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Elections May 2007
Scottish Parliament & Highland Council

24 January 07
Labour Field Candidates In all Seats In Caithness For May 2007 Elections

Scottish Labour looking to sweep the board by standing candidates in all of the new Caithness council wards to add to their candidates for MSP and a list candidate for the Scottish Parliament.

Candidates with a wealth of experience in local government will contest every seat in the new-look Highland Council.

They will join Scottish Parliament prospective candidates John McKendrick, who is bidding to become the next MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, and Bilbster's Simon Harrison, a candidate on the Labour list for second votes, on the local campaign trail.

With elections to the Scottish Parliament and Highland Council taking place on the same day, the line-up represents the party's strongest ever team at the ballot box in Caithness.

The 10 existing council wards in Caithness are being replaced by three new wards - Thurso, Wick and the landward area - with each returning several councillors under a new voting system.

In Thurso, sitting councillor Roger Saxon is standing for re-election for one of the town's three seats.

Roger has been a councillor for Thurso West since 1999 and is the Caithness chairman for education, culture and sport. He is active in many local organisations, has a special interest in youth issues and is chairman of Caithness sports council. He works at Dounreay as a technical consultant.

Roger said: “The new proportional voting system gives everyone a choice and by putting down their order of preference, everyone can feel they have contributed to the outcome. My hope is that this will lead to an increased turnout at the council election. You will then have 3 councillors who will need to work together for the overall good of the town, rather than looking for what is best for their third of the town as at present. At the strategic level, PR will ensure that no one political group can dominate, which again helps to ensure we proceed by consensus wherever possible. The new council term will present many challenges, not least the reorganisation of its management structures. We need a council which is looking forward, not back; keeping politics local and making it work for our community.”

In Wick, local crofter Jim Oag will be bidding to become one of the town's three new councillors.

Jim has extensive experience in local government, have served on Caithness District, Highland Region and Highland Council. Jim has been chair of Albyn Housing Society Limited for the last 4 years.

He said: "Although not returned as a councillor at the last election I have been aware of the need for more youth amenities in the town. I have had a lot of encouragement from the public looking for a more common sense approach to council decisions."

Another Labour candidate with a wealth of local experience in local government is Thurso born writer and journalist Bill Mowat, who is standing for election in the new four-member rural Caithness ward. Bill's experience in local government dates back to 1978 when he was first elected to represent North East Caithness on Highland Regional Council.

The one-time 'Caithness Courier' editor, who established the main locally-owned tourism business in his native John O'Groats, is putting himself forward because of the immense challenge facing the people of Caithness as a result of the haemorrhaging of well-paid Dounreay jobs: 200 lost in 2006, with an expected further 500 posts to go by 2012, according to the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

The Edinburgh University graduate, who is a Fellow of the Energy Institute, believes that is is vital that the folk of rural Caithness (where the majority of the county's jobs are) have a direct line to the Party of Government as part of the strategy to help to slow-down or even reverse then current brain-drain.

He said : 'I intend to leave no stone unturned in an effort to ensure a reasonable future for rural Caithness. I have plenty of experience in dealing with senior people in relevant public agencies as well as executives in private-sector businesses with local links. It is important that the elected Labour representative acts as a catalyst to bring the above together for the benefit of Caithness.

'I personally prefer traditional elections where voters mark their choice with an 'X'.

'But Labour on the Scottish Executive accepted the the Liberal idea of the 'single transferable vote' system for the May 2007 election to obtain a stable coalition in the Scottish Parliament, so we have to get on with it.

'My only hope here can be that the complexity of the new system does not dissuade electors from actually voting.'

'Reasonably well-paid jobs for the future is by far-and-way the main issue in the 2007 election. I am confident that I have the expertise to make a positive contribution in this field.'

In the election to the Scottish Parliament, Simon Harrison has been selected as a candidate on the Labour regional list. The party list system is used in the second vote to return additional MSPs under a form of proportional representation.

Simon lives at Bilbster, where he works as a farm manager.
He said: "The Scottish Labour Party list candidates in the Highlands, headed by Peter Peacock, Rhoda Grant and David Stewart have a proven record of working well for the area. It is vital that areas distant from the Central belt are not forgotten, and that needs effective voices in the Scottish Parliament. We will concentrate our campaign on the things that are important to Caithness; jobs, education, health services and transport.

I think some of the best achievements of the last 8 years would include pre-school places for all 3 and 4 year olds, nationwide free bus travel for pensioners, expansion of higher education opportunities in the Highlands, and a stable and growing economy. I believe the priorities for a Highand Labour team in the Scottish parliament should include affordable housing (for example extending the Homestake scheme) and the development of a framework for healthcare in rural areas.”

Simon will work closely with John McKendrick, a barrister and soon to be an advocate who is standing for election in the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross constituency.

John said: " I am delighted to be campaigning with such a strong team, reflecting as it does the depth and breadth of Labour Party experience in the far north. I am very optimistic about the results that can be achieved, given the significant number of concerns those of us in the team hear on a weekly basis about a range of issues which appear not to have been addressed by the area's current representatives.”