faced a legal challange to his election.
Past Results
Con: 2032 (11%)
Lab: 2061 (11%)
LDem: 11989 (62%)
SNP: 2042 (11%)
Oth: 1222 (6%)
MAJ: 9928 (51%)
Con: 2357 (13%)
Lab: 2511 (14%)
LDem: 9138 (52%)
SNP: 1833 (10%)
Oth: 1903 (11%)
MAJ: 6627 (37%)
Con: 3121 (19%)
Lab: 3444 (21%)
LDem: 6919 (41%)
SNP: 2473 (15%)
Oth: 776 (5%)
MAJ: 3475 (21%)
Con: 2527 (12%)
Lab: 3775 (18%)
LDem: 10743 (52%)
SNP: 2624 (13%)
Oth: 996 (5%)
MAJ: 6968 (34%)

2015 Candidates
DONALD CAMERON (Conservative) Advocate.
GERRY MCGARVEY (Labour) Born Falkirk. Educated at University of Kent. Parliamentary assistant.
ALISTAIR CARMICHAEL (Liberal Democrat) See above.
ROBERT SMITH (UKIP) Fisherman. Contested Orkney and Shetland 2010.
DANUS SKENE (SNP) Born 1944, Dundee. Educated at Sussex University. Teacher. Contested Kinross and West Perthshire F1974, O1974 for Labour, North Tayside 1983, Moray 1987 for Liberals.
Comments - 542 Responses on “Orkney & Shetland”
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  1. The 2016 Scottish Parliament election result was a very interesting one in Orkney and Shetland.

    It was, by a long way, the best ever numerical result for the Liberals/Liberal Democrats in Orkney and Shetland. It was also the largest % vote for the Liberals/Liberal Democrats discounting unopposed elections since 1910. A remarkable, remarkable feat.

    Given that the results were almost identical in both constituencies, that the turnout was up from previous elections and that the MSP’s in both constituencies were incumbent in 2011 too it really is a unique one.

  2. No direct comparison can be drawn between the Westminster constituency of Argyll and Bute and the Scottish Parliamentary seat: the Westminster seat covers a good chunk of the Dumbarton constituency (Helensburgh and Lomond) which is coincidentally the most Unionist portion of the constituency.

    Glasgow Pollok/Glasgow South West and Glasgow Anniesland/Glasgow North West are almost identical, although in both cases the Westminster constituency covers a slightly wider area.

    To the best of my knowledge no other constituencies are directly comparable in this regard, although there are numerous examples of Scottish Parliamentary constituencies which fit wholly into a Westminster constituency (examples include Galloway & West Dumfries and Kilmarnock & Irvine Valley.

  3. Orkney and Shetland truly are unique in Scotland politically. What I found interesting here was not the Lib Dem victory, but that unlike nearly everywhere else in Scotland, the SNP share of the vote was not similar to support for independence in the 2014 referendum, -9 in Orkney and -13 in Shetland.

  4. Turnout up from the GE. Looks promising for Remain.

  5. Hard to say, I think it shows the Remain side are on track to win quite decently.

  6. 63% Remain

    37% Leave

  7. Prediction for 2020-
    Carmichael (Lib Dem)- 44%
    SNP- 40%
    Conservative- 8%
    Labour- 6%
    UKIP- 2%

  8. A very long way to go to 2020 but I’d anticipate that the Lib Dems might stretch their majority back to traditional levels, perhaps even with a new MP if Carmichael retires. I’m not sure the SNP antics over French gate went down well, certainly on the evidence of the SP results.

  9. Indeed. While the SNP vote share in Scotland is remaining stable in the high 40’s, unionists appear to be learning to vote tactically. This is particularly true for places where the Lib Dems are in second place, as they will naturally find it easier to squeeze both Labour and Conservative voters.

    So I think 2015 might be peak SNP in terms of seats, if not votes.

  10. I think the Scottish Parliament elections were quite shocking. A year after the SNP swept 56 of 59 seats in Scotland they lose their majority in Scottish Parliament. The Scottish council elections might give us a greater indication of the trend in Scotland atm.

  11. Of course the SNP’s vote share held up fairly well so it wasn’t a disaster. But it was a surprise and the FPTP results, which if we’re looking ahead to Westminster are more relevant, do suggest it will be very tough for them to get as high a proportion of the Scottish seats as they have now without a further increase in vote share.

