21 August 2015
West Mainland win augurs well for local politics

In winning the West Mainland seat on behalf of the Orkney Manifesto Group, Rachael King has achieved a number of firsts.

It’s the first time that the OMG, as a registered political party, has fielded an election candidate. It may well be the first time that a non-independent candidate has won a seat on the Orkney Islands Council. It’s certainly the first time that the OMG has won a seat at a by-election.

Rachael’s result is all the more outstanding given that she won outright on first preference votes in a field of three candidates, taking 51.3% of the vote. The turnout of 34% was not bad for a by-election held on a day with 4mm of rainfall.

Rachael comments “I would like to thank all those who braved the weather on Tuesday to come out and vote, especially those who gave me their first preference. 

“Visiting over 1,200 homes over the past five weeks has given me an initial opportunity to hear in detail some of the concerns and priorities in the West Mainland.  The only way to fully engage with electors and understand a constituency is to go door to door, as has been demonstrated by many of my Orcadian predecessors. The healthy community spirit in the parishes was obvious from the care and concern expressed for both immediate neighbours and Orkney as a whole.

“I have several messages to bring back to the Council chamber. Folk want to see freedom and independent movement through reliable transport. They want to see home care and respite for those in need, while playing an active role in the wellbeing of family and friends. They want more local empowerment so that they can support and in many cases provide care through planning to keep young folk and families together. They want greater transparency of council affairs.

“I expect it will take a little time to adjust to the way of life of a councillor. The experience of some voters is that councillors seem to become invisible or swallowed up by the system once elected. I will do my best to prevent this.  Being a member of the Orkney Manifesto Group should make it easier for my voice to be heard.”

Cllr Bill Stout, OMG Convener, adds “Rachael was an outstanding candidate, who put in an enormous effort in trying to speak to as many electors as possible in the run-up to the election.

“Her win is hers alone. However, there are some very interesting lessons to be drawn. The first is that, given a strong candidate, Orkney folk are prepared to vote for a local political party. Our council of independents is not by any means sacrosanct.

“The second lesson is that policy-based campaigning resonates on the doorstep. The West Mainland electorate has shown commendable political maturity in picking the candidate with the ideas and has not elected the best kent face – contrary to what some observers had confidently predicted.

“This augurs very well for the future of local politics in Orkney and for the OMG. As we prepare for the 2017 election we hope that this result will encourage some candidates who might be considering standing for election as independents to nail their colours to our mast.”

The OMG was set up before the 2012 election by Alistair Gordon, John Richards and Bill Stout as a grouping of independent candidates, campaigning on a joint manifesto. All three subsequently were elected. The group registered as a political party the following year.   


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