People in the Highlands and Islands will be able to vote for an independent candidate on the Regional ballot paper in the Scottish Election on 5th May – for the first time since 2003.
Political parties tend to keep the Regional List vote to themselves and also dominate the constituency votes in a region.
There is currently no elected independent MSP in the Highlands and Islands region.
James Stockan – the independent candidate standing in the Highalnds and Islands Regional List in 2016 says he is campaigning to be the Independent voice of the region in Holyrood.
He has form on his side – having stood as an independent in the constituency election for Orkney in the 20111 Scottish Election – and come second to the winner [Liberal Democrat, Liam McArthur], with the SNP, Conservatives and Labour in his wake. He took 25.2% of the vote.
An Orcadian and for 13 years an independent and a senior Councillor on Orkney Islands Council, the politically experienced Mr Stockan says: ‘We Independent councillors are not a rarity in the Highland and Islands – there are 130 of us altogether. That is 60% of all councillors in the region.
‘But where is our collective voice within the Scottish parliament?
‘We represent thousands of people across this vast region and yet we ourselves do not have a strong voice representing us at Holyrood. I want to be that Independent voice.’
Mr Stockan has been typically outspoken about the specific difficulties facing people in the Highlands & Islands region and has set out his plan to tackle what he sees as the five main areas that need improvement by government. They are:
- Improving and safeguarding our transport networks
- Working towards the eradication of Fuel Poverty
- Helping our local economies to thrive
- Seeking better digital connectivity
- Bringing decision-making nearer to the people it affects
He says: These issues affect the entire Highland and Islands but I believe Argyll and Bute provides unique local challenges and opportunities that I want to embrace during my campaign – and then, hopefully, in Parliament.
‘This region has been subjected to shocking neglect by successive Scottish Governments who have failed adequately to tackle the plight faced by many of the people who live here.
‘Taking transport as an example, how are our businesses and economy expected to thrive if people have to rely on roads that have suffered from a disgraceful lack of investment? Where is the investment for the A82, the A83, the A95 and the A9 North – all important routes for the region?
‘For too long, the Highlands and Islands has suffered from ineffectual representation which has frozen out the needs and desires of those who live here.
‘As an independent:
- I do not have to tow a party line.
- I do not have to keep quiet when my party whip tells me to do so.
- I will always be free to respond to the needs and desires of those who I represent, without infringement.
Therefore, I would be able to offer the Highlands and Islands a strong, local, and independent voice in Parliament.
‘As an Orcadian, I care deeply about the island communities that surround me.
‘Having enjoyed a childhood, a working life and a loving family, I have benefited greatly from the culture, people and opportunities that Orkney has provided me over the years.
‘Now, after serving for 13 years as an Orkney Islands Councillor, I want to make a positive difference in Holyrood for all the people right across the Highlands and Islands. It is for this reason that I have put myself forward as an Independent candidate on the Regional List in the upcoming Scottish Parliament election on May 5th.
‘I am currently Chair of the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HiTRANS). This experience, along with representing Orkney Islands Council (OIC) on a variety of COSLA Committees, gives me confidence to claim that I work effectively within and across local government and with both the Scottish and UK Governments.’
Mr Stockan was in Oban last weekend and met with a number of local councillors. He is attending the hustings at the Lorne and Lowland Hall in Campbeltown tonight, 20th April and then travelling to Lochgilphead where he is looking forward to meeting more people to explore the priorities and opportunities for Argyll and Bute.
If elected to Holyrood, he is pledging to champion Argyll and Bute issues on behalf of its electorate.
James Stockan’s decision to stand as an independent in the Regional List vote means he has to campaign across all eight constituencies in the Highlands and Islands; and he points out an interesting feature of that decision: ‘Voting for me on the Regional ballot paper does not mean you cannot vote for your favoured constituency candidate as well.
‘A vote for me is a vote to add another strong local voice to speak up for you in Parliament and support or challenge the new government as and when its policies directly impact on Argyll and Bute.
‘If you elect me as a list MSP, I would support whoever gets elected locally to challenge or support government policy as and when situations dictate.’
Make personal contact with Mr Stockan
James Stockan is very keen to meet anyone who would like to help with his campaign or who would just like to know more about him and his ideas. He can be contacted: