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”
1 2 3 11
  1. It’s worth noting that the two local Councils covering the Islands are – with the apparent support of Tavish Scott, the MSP for the Shetland Islands – are considering models for greater self-government, including moving to a Manx-style Crown Dependency status.

    This seat will probably be LibDem for as long as the LibDems exist (after all, the MSPs survived the 2011 result), but if this movement gains serious traction, then we might yet have something to talk about here.

  2. Do you think Tavish Scott is serious? I had presumed his comments were intended to undermine the SNP’s economic arguments about ‘Scotland’s Oil’ given that Orkney and Shetland will almost certainly deliver overwhelming no votes in 2014 and, if they did separate from an independent Scotland would take a lot of the oil with them?

    Even though the Lib Dems have a number of seats in the UK that it is hard to see them losing in 2015, this is perhaps the only seat in the UK that is absolutely guaranteed to deliver a Lib Dems MP. Although, having said that, i suppose an independent could perhaps do well

  3. This is the one constituency in the UK were the Lib Dems must be 99.999999999% of retaining 😉

  4. UKIP support is very high here for a Scottish constituency, only 820 votes short of Second place.

    Is this the most Unionist constituency or is it one that would like the islands to be independent of both Westminster and Holyrood?

  5. I think Shetland is very Unionist in particular – Shetlanders rarely describe themselves as Scottish, preferring either to be called Shetlanders or British. Orkney is less so however & I think that the SNP does have some potential support there. What Labour support there is is higher in Shetland than in Orkney, whereas the opposite is the case for the Conservatives I think.

  6. This has got to be the safest Lib Dem seat in existence. If it survived the 2011 election (notionally), it will survive in 2015. Alistair Carmichael must be one of the only Lib Dem MPs not polishing up their CVs!

  7. This is the longest held Liberal seat. Held by them consistently since 1950.

  8. A closer look at the result here in February 1974-
    Grimond (Liberal)- 11. 491 (61.97%, +15.0%)
    Firth (Conservative)- 4, 186 (22.58%, -9.33%)
    Wills (Labour)- 2, 865 (15.45%, -5.68%)

    Majority- 7, 305 (39.40%)
    Swing- +12.165% From Con to Lib.

  9. Jo Grimond’s electoral record in Orkney and Shetland-

    1. 1945- 5, 975 (34.2%, -8.2%)
    2. 1950- 9, 237 (46.8%, +12.6%, 2, 956 (15.0%) majority)
    3. 1951- 11, 745 (57.5%, +11.3%, 6, 391 (31.3%) majority)
    4. 1955- 11, 753 (63.8%, +6.3%, 7, 993 (43.4%) majority)
    5. 1959- 12, 099 (64.1%, +0.3%, 8, 612 (45.7%) majority)
    6. 1964- 11, 604 (62.6%, -1.5%, 7, 900 (42.6%) majority)
    7. 1966- 9, 605 (59.1%, -3.5%, 5, 975 (36.8%) majority)
    8. 1970- 7, 896 (47.0%, -12.1%, 2, 532 (15.1%) majority)
    9. February 1974- 11, 491 (62.0%, +15.0%, 7, 305 (39.4%) majority)
    10. October 1974- 9, 877 (56.2%, -5.8%, 6, 852 (39.0%) majority)
    11. 1979- 10, 950 (56.4%, +0.2%, 6, 810 (35.1%) majority)

    Jim Wallace’s electoral record in Orkney and Shetland-
    1. 1983- 9, 374 (45.9%, -10.5%, 4, 150 (20.3%) majority)
    2. 1987- 8, 881 (41.7%, -4.2%, 3, 922 (18.4%) majority)
    3. 1992- 9, 575 (46.4%, +4.7%, 5, 033 (24.4%) majority)
    4. 1997- 10, 743 (52.0%, +5.6%, 6, 968 (33.7%) majority)

    Alistair Carmichael’s electoral record in Orkney and Shetland-
    1. 2001- 6, 919 (41.3%, -10.6%, 3, 475 (20.7%) majority)
    2. 2005- 9, 138 (51.5%, +10.1%, 6, 627 (37.4%) majority)
    3. 2010- 11, 989 (62.0%, +10.5%, 9, 928 (51.3%) majority)

  10. A closer look at the result here in 1950-
    Grimond (Liberal)- 9, 237 (46.8%, +12.6%)
    Neven-Spence (Conservative)- 6, 281 (31.9%, -4.1%)
    Leslie (Labour)- 3, 335 (21.3%, -8.5%)

    Majority- 2, 956 (14.9%)
    Swing- +8.35% From Con to Lib.

  11. I can see Orkney narrowly voting for independence in 2014 but a comfortable vote for the UK in Shetland.

    My forecast for this constituency in 2015

    LD 45
    SNP 23
    Con 9
    Lab 9
    Others 14

  12. LD: 40%
    SNP: 26%
    UKIP: 15%
    LAB: 13%
    CON: 8%

  13. Some more factually 100% true information here:

    I know some ‘cultural fundamentalist’ people who live in Stromness who support Scottish independence and they have a daughter who works as a genetist and is engaged to someone who comes from Tennessee.

