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Orkney and Shetland

2010 Results:
Conservative: 2032 (10.5%)
Labour: 2061 (10.65%)
Liberal Democrat: 11989 (61.97%)
SNP: 2042 (10.56%)
UKIP: 1222 (6.32%)
Majority: 9928 (51.32%)

2005 Results:
Liberal Democrat: 9138 (51.5%)
Labour: 2511 (14.2%)
Conservative: 2357 (13.3%)
SNP: 1833 (10.3%)
Other: 1903 (10.7%)
Majority: 6627 (37.4%)

2001 Result
Conservative: 3121 (18.7%)
Labour: 3444 (20.6%)
Liberal Democrat: 6919 (41.3%)
SNP: 2473 (14.8%)
Other: 776 (4.6%)
Majority: 3475 (20.8%)

1997 Result
Conservative: 2527 (12.2%)
Labour: 3775 (18.3%)
Liberal Democrat: 10743 (52%)
SNP: 2624 (12.7%)
Referendum: 820 (4%)
Other: 176 (0.9%)
Majority: 6968 (33.7%)

No Boundary Changes: the boundaries of Orkney and Shetland have unique statutory protection. The Scotland Act 1998 amended the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 such that the Orkney and Shetland Islands cannot be part of the same constituency as any other local government area.

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.

Orkney & Shetland is the most reliable Lib Dem seat in the seat, having returned Liberal and Liberal Democrat MPs since 1950, including former Liberal leader Jo Grimond. In the Scottish Parliament Orkney and Shetland return separate MSPs, both Liberal Democrats.

portraitCurrent MP: Alistair Carmichael(Liberal Democrat) born 1965, Islay and lives in Orkney. Educated at Islay High School and the University of Aberdeen. Solicitor. First elected as MP for Orkey and Shetland in 2001. Lib Dem Northern Ireland spokesman from 2003 to 2005 and briefly served as Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman following Mark Oaten`s resignation. Transport spokesman since 2006. 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 trearty (more information at They work for you)

2010 election candidates:
portraitFrank Nairn (Conservative) Sheep and deer farmer. Contested Orkeny and Shetland 2005, Moray 2001.
portraitMark Cooper (Labour) Born 1984, Aberdeen. Educated at Aberdeen University.
portraitAlistair Carmichael(Liberal Democrat) born 1965, Islay and lives in Orkney. Educated at Islay High School and the University of Aberdeen. Solicitor. First elected as MP for Orkey and Shetland in 2001. Lib Dem Northern Ireland spokesman from 2003 to 2005 and briefly served as Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman following Mark Oaten`s resignation. Transport spokesman since 2006. 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 trearty (more information at They work for you)
portraitJohn Mowat (SNP)
portraitRobert Smith (UKIP)

2001 Census Demographics

Total 2001 Population: 41233
Male: 49.9%
Female: 50.1%
Under 18: 24.6%
Over 60: 20.7%
Born outside UK: 2.4%
White: 99.2%
Asian: 0.2%
Mixed: 0.2%
Other: 0.3%
Christian: 58.6%
Graduates 16-74: 19.9%
No Qualifications 16-74: 33%
Owner-Occupied: 67.5%
Social Housing: 20.2% (Council: 16.9%, Housing Ass.: 3.3%)
Privately Rented: 8.2%
Homes without central heating and/or private bathroom: 11.9%

NB - The constituency guide is now archived and is no longer being updated. The new guide is at http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/2015guide

170 Responses to “Orkney and Shetland”

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  1. Tavish Scott has resigned.

    Well it’s effectively a toin coss between Rennie and Jim Hume.
    Can’t really see McInnes or or Liam McArthur stepping up.

  2. Here are the combined totals of the Orkney and Shetland results from May’s Scottish Parliamentary elections.

    LibDem = 7374 (42.03%)
    Ind = 4897 (27.91%)
    SNP = 3178 (18.12%)
    Lab = 1078 (6.14%)
    Con = 1016 (5.79%)
    LibDem (HOLD)
    Maj = 2477 (14.12%)

    Although the LibDems had a sharp decrease in votes compared with the GE result, this still should be a safe seat for them.

  3. Of course, it would be extremely unlikely that a single independent candidate here could achieve a vote like that. Shetlanders are unlikely to support some-one from Orkney, and vice versa.

  4. Even though they are standing in some wards for Orkney and Shetland councils i cant see the SNP making progress in the Northern Isles and i think independents will again take all the council seats

  5. It amazes me that whilst this is a very safe LibDem seat, they have no representation on either the Orkney or Shetland councils at all. Are the Independent candidates closet LibDems as where do they get their strength from ie activist base.

  6. Yes election day must be eerily dull in Orkney & Shetland when the councils are up for election.

  7. In French elections, Independent candidates or reporters of election results often help voters, academics and anoraks alike by stating “Independent of the Right” or “Independent of the Left” etc as the party label.
    That is something I think we in the UK should adopt more often. It would give us some idea of where independent votes come from.

  8. Would that be allowed without registering ‘Independent of the Right’ or ‘Independent of the Left’ as a political party with the Electoral Commission?

    It has long been clear that registration laws for political parties need reform/repeal but I suspec the powers that be have no desire to pursue it.

  9. “It has long been clear that registration laws for political parties need reform/repeal but I suspec the powers that be have no desire to pursue it.”

    The laws were brought about after a spate of spoiler candidates….the most influential being a bloke standing as a “Literal Democrat” in the 1994 Euro elections which confused enough Lib Dem voters to enable the Tories to hold a seat by a tiny majority.

    To be honest I would rather keep the current laws rather than go back to people being able to stand under labels like Literal Democrat, Conversative or Labor. It is an affront to democracy to be able to deliberately confuse voters.

  10. Surely it is for each voter to ensure they know who they are voting for. Surely it should not be for the law to get involved to ensure that stupid people are not confused. If that were an argument, then all those who argue for a more complicated electoral system would have their arguments immediately thrown out.

    The system at present is a money making exercise that imposes an indefensible ‘registration fee’ on anyone wishing to set up a political party to contest elections. It is also unnecessarily dictatorial, one candidate in my area several years ago was forced to use his first name on the ballot paper rather than his middle name by which he is known in everyday life because it happened to be the same as the Labour councillors first name. It seems the returning officers were concerned that voters would be unduly ‘confused’ by having two people called Clive standing in the ward evn though they have different sirnames and different party labels. The whole system is frankly absurd.

    Whilst we’re on the subject of local elections in Orkney, surely it demonstrates yet again how the absurd Scottish local election system has utterly failed to deliver on any of its supporters promises.

  11. “Surely it should not be for the law to get involved to ensure that stupid people are not confused.”

    I think that’s harsh on people who are elderly and have bad eyesight.

    How would you feel if you were a Tory candidate beaten by Labour by 10 votes when a left-wing spoiler calling himself “Conversative” polled 100 votes? To me, deliberate spoilers playing on party names are indefensible and it’s right they are now outlawed. That’s not to say that the act doesn’t go a bit too far in places.

  12. “Whilst we’re on the subject of local elections in Orkney, surely it demonstrates yet again how the absurd Scottish local election system has utterly failed to deliver on any of its supporters promises.”

    At the risk of starting a debate, which promises are these which have not been fulfilled? It’s certainly led to results which more accurately reflect voters’ preferences, and that’s the main claim which is made about STV.

  13. 1) STV will prevent councils from being under majority control by a party unless they can win over 50% of the vote.

    Wrong. Labour in Glasgow got nowhere near 50% of the vote four years ago, nor did they this year and yet on both occassons they had a large working majority.
    I also suspect the SNP did not have a majority of the vote in Angus, or Labour perhaps if Renfrewshire.

    2) STV will eliminate one party fiefdoms.

    Wrong. Orklney, Shetlands and Western Isles disproves that theory.

    3) STV will provide greater party representaton.

    Wrong. Almost all council wards are still Labour/SNP/LD/Con.

    So what exactly was the point of STV? Oh its managed to produce coalition government in almost every one of Scotlands councils, unstable government, and terrible backroom deals that the voters never expected. But what else has it achieved?
    Did the voters of Stirling REALLY expect or want a Lab/Con coalition to keep the party out of power who actually won the most support? I suspect not.

    The fact of the matter remains that STV does not work on anything less than 6 member wards. Yet most of Scotlands wards are between 3 and 4 members. You get about as much ‘proportionality’ as you would get with FPTP on 3 or 4 member wards. So the system has failed on all fronts.

    And as for the absurd spectacle of by-elections in one member wards attempting to be held on STV, well words have not yet beeninvented quite frankly to desrcibe the stupidity of it.

    If this is the brave new world of electoral reform the STV apologists want to inflict on the rest of us, I thank goodness we now have the Scottish example to show what NOT to do!

  14. “well words have not yet beeninvented quite frankly to desrcibe the stupidity of it.”

    See! So absurd is it that my words have turned to gibberish before my very eyes :-)

  15. I agree with a couple of your points – five- or six-member wards would be far better than three- or four-member ones, and the by-elections are just bad.

    “1) STV will prevent councils from being under majority control by a party unless they can win over 50% of the vote.”

    If anyone claimed this, they were patently wrong. But parties do have to get considerably closer to 50% to control a council than under FPTP. And it makes very unlikely the absurdity of 2005, where Labour took only 35% of votes in the general election – less than 3% ahead of the Tories – and yet won a substantial majority.

    “2) STV will eliminate one party fiefdoms.”

    Well, it has, hasn’t it. Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles have almost no candidates other than independents, but it’s hardly as if all those independents are of one mind on anything. Elsewhere, even where a party attracted enough votes for majority control, it’s not an overwhelming majority unlikely to ever be threatened by another party or coalition.

    “3) STV will provide greater party representaton.”

    It does, where people vote for the parties. Where they have – as with independents in various areas, and Greens in a few cities – those parties win more seats than they would have done under FPTP. Even the Scottish Socialist Party won a seat. Obviously, if a party’s support declines, as is the case with the Scottish Lib Dems and Conservatives, it will lose seats – but those parties would have even fewer seats under FPTP.

    “Did the voters of Stirling REALLY expect or want a Lab/Con coalition to keep the party out of power who actually won the most support?”

    Did the voters of the UK really want a Con/LD coalition? No, very few did – quite a lot wanted a Con government, rather fewer a Lab government, and fewer again wanted an LD government or a coalition. But surely you’d agree that automatically gifting the largest party a working majority, regardless of their level of support, would be undemocratic?

    Incidentally, is there any record of the number of spoilt votes at this election?

  16. On point 1, I’m not sure what the Labour % vote was in Glasgow in 2007, but I don’t think it was particularly close to 50%. There majority was still overwhelming and only crumbled because of internal splits.

    On point 2, you seems a little complacent. You can’t say that the Independents elected are not all of one mind, any more than you can say every Tory elected is of ‘one mind’. Independents group together to form parties, just as the main parties do. Just because they are nominally “Indpendent” on the ballot paper should not mean that they receive 100% of the representation in any given council.
    However, I do take the point that it depens on how many candidates the main parties field.

    Just out of interest, do Independents have an advantage under STV then against party candidates? Whereas the votes of the remaining unelected party candidates are divided based on the candidates that have been elected from that party, am I to understand that Independent canddiates votes are not treated similarly if an Indepednent is already elected?
    Seems a rum do to me.

    On point 3 I particularly enjoyed your explanation that STV allows greater representation for smaller parties “where people vote for them”.
    ALL electoral systems give representaton if people vote for them. But the PR fanatics always seem to have harboured this idea that parties with less votes need some special protection within the electoral system to ensure them representation where they don’t quite get enough real support under a fair system like FPTP.

    Furthermore, I agree that barely anyone who voted in the 2010 election wanted the outcome which was a Tory-LD coalition. But FPTP only produces those sorts of strange outcomes on occasion whereas various forms of PR make backroom dealings such as this the norm.
    I like to think that the odd hung parliament is FPTP’s way of reminding us all how lucky we are to have it. If we unwisely adopted a different system, we would be stuck in this coalition nightmare forever!

    “But surely you’d agree that automatically gifting the largest party a working majority, regardless of their level of support, would be undemocratic?”

    Automatically yes. But no democratic system actually does that. But should the candidates with the most votes (real votes, not 2nd, 3rd or 55th preferences) always win? Absolutely. Should a party with the most support win a majority even if they get substantially less than 50% of the overall vote? Absolutely.
    And should that resulting government always be strong, single party and representative of the majority? Yes.

  17. In 2007, Labour won 43% of the vote in Glasgow, and took a small majority of seats (45 of 79). That’s probably close enough to 50% to give them a majority of the seats under most electoral systems, although clearly it also reflects that they were the second choice of candidates from a fair few of the other parties.

    Independents can and do form party groups, but they are almost never as coherent as those of the main parties, and it’s perfectly common to see independents with differing views outside such groups, or forming rival ones. Obviously, there is a separate debate to be had about the usefulness of independent councillors, but that’s beside the point here.

    “Whereas the votes of the remaining unelected party candidates are divided based on the candidates that have been elected from that party, am I to understand that Independent canddiates votes are not treated similarly if an Indepednent is already elected?”

    You’re thinking of the very poor party list system, used in European elections. Under STV, party affiliation is irrelevant to the vote transfer process. Surplus votes from successful candidates are weighted in the same manner, regardless of where they transfer.

    “…the PR fanatics always seem to have harboured this idea that parties with less votes need some special protection within the electoral system to ensure them representation where they don’t quite get enough real support under a fair system like FPTP.”

    I don’t know whether you misunderstand PR, or you deliberately mischaracterise it – it’s about having the seats more accurately represent the votes cast. If a party is very unpopular, it won’t win seats under any likely electoral system, and I’ve not heard anyone – even from such parties – calling for them to get some kind of special protection. On the other hand, the second and (particularly) third most popular parties win disproportionately few seats under FPTP, even if they are fairly close behind the winners (unless they are fortunate enough to have geographically concentrated support; an unintended consequence of FPTP therefore being the relative success of the SNP and Plaid and lack of seats for parties such as UKIP).

    “But no democratic system actually does that.”

    The Italian Chamber of Deputies does precisely that. The Greek Parliament gives the party topping the poll a 50-seat bonus, which is part of the reason for their present inability to form a government.

    “…real votes, not 2nd, 3rd or 55th preferences…”

    This is based on the false idea that everyone has a strong first preference, and sees little difference between their other preferences, which are therefore not “real”. Most voters have rather more complex preferences.

    If a group are deciding where to go on holiday, taking an FPTP vote would seem a very odd method – it would seem natural to find out from each individual what their preferences are, and what they would object to, and use this to inform a fair and democratic decision.

  18. Possible result in 2015-

    Carmichael (Lib Dem)- 8, 325 (45.9%) (-16.07%)
    Labour- 3, 462 (19.1%) (+8.45%)
    Tory- 2, 435 (13.4%) (+2.9%)
    SNP- 2, 405 (13.2%) (+2.62%)
    Others- 1, 478 (8.1%) (+1.78%)

    Turnout- 18, 105.
    Majority- 4, 863 (26.8%)

    Swing- +12.26% from Lib Dem to Lab.

  19. SNP to get 2nd here surely

  20. Can’t see Labour that doing well.
    (they’ll be heavily targeting Caithness and Sutherland).

    This is the only constituency in Scotland with any real UKIP potential.

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