The Scottish National Party in Orkney and Shetland has selected Robert Leslie, who came second in the 2019 contest in the islands, as their candidate for the 2024 General Election.
Mr Leslie (53) is energy officer at Orkney Housing Association and a former reporter and editor at The Orcadian, Orkney Today and the Orkney Farmer. He was born and brought up in Orkney and attended Kirkwall Grammar School, later completing a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Studies through The Open University.
He is currently vice chairman of Kirkwall & St Ola Community Council, and also plays side drummer with Kirkwall City Pipe Band, taking part in the 2023 Lerwick Up Helly Aa when the band were guests of Guizer Jarl Neil Moncrieff. He also helped write the history of Orkney Rugby Football Club.
Mr Leslie is married to Kara, and they have three daughters, Ria, Isla and Ruby, cats Ginger and Poppy, and a Border Collie called Gaia.
Speaking after he was nominated at the first meeting of the Orkney and Shetland SNP Campaign Committee, Mr Leslie said: “With the London-based parties all standing against the democratic will of the Scottish people to have their say on Scotland becoming a normal independent country, independence will be front and centre of my campaign.
“It’s time to unshackle ourselves from Westminster, where the Tories have wrecked the UK economy through Brexit and a disastrous mini budget that tanked the pound and caused the UK’s EU divorce bill to soar by tens of millions of pounds.
“This has created a crippling cost-of-living crisis, meaning folk across these islands are struggling with household costs and mortgages, and there is no sign that a change of government at Westminster will make things any better.
“As an example of how independence could improve things, on pensions, the UK has the worst state pension in the developed world, but the 2019 SNP Conference voted that in an independent Scotland the Scottish Government should plan to increase the Scottish state pension to the EU average, effectively doubling it.
“Four years ago, during the 2019 General Election campaign, I prophesied that the Northern Isles could suffer most if the UK left the EU. That has now come to pass, and we are seeing the negative impact of an increasingly insular and right-wing regime at Westminster. The only route back into Europe for our communities is with an independent Scotland rejoining the EU. Comparable nations like Ireland, Denmark and Norway are all wealthier and fairer than the UK – and are all independent countries either in the EU or, in the case of Norway, with strong co-operation agreements with the EU.
“Along with being pulled out of the EU against our will, one of the biggest issues faced by households and businesses across the Northern Isles right now is energy costs. The eye-watering and unsustainable rise in electricity prices experienced in the past couple of years has exposed the fragility of the UK’s privatised energy system. The clean, green renewable electricity generated in these islands is the cheapest source of electric power in the country. But rules set by an energy regulator that is no longer fit for purpose mean that we pay exorbitant prices for the electricity that heats and lights our homes. It is a massive injustice.
“I will fight this campaign on a platform of taking energy into public ownership in an independent Scotland, so that we can make Scotland’s energy work for Scotland’s people, not shareholders.
“Be under no illusion how much damage continued votes for Westminster-based parties is doing to these islands. Austerity, which is a political choice, not a necessity, has devastated lives for folk across these islands. Inequality is growing.
“The Scottish Government has spent £711 million in the past five years mitigating the impact of Westminster welfare cuts. Westminster’s two-child limit is affecting 80,000 children in Scotland and has removed more than £341 million from Scottish families since 2017.
“This cruel policy means that 360 children across the Northern Isles have missed out on vital financial support. Meanwhile 1540 children in Orkney and Shetland have benefited from the Scottish Child Payment since it was introduced, attracting £1,586,275 of payments to the islands so far.
“The SNP will continue to tackle poverty head on with the powers we have — while knowing we could do so much more if we had all the powers over benefits that independence will bring.
“It is time for change and time for voters across this constituency to grasp the opportunity to create a fairer, greener and more equal society as part of an independent Scotland.”