    I told her exactly what I think about Alex Salmond and why through a facebook message.

    My real name is Alexander Conrad Fox Brown.

  14. please Alexander put a sock in it. It’s becoming spam.

  15. I’ve had enough of this now.

    The reason why I haven’t posted on here for two days (probably a record for me in the year I’ve been a poster here) is because I can’t get contribute while A Brown is still consistently rambling on about overly personal details of his life, which are now making me feel uncomfortable about coming on here and trying to have any psephological debate.

    I will continue to contribute here for the foreseeable future but unless A Brown cuts down on his bizarre self-evaluations I may have to drastically reduce the amount of time I spend here.

    I know this site is supposed to be for non-partisan discussion, but surely Anthony this has gone too far and A Brown could consider taking a break? It’s been done to many of the established regulars for much lesser trivialities, so why is he allowed to still get away with all these comments that are clearly getting on everyone’s nerves?

  16. If the LD’s can’t hold onto this seat, they’ll be facing a wipe out across the UK!

  17. Indeed, if they can’t win here they might as well dissolve the party the day after the election.

    As it is, this was the only area the Liberal Democrats won on a constituency-level in the 2011 Scottish election. If they couldn’t lose here at that nadir, there’s zero chance they’ll be worried about 2015.

  18. Indeed so,Pump, but there is no chance at all that the Liberal Democrats will lose Orkney and Shetland, assuming Scotland votes no to independence in this year’s referendum and thus stays with the rest of the United Kingdom. It will be interesting to see,however, what happens here if Scotland votes yes to independence after all, as Orkney and Shetland has quite a distinct character from mainland Scotland.

  19. It would be even worse than being reduced to the Nordic fringe.

  20. In the 1950s it was perhaps Montgomeryshire that was the Liberals “certain” seat (when they only had five or six altogether). Orkney and Shetland was “only” won by the Liberals in 1950 and it is quite possible that this seat, and any other LibDem one, could be overtaken by electoral change.

    It might be remembered that in the 1950s the mainland Scottish Highlands were “solidly” Conservative and Unionist.

  21. Always a tough seat to predict..!

    Liberal Democrat – 53
    SNP – 15
    Labour – 13
    Conservative – 10
    UKIP – 9

  22. This was one of only three constituencies in the UK to vote Lib Dem in the 1999 Euro Elections.

    I think the other two were Rochdale and Birmingham Yardley (then both Labour seats).

    It is fair to say that this a solid Lib Dem constituency.

    When Jo Grimond retired here in 1983 the new Liberal candidate faced a challenge from the Conservative MP for Banffshire whose constituency had been divided between Moray (Moray & Nairn) and Banff & Buchan (Aberdeenshire East).

    I wonder if David Myles expect that he had a chance with Jo Grimonds retirement?

    Grimond had gained the seat from Sir Basil Neven – Spence who had been the Conservative MP from 1935 to 1950.

  23. “I think the other two were Rochdale and Birmingham Yardley (then both Labour seats)”

    IIRC it was Oldham East & Saddleworth rather than Rochdale

  24. Now, of course, those were replaced by South Lakeland and Gibraltar.

    I don’t think anyone seriously thinks Carmichael will lose here; the Lib Dems’ absolute, worst of the worst, horror of horrors scenario is that their parliamentary group post-May 7 is just Carmichael, Kennedy, Farron, Laws, Pugh, Lamb, Russell, and that’s pretty much it.

    I’d tend to think that Carmichael won’t be leader, either, although some think he’d stand.

  25. Interesting that Orkney voted No by a larger margin than Shetland did.

  26. Although Carmichael should be safe in 2015, you think this result might give the Lib Dems in Scotland a boost in their traditional strongholds and fend off a potential SNP surge in May and perhaps stem the tide against them (i.e. the one since 2011)?

  27. It’s very difficult to say. People will be voting for & against different things in the general election. On the face of it, Labour should be worried in some Glasgow seats & some near the city, but when the government of the UK is at stake it’s hard to see any of the seats in the areas which did vote yes electing an SNP MP, except possibly Dundee W. I could of course be proved utterly wrong on this but the SNP’s sense of deflation could well carry over into the Westminster campaign – never an occasion when they really get their mojo working.

  28. I don’t think the SNP will face 79 but could be a bit lacklustre. We do of courdse have to see…

  29. Why is it so safe a Lib Dem seat?

  30. Maybe you need to be an Orcadian or a Shetlander to explain that one.

  31. Even some of those seem unclear.

  32. “the Lib Dems’ absolute, worst of the worst, horror of horrors scenario is that their parliamentary group post-May 7 is just Carmichael, Kennedy, Farron, Laws, Pugh, Lamb, Russell, and that’s pretty much it.”

    If Brake’s gone then you can be sure that Lamb and Russell will be long gone.

  33. So you think that they could be at risk in Manchester Withington and Brent Central?

  34. prediction for 2015-

    Lib- 38%
    SNP- 24%
    UKIP- 16%
    Lab- 12%
    Con- 10%

    Okay so, calling the liberal democrats below 40% here seems a bit odd but I really am saying that’s what I think will happen while a split in opposition is the only thing that keeps their majority as high as 14%.

    Perhaps this is UKIP’s strongest seat in scotland , with them clinching third place I’d think.

    This is also a seat where the two main parties are almost totally irrelevant (or at least struggling to get double digits) which is actually quite weird really.

  35. That “little bit” should be taken in the same context as Beaconsfield being a little bit Tory, Aberdeen being a little bit Scottish and Ken Bates being a little bit litigious.

  36. For reference – the 2014 EU election results in Orkney and Shetland:


    Britain First 37
    British National Party 35
    Conservative Party 679
    Labour Party 466
    Liberal Democrats 1825
    NO2EU 14
    Scottish Green Party 619
    Scottish National Party (SNP) 872
    UK Independence Party (UKIP) 618


    NO2EU 25

  37. I think we are all agreed that this will be a straightforward Lib Dem hold. If there is a parliamentary group of one, it is most likely to be Alastair Carmichael.

  38. The only thing that makes me question this is that in the Holyrood elections independent candidates finished second in both seats. It isn’t clear what would have happened without them standing. If they had the effect of further splitting the anti-Lib Dem vote, then it may be a fair bit closer than people think.

  39. The SNP will never win here. It’s so ardently unionist.

  40. The only chance of the Lib Dems losing the seat would be if an entirely respectable independent candidate were to stand.

    However, I would argue that, although it might be relatively straightforward to find a good Orkney independent, or a good Shetland independent (as is possible for Holyrood), it is much more difficult for an independent to have a good standing in both Orkney AND Shetland.

    I can’t see there being a big anti-Lib Dem vote in the seat. It’s more likely that, if the SNP looked like launching any kind of challenge, Labour and Tory would coalesce around the Lib Dems.

  41. Orkney & Shetland Movement polled over 3000 in 1987.

    UKIP were only about 4% short second place in 2010.

  42. So they were only two thirds of what they actually got away from second place. If they hadn’t polled so low, saying that would sound simply silly.

    This is the sort of place where the coalition’s policies probably aren’t that unpopular, although I have no local knowledge and could be easily wrong.

  43. OSM were given a free run by the SNP that year, I believe. So a chunk of that 3000 might well have been SNP supporters. I believe SNP rules were subsequently changed so that they had to put up a candidate in every Scottish seat.

    I would imagine that, in terms of the seat, like most Highland seats it’s a good fit for the more left/radical parts of the Lib Dems. More suited to a Charles Kennedy than a Danny Alexander. I think the greatest advantage the Lib Dems have is that nobody else seems to appeal that much to the electorate. The Labour Party has not been strong in a lot of rural Scotland for a long time, if ever, and it’s not easy ground for the SNP either.

  44. Lib Dem: 8400
    SNP: 4300
    UKIP: 2700
    Conservative: 2200
    Labour: 1700

    Lib Dem Maj 4100

  45. Carmichael’s majority in 2010 now exceeds any of Jo Grimmonds majorities….even his largest in 1959.

    This has to be the Lib Dems most solid constituency and one that appears to resist the slump of the Lib Dems in the UK or their total collapse in Scotland.

  46. Carmichael’s majority in 2010 now exceeds any of Jo Grimmonds majorities….even his largest in 1959.

    This has to be the Lib Dems most solid constituency and one that appears to resist the slump of the Lib Dems in the UK or their total collapse in Scotland.

  47. Okay, the site may2015 predicts this seat will fall to the SNP on a 27.7% swing. Has anyone found a worse prediction anywhere?

  48. Given the Green Party’s showing in the euros here, they could potententially do reasonably well. Were they to stand, I suspect they could take third place initially (not much imagination needed, just adding up the euro votes. It is unlikely, even if the Liberal Democrats collapsed completely after 2015, that the SNP would be able to win. Attitudes towards the SNP here are based on a visceral loathing of the SNP rather than active pro-unionism.

  49. I went to check Dalek’s post because there is a considerably larger electorate than when Jo Grimond was MP. Dalek is quite right. Carmichael’s majority is considerably bigger as a percentage of the vote than Grimond’s, as well as bigger as a number of votes.

    If Scotland became independent it is far from unimaginable that Shetland, in particular, would demand independence from Scotland.

    The Greens might do well, but the considerable proportion of the electorate who work in the oil industry might well not support them.

  50. “If Scotland became independent it is far from unimaginable that Shetland, in particular, would demand independence from Scotland.”

    If there was another referendum and Scotland flipped from 45 to 55 to 55 to 45, no would still win in Orkney and Shetland.

    In the negociations the UK government could argue that both islands vote No.

    Being at least 200 miles from the remaining UK I would imagine that both group of islands would become British protectorates like The Channel Island and The Isle of Man with self government and would no longer return an MP to the House of Commons.

1 2 3 11
Leave a Reply

NB: Before commenting please make sure you are familiar with the Comments Policy. UKPollingReport is a site for non-partisan discussion of polls.

You are not currently logged into UKPollingReport. Registration is not compulsory, but is strongly encouraged. Either login here, or register here (commenters who have previously registered on the Constituency Guide section of the site *should* be able to use their existing login)