Tuesday, 18 August 2015

By-election Preview: 18 August 2015

One by-election on Tuesday 18th August 2015:

Orkney Islands council
Caused by the death of councillor Alistair Gordon.  A former journalist at the local newspaper The Orcadian and teacher at Kirkwall grammar school, Gordon was first elected to Orkney council in 2003 and was convener of the council's Orkney Manifesto group, which is seeking to improve the islands' governance.

The West Mainland ward is pretty much what it says, a large and mostly empty area of the Orkney Mainland to the north and north-east of Stromness.  This is a land of small agricultural villages, including Orkney's biggest parish (Sandwick, on the west coast), inland Stenness at the southern end of its namesake loch, and Evie and Rendall on the north coast.  West Mainland ward has been inhabited for centuries, as evidenced by the Neolithic archeological sites of Skara Brae, Maes Howe, the standing stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, all of which are within this ward and since 1999 have formed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  While these doubtless attract some intrepid tourists, another draw is the wonderfully-named village of Twatt, in the north of the ward.

Alistair Gordon was first elected in 2003 for the former Firth and Sunnybrae ward, rather narrowly defeating Eoin Scott who later join him on the council at the 2007 election for the new West Mainland ward.  Gordon was the only councillor to be re-elected in 2012, polling 17.5% of the first preferences to finish second out of nine candidates.

Orkney's elections are traditionally non-partisan, and so I have not given previous election results below, but party politics appears to have broken out with a vengeance with this by-election.  Defending for the Orkney Manifesto Group is Rachael King, an art psychotherapist from Sandwick.  In Orkney's first all-female election, Birsay resident Barbara Foulkes stands as an independent, while Sandwick resident Fiona Grahame, who has turned her love of knitting into a business, stands for the Scottish Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Orkney and Shetland
Holyrood constituency: Orkney
ONS Travel to Work Area: Orkney Islands
Postcode districts: KW15, KW16, KW17

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