SGA members have made us aware they would like to know more about the Election on May 6th and candidates they can vote for.
We have been providing overview information on several seats (relevant to members) prior to the Election #SP21. (see these on our website news pages). https://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/latest-news/
Please note: The SGA is not affiliated to any political party. The information is intended only as a helpful guide, offered from the perspective of members' interests, as requested.
People should vote according to personal choice. However, we will give advice for circumstances in which people would wish to vote solely for the purposes of protecting their profession.
In looking at seats, we have provided an analysis based on what candidates have done for rural workers in Holyrood or, if not yet elected, looked at their standpoints on issues to gauge where they might stand in relation to workers on river and land.
What Choices will you have on the ballot paper?
On May 6th, voters will get the opportunity to vote for which person they want as their Constituency MSP in Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch. This person will be an individual representing a party (White coloured paper).
Voters will also get the opportunity to vote for a Party in the Regional List (Peach coloured paper) for Highlands and Islands.
For the Constituency vote (white paper), the person with the highest number of votes becomes the Constituency MSP. In the regional list (peach paper) a total of 7 MSPs are selected to represent the Highlands and Islands region.
This allocation is worked out around the share of the party vote on the peach paper. If a party has already won the Constituency seat, they will win less regional list seats in that region. The system is designed this way to avoid any one party dominating.
In the constituency vote (white paper), SNP's Kate Forbes will be confident of seeing off Lib Dem and Conservative challengers after landing the seat in 2016 with a 9043 vote majority and a swing of 4.56% from the Lib Dems, who maintain a strong presence in certain parts of north Scotland and the islands.
On the white paper, her competition will be Denis Rixson (Lib Dem), Jamie Halcro Johnston (Conservative) and John Erskine (Labour).
Kate Forbes (SNP), now Finance and Digital Economy Minister, is a hard working constituency MSP. She is willing to engage with constituent SGA members and hear their concerns, first hand.
She is supportive of rural jobs and advocates a 're-peopled' highlands and has taken time to understand members’ work, including a day out stalking red deer with SGA Deer Group member, Lea MacNally. She recently responded to emails regarding the Rural Workers’ Protest, showing willingness to discuss the protest's key asks.
Denis Rixson is a Lib Dem Highland councillor and a former school teacher. He has written books on highland history and believes an urgent tree planting programme must get underway in the highlands to mitigate against the impacts of climate change.
Jamie Halcro Johnston (Conservatives) is a current MSP and will be hoping to pare back ground in this seat. He has been supportive of rural workers in his shadow rural economy role and recently pledged support for workers of river and land at the Rural Workers' Protest, 2021
Given the size of Kate Forbes' majority, tactical voting may factor in voters' mindsets in this seat. If a party wins the constituency seat (white paper) they naturally pick up less seats on the regional list (peach paper), so some voters may opt to vote for one candidate and party on the white paper and another party entirely on the peach paper, to maximise their chances of getting the kind of representation they want.
Hypothetically, someone may vote for Kate Forbes (SNP) on the white paper yet vote for Conservatives or Lib Dems on the peach paper or vice versa. This pattern was seen in this seat in the 2016 Election as the images below, show. The Lib Dems were second on the white paper (constituency) yet the Conservatives were second on the peach paper (regional list), with a greater vote share than the Lib Dems. This helped to give them more representation in the Highlands and Islands region.
Similarly, pro-Independence or pro-Union voters may decide to vote tactically, with parties such as pro-Independence Alba Party and pro-Union All for Unity standing on the regional list.
Alba Party manifesto: https://www.albaparty.org/where_we_stand
All for Unity manifesto: https://www.alliance4unity.uk/manifesto/
On the aforementioned regional list (peach paper) for Highlands and Islands, voters will have much greater choice, with no fewer than 15 different parties as well as 2 independents, Hazel Mansfield and Andy Wightman, to choose from.
One worry SGA members have been contacting our office about is whether a vote for SNP means they get the Greens as part of the deal.
The Green Party recently published its manifesto which pledges to end, what it terms, ‘bloodsports’ including shooting and angling. They will ban driven grouse shooting, reintroduce species and incentivise the removal of sheep from the hills.
For those seeking to vote in terms of their employment, specifically, the Green manifesto represents the likely loss of over 13 000 rural workers’ jobs. See their manifesto, here: https://greens.scot/ourfuture
Should the SNP fail to win an outright majority at this election (which current polling shows is possible) they may again choose to join with the Greens in order to form a majority. Given the Greens’ unhidden desire to end the employment interests of sections of the rural workforce, SGA members should make themselves aware of the dangers in this possibility.
Give this, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon seeking reassurances for rural workers that any potential SNP/Green pact will not mean Scottish Government adopting the Green manifesto pledges, mentioned above, which will be so damaging for rural workers and their families. You can read the Chairman’s letter, here. To date, we have not had a response from the First Minister.
On whether an SNP/Green pact might comes to pass, leader of the Greens, Patrick Harvie, was quoted in the Scotsman newspaper today (April 30) saying, that 'most of our members would be willing to have the conversation' after the Election.
To find all candidates standing in Inverness and Nairn plus Highlands and Islands region- (and all the other Scottish constituencies)- see: https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/politics/6918475/scottish-election-full-candidate-list-standing-my-area/
*This seat analysis, which fulfils a requirement of our members to provide voting information on their behalf, has been produced by The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, a Company limited by guarantee, Company number SC386843.