  12. Danus Skene, the SNP candidate here in 2015 and in Shetland for the Scottish Parliament in 2016, has died.

  13. Thought it would be an interesting point of discussion (carried over from the Vote UK site): how probable is Crown Dependency status for Orkney and Shetland in the event of Scottish independence?

    Orkney MSP Tavish Scott and Orkney & Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael both endorse holding a referendum on whether or not Orkney and Shetland should become independent with the rest of Scotland or rejoin the rest of the UK as Crown Dependencies in the event of a Yes vote, and this is also unanimously supported by the local Lib Dems. Shetland MSP Tavish Scott is a supporter of the “Wir Shetland” movement, in support of Crown Dependency status from Scotland right now! Wir Shetland also has the same number of Facebook likes as SNP Shetland do.

  14. And for the record Tavish Scott and Alistair Carmichael also support Crown Dependency status over Scottish independence.

  15. Made a mistake here, Wir Shetland supports Tavish Scott: Tavish Scott also believes in Crown Dependency status for Shetland in the event of Scottish independence.

    This is also supported by the leader of Shetland council I believe.

  16. Miriam Brett (25) has been adopted as the SNP candidate (Danus Skene having passed away). She is a native Shetlander which no doubt will help her candidacy.

    She is reported as being the SNP senior economic adviser at Westminster.

    As Carmichael has decided to stand, against my expectations of a couple of years ago, it will be interesting to see how he fares against one of the youngest opponents rather than against one of the oldest as last time.

    I assume Carmichael has made soundings to assess whether his trespasses have been forgiven. I find myself totally unable to predict the result in this seat though the bookies go for Carmichael, but not as a hot favourite, merely a modest one.

  17. Could the Torries win this as a shock gain on a low share of the vote.

  18. @BM11


  19. I could see them taking a ‘shock 2nd’ as one possibility. I would have thought 30% was their ceiling this time though in this seat – and without targeting (and why would they over better chances?) they are not likely to come above 20% here.

  20. I suppose none of us are really qualified to comment on the politics of O&S. They were heavily ‘No’ and Shetland in particular had a significant ‘Leave’ minority, so if it followed the same rules as the rest of Scotland the Cons could be reasonably competitive. But they never have followed the rules and I expect Carmichael will be back with an overwhelming majority.

  21. Well yes, either way LD’s majority (and I think vote share) will be up.

  22. This new Yougov model is a treasure trove of interesting predictions.

    One of the biggest surprises is a handy SNP gain here https://yougov.co.uk/uk-general-election-2017/

    The model has enough seat-by-seat data to pick up local trends in many other seats, so not safe to assume it is simply missing the LD’s local strength.

  23. How many voters do you think they could possibly have sampled in O&S? They’re two tiny islands…

    I don’t think the SNP will gain it. In fact, I’d be flabbergasted if they did. I’ll one-up Paddy Ashdown and Stephen Tall and say that if the SNP take O&S, I’ll run naked down Whitehall while eating my hat.

  24. I’ll add that, examining this model, I think I see so many things that just defy logic/conventional wisdom (which can be wrong), and, well, plenty of other things. I think it’s frankly tosh; most of these models can nail a pretty decent estimate down for sheer number of seats, but they’re complete rubbish at predicting individual seats.

    And I don’t say this because I think it’s not favorable enough to the LDs; if anything, it’s too favorable (though often in the wrong places; North Norfolk is too far LD, as are Twickenham, Eastbourne, Kingston, Carshalton, and a few others, while places like Sheffield, Leeds NW and perhaps Edinburgh West are too unfavorable to them).

    Honestly, like Electoral Calculus, Elections Etc, or any other, the model is about predicting a final number; it’ll be off on as many of the “swing” seats as it is right.

  25. I’m just going to keep bashing on this, now: Bournemouth East is COMPETITIVE between Labour and the Tories? Really?

    The Lib Dems have a serious shot at North Devon? Really?

    Thurrock is a tossup between Con and Lab? Really?

    Labour have a hope of regaining Na h-Eileanan an Iar? Really?

    Labour is competitive in High Peak? Really?

    Labour competitive in Whitby?

    Labour HIGHLY competitive in Canterbury?

    Labour SAFE in Ynys Mon?

    East Devon a Tory loss? (Seeing the discussion on that, some think it’s plausible… but really?)

    Tories to beat LDs in Cardiff Central?

    There are so many of these. I think YouGov’s figures — no offense to the site we’re now on — are just not reliable at this level of locality (that is, on the constituency level). They just don’t have enough data and, like Ashcroft (who had way, way more) are clearly getting things wrong.

  26. As a final note, I suppose it bears mentioning that this seat has just about the largest range of any prediction for one party: they have the LDs (95% confidence interval) anywhere from 13% to 43%, estimating 29%. SNP, by contrast: est. 36%, low 27%, high 45%.

    Personally, I’d bet on LD ~50%, +/- 10% (high variability here), with SNP in the mid-30s to high-20s. A bit of a slimmer margin than Holyrood, but closer to that than to the YouGov prediction.

  27. Oh, missed this oddball: They’ve got Labour close to taking Kensington and Cities of London & Westminster. Absurd.

  28. Well in general I think they have sampled just under 100 voters per seat. But I have now noticed that the margin for error on O&S is much smaller, I forgot that it’s a small constituency and presumably has a much smaller sample size – so could be wildly skewed.

    I wouldn’t yet jump on all these results. Some that you have listed don’t seem that radical to me (e.g. Labour safe in Ynys Mon, is that really surprising given they have Labour on 39 nationally?). Also you have to remember that the model has a 95% confidence range of about +- 8 for most constituencies. That means 5% of constituencies will be outside that range of accuracy, even if the methodology is fine.

  29. That is true. And more or less my point: they will be way, way off in plenty of these.

  30. The Yougov methodology, as I read it, is NOT based on individual seats, but on the behaviour of voters in a range of seats, and then applying demographics.

    It is noticeable that the error bars on the Lib Dems are greater everywhere than on Labour and Tory, and they are quite large on SNP – this is presumably because they have rather few voters in Lib Dem competitive seats in their sample, and few SNP voters compared to Lab or Con..

    Beyond that it is very much a black box, just like the other seat by seat predictions. Scottish Island seats have always voted in their own way, so Scottish polls or even a Highlands cross-break are unlikely to apply easily here. I would have thought the recent Holyrood elections, where the Lib Dems did very well here, combined with opinion poll shifts since then (not very good for the SNP) would be the best indication… But personal factors are very important in island communities…

  31. I agree with Andrew, to be honest. I think it’s a matter of missing the trees for the forest on this one. The error is so high; 95% confidence is 13% to 42% for the Lib Dems. That’s insanely large. Frankly, there’s not a chance that Carmichael is on 13%, but I think he could also beat 42% by a fair bit…

    It’s hard to say.

  32. Now that the YouGov thing has been up for a day or two, it’s pretty obvious it’s going to fluctuate a ton. The LDs are now up in this seat.

    (They’re also up in Cheltenham, which feels like a minor vindication for me, but ah well.)

  33. LD hold, majority now nearly 5,000

  34. Former Independent Cllr Robert Henderson, 73, has been jailed for 18 months, after having been convicted of sexually assaulting two 11-year-old girls in the 1970s and touching two others in the 1990s.

    He was also placed on the SO Register for life after the Judge described him as, “a real danger to young people to this day.”

    He was said to be a well respected businessman on the island of Yell, but denied having ‘paid off’ other victims in the 1990s.

  35. Awful man. Hard to believe that there were only four victims in total.

  36. Holyrood has unanimously passed the Shetland Mapping Requirement (aka the Islands Bill), which requires maps of Scotland produced by public bodies to depict the Shetland Islands in their proper location – rather than in an inset box that makes them appear much closer to the mainland.

    Incidentally, I notice that UKPR’s own map of Britain denies their very existence.

  37. Tavish Scott, the MSP for Shetland, is stepping down to take up a job as an ambassador for Scottish Rugby.

    By-election would be a pretty uneventful Lib Dem hold, I’d imagine.

  38. The Scottish government is planning to use the Shetland by-election to trial voting for prisoners.

    Didn’t know there was a prison in Shetland…

  39. There is not – it’s for prisoners based there but last address on the Island.
    Apparently only 5 of them at most.

  40. In that case it’s possible that not a single one will vote…

  41. Lib Dems have held the Shetland Holyrood seat but their vote share dropped by 20%. Overall a swing to the SNP of around 15%, which considering that governing parties normally get hammered in by-elections must be some kind of record.

  42. The SNP put a fair amount of effort into this one, Nicola Sturgeon visiting paying 3 visits and most of their MSPs put in an appearance. In that context, the result’s roughly what would be expected. It will be interesting to see if the SNP can maintain this momentum here in the next full Holyrood elections.

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