Skye and Raasay council by-election candidates to face off in Portree hustings

Voting for the Eilean A Cheó by-election takes place on Thursday.

The Portree and Braes Community Trust are holding a council hustings tonight (Tuesday) at Portree High School to give those on the electoral roll across the Eilean a’ Cheò ward an opportunity to hear from the candidates standing in the forthcoming local by-election.

The hustings will take place in The Venue, Portree High School, at 7 pm tonight (Tuesday 10th March)

All six candidates have confirmed attendance, and each of them will be given three minutes to give an introductory message, before a question and answer session with the audience.

The by-election will take place this Thursday 12th March with the result set to be announced the following day on Friday 13th.

The six candidates standing for election are Andrew Jonathan Kiss – Scottish National Party (SNP); Dawn Kroonstuiver Campbell – Scottish Green Party; Màrtainn Mac a’ Bhàillidh, – Misneachd; Calum Munro – Independent; Ruraidh Cameron Stewart – Scottish Conservatives and Unionist; Fay Thomson – Scottish Liberal Democrats.

The by-election is being held following the resignation of Ronald MacDonald (Independent) who was one of four councillors representing the ward. The other ward members are councillors John Finlayson (Independent), John Gordon (Independent) and Calum MacLeod (non-aligned).

Over the last few weeks, the Free Press has run profile pieces on the six candidates. Here they are in alphabetical order.

Andrew Kiss – The Scottish National Party

Andrew Kiss lives with his wife Jenny and their family in Roag, northwest Skye. An enthusiastic member of the local community, engineer and project manager, Andrew volunteers his skills to support schools, communities and individuals. Having moved to Skye in 2012, a desire to address the challenges of island life has led Andrew to seek election as councillor for Eilean a’ Cheò

Having run a successful bed and breakfast business with his wife, Andrew understands first-hand that tourism is essential for the communities of Skye and Raasay. Sustainable communities rely on good infrastructure. Affordable housing is an ongoing problem as are effective health services, with roads, transport links and supermarket choice presenting difficulties.

He contends that several schools on Skye are in urgent need of new or upgraded facilities to deliver a uniformly excellent learning experience. And feels that savage cuts to Additional Support Needs provision have affected many within schools and the extended school environment.

If elected, Andrew says he will work with SNP colleagues to urgently address these educational challenges along with toilet closures, cuts to community council funding and playpark removal. Highland Council’s ‘sticking-plaster’ approach to road maintenance needs a serious, strategic, rethink. Good safe roads would enhance the island’s reputation, rather than tarnish it.

He believes that all generations should look forward to a safe and bright future, and protecting the environment is an issue close to his heart. As an SNP councillor, Andrew says he will do all he can to support the Scottish Government’s excellent record on renewables and its declared target of making Scotland carbon-neutral by 2040. As a primary check, he says all development proposals should be held up against this aspiration.

Andrew says that the many valuable assets built around our outstanding environment; Gaelic language and culture, the natural heritage, local food and drink, arts and crafts need to be nurtured and promoted responsibly.

Ian Blackford MP said: “I support Andrew’s candidacy. Andrew believes that public office is a privilege and pledges to treat it as such; listening carefully to constituents and working hard to enhance the quality of life for all and maximising opportunities in our vibrant and diverse islands’ communities.”

Dawn Kroonstuiver Campbell – The Scottish Green Party

The Scottish Green Party is fielding its first candidate in recent memory in the Eilean a’ Cheò ward in the upcoming Highland Council by-election.

Dawn Kroonstuiver Campbell, who is from Raasay, lives in Borve with her family. She has worked in Gaelic television and for Highlands and Islands Enterprise in Portree – in both community and business development.

Dawn says that while tourism has brought a welcome boost to the local economy in the last few years, a tourist tax would be a fair way to help the area make much-needed investments; such as repairing the crumbling road network and improving bus services – which would take some tourist traffic off the roads. She advocates reopening public toilets, establishing pay-per-use chemical toilet disposal points and the implementation of more electrical charging points. She believes it’s crucial that this fund is controlled locally, to ensure that the money remains in the local area and is spent on important local priorities. She suggests that community councils could be empowered to take on this role.

In terms of housing, Dawn believes that there is a huge difference between someone letting a pod to make a little extra money and an investor buying up multiple houses as part of their portfolio. She thinks that more Airbnb housing and multiple home ownership should be discouraged as parts of Skye have one in four houses listed on Airbnb – leaving people struggling to find homes.

Dawn says that as a Highland Green councillor successfully lobbied Highland Council to declare a Climate Emergency, with more Green councillors the target of a Carbon Neutral Highlands can be reached by 2025. She opposes the proposed expansion of the Ashaig Airstrip and will work to protect the marine environment from kelp dredging and harmful fish farming.

Dawn passionately believes that unless we act now, our children will have to face the devastating consequences of climate change. She says she wants children to have the opportunity to live in a safe and fair society within a thriving community.

Màrtainn Mac a’ BhàillidhMisneachd

A campaign group calling for radical action to promote and protect the Gaelic language is fielding a candidate in the forthcoming Highland Council by-election for the Eilean a’ Cheò ward.

Misneachd member Màrtainn Mac a’ Bhàillidh, who lives and works on Skye, is standing in a bid to raise awareness of the crisis he says Gaelic is facing in rural areas, and to challenge the lack of attention given to this crisis by all the political parties in Scotland.

Launching his campaign Màrtainn Mac a’ Bhàillidh said: “The policies we have just now relating to Gaelic are far too weak, even compared to other parts of the UK, and Gaelic will not survive as a living habitual language if we don’t do something right now to preserve it.”

He added: “There isn’t enough being done for rural areas that need a sustainable, diverse economy. Gaelic is not just a cultural issue, but one which relates to everything else in rural areas where it is spoken, to housing, jobs, tourism and to the environment.”

The radical plan for Gaelic, which Misneachd published in 2018, is our primary manifesto, but we want to see a diversified rural economy with more protection given to rural, native Gaelic speaking communities.

The group proposes that learning Gaelic should be a right available for all residents, backed by paid leave to fund six months of full-time Gaelic education in islands’-based immersion centres.

Misneachd also backs a legal right to Gaelic Medium Education at every level, from age 3-18.

The group has also called for a land value tax targeted at wealthy landowners, and for control of rent prices and a limit on the number of holiday homes on the island.

Other ambitions targeted by Misneachd include more social and affordable housing, the relocation of key Gaelic jobs to Gaelic-speaking areas, investment and diversification in the rural economy and reform and greater devolution of local government.

Calum Munro – Independent

With a career which has at various stages encompassed education, construction, tourism and traditional music, and with years of involvement in community arts and community development, Calum Munro, who lives in Kilmuir in Trotternish, is attempting to take the step into local democracy.

He will stand as an independent candidate in the forthcoming by-election in the Eilean a’ Cheò ward.

Calum studied Gaelic and Economics at Aberdeen University before embarking on a career in Gaelic Medium primary teaching. This took him to Acharacle in Ardnamurchan and then to the wider Lochaber area. His final teaching post was in Nairn where he established the GM unit in Millbank Primary School.

In 2008 he began an adult joinery apprenticeship with a local north Skye tradesman and then ran his own joinery business until 2015.

Following this, family commitments led him to take on a greater role in the family self-catering business in Hungladder, Kilmuir and he began teaching adult Gaelic distance-learners with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

During this time he also became actively involved in community activities and issues.

He says his constant passions in his life have been traditional music and song, shinty and community life. He now spends more time teaching than performing and playing. He is a regular helper and tutor with Clann Thròndairnis and helps coach the under-12 north end shinty teams and is a key community member in the north end of Skye.

Since settling with his family in Kilmuir in 2008, Calum has been active in community development as a community councillor – for five years – and has taken active roles with Kilmuir Hall, Urras Baile Fhlòdaigearraidh (Flodigarry Trust) and the steering group seeking to establish Kilmuir Community Trust.

He has outlined his committed to working for all the communities across Skye and Raasay and he recognises the importance of local councillors being focussed on issues that affect Skye and Rassay and promoting change and improvement in local communities.

Ruraidh Cameron Stewart – The Scottish Conservatives

Ruraidh Stewart from Balmacara in Lochalsh has been selected as the Scottish Conservative and Unionist candidate for the Highland Council the by-election on Thursday 12th March.

Educated at Plockton High School, Ruraidh has a strong history of community service having served two terms as the member for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch in the Scottish Youth Parliament and as an executive member of the Highland Youth Parliament.

Ruraidh has volunteered with several third sector organisations in the Highlands and is an ambassador for the national ‘iwill’ campaign and an advisory board member with Groundwork Youth – a national charity.

Ruraidh said: “Eilean a’ Cheò has thriving local communities, but we face many challenges to ensure we continue to thrive and grow.

“We are haemorrhaging young people, with an almost 20 per cent decline in the population aged 25-40 in the last two decades. To address this, we need more affordable housing, especially in our most fragile rural communities to ensure they remain sustainable.

“Our roads are in a ruinous condition and we need to focus investment on fixing and upgrading our existing road network which, in some areas, is no longer fit for purpose.

“Although our teachers and support staff are working hard to drive up attainment, cuts to schools’ budgets are already negatively impacting all our young people’s life chances.

“Highland Council is in dire straits financially, the current administration has only managed to avoid a multimillion-pound deficit by freezing recruitment for vacant posts, in effect balancing the books on the back of our hard-working and already overstretched council staff. The Scottish Government’s relentless tide of cuts is an unmitigated disaster for our local public services. If elected, I will work with my fellow Conservative colleagues in the council and Holyrood to highlight the many challenges, we face here.”

Fay Thomson – The Scottish Liberal Democrats

Fay Thomson was born in Glendale and now lives in Portree. She is passionate about Skye and determined to improve local services and create opportunities for local people. 

Fay holds qualifications in business, social sciences and Gaelic Studies. She ran a guest house in Inverness when her children were young and lectured in Business Management and Economics at Inverness College. After that, she became the Highlands and Islands Manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, where she lobbied and negotiated on behalf of small businesses.

After 14 years with the FSB, Fay bought the cafe in Glendale and ran it as a traditional tearoom, called Ceiteag’s, until 2015. During her time back in Glendale she served as secretary on Glendale Community Council. She currently works part-time in the Pier Hotel in Portree.

Fay has a track record of standing up for the community, having participated for over five years in the successful campaign to retain and restore health services throughout Skye and Raasay.

She has been the community lead for the implementation of the Ritchie Report recommendations on community beds since May 2018. She wants to continue her involvement with health and social care services to ensure adequate care is available to everyone on Skye and Raasay, close to where they live.

Fay thoroughly enjoys being part of the Light Up Portree group which successfully organised the Christmas and Hogmanay events in the Somerled Square – and is keen to see community events and initiatives thrive.

As the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Eilean a’ Cheò ward, Fay wants to uphold the party’s core values of equality, fairness and community, while working to get a better deal for Skye and Raasay.

If elected as a councillor on 12th March, Fay says she will represent the people of Skye and Raasay with energy and enthusiasm.