Politics

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The Shetland Politics History Project is an ongoing body of work aimed at building a comprehensive and easily accessible database of the history of politics in the Shetland Islands.

The information was compiled by James Stewart (james@jarlmedia.com) with help from the Shetland Museum and Archives Archives, Bayanne, Shetland Library and countless other contributors who have supplied information. All contributions from the public are welcomed.

The best place to get started is the table of contents on the right which links to the various areas of research. Alternatively, you can search for specific elections or people with the search bar at the top right. Please see here for advice on finding specific people, as the database has a specific way of naming the pages of people.

As of 2016, the electorate of Shetland have voted on six different major elected bodies. In the present day, Shetlanders vote on the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the Scottish and European Parliaments and the Shetland Islands Council. Former representative bodies include the Parliament of Great Britain, the Parliament of Scotland, the Lerwick Town Council and Zetland County Council.

The most recent full elections of the current electoral bodies and next election dates in brackets:

History

The earliest recorded history of political ongoings in Shetland dates to the Picts and the Viking eras, with pre-parliament and council deliberation taking part in the ancient Tings, the viking name for an assembly site. Such wass the importance of Tings, areas of Shetland were named to include 'ting' in their name. This is still true to the present day, with areas such as Tingwall, Lunnasting and Westing still carrying the suffix 'ting'. It was at these Norse parliaments that a group of select representatives would meet with the Earl, such as the Law Ting Holm in Tingwall, the site of Shetland's parliament until the 16th century.

In the 13th Century, Shetland fell under the rule of the Parliament of Scotland. However, Shetlanders were entirely disenfranchised from the process of selecting their representatives Scotland's Parliament. Instead, their neighbouring Island, Orkney, held the reigns. From 1235 until 1999, Shetland was inextricably connected to Orkney in national parliaments. Orcadians elected, appointed, and were appointed to represent both Islands in first the Parliament of Scotland, and in the Parliament of Great Britain and the Parliament of the United Kingdom (Westminster).

Shetland in the 18th century was a society which was made up of a small number of elite, and large quantities of poor, uneducated citizens. The Lairds of the land had rule, but even the Shetland Lairds couldn't influence the appointment of the Member of Parliament; it was all choreographed from Orkney by around 40 men.

In 1832, Westminster passed a law which reformed the British electoral system, known as the Great Reform Act. It came as a response to criticism of the existing system, which put the power of voting into the hands of the few. There previously no secret ballot and votes were bought and sold. The reforms still meant that only men who owned property worth at least £10 (close to £1,000 in 2016 money), but these reforms meant that for the first time, some members of the Shetland community were finally able to have a say in electing their own representatives.

This was to the annoyance of the Orkney elite whose power had been weakened significantly. To further compound the anger of Orkney's elite's, the first general election that Shetlanders were able to participate in, the 1832 election, saw the Shetland-preferred candidate, George Traill, win the election again the Orkney preferred candidate.

Starting from 1826, everyone election was contested on party grounds. Despite George Traill being replaced by Thomas Balfour, who was a Tory, Orkney and Shetland was a Liberal constituency for 98 years until 1935. The Conservative party (Unionist) represented the Isles from 1935 until it was reclaimed by the Liberals in 1950. The seat has remained Liberal (and Liberal Democrat since 1983) since then.

The Town Hall in Shetland's capital, Lerwick. A hub of political activity in the Isles since the end of the 19th century.
Photo kindly supplied by the Shetland Museum and Archives: R02614

On a local level, formal political representation did not begin until the 19th century, with the establishment of the Lerwick Town Council in 1815. An agreement was reached in 1815 to turn Lerwick into a Burgh of Barony, and in 1818, the first meeting and election of the Lerwick Town Council occurred. The early Town Council elected 11 members and within that group, two were elected as Senior and Junior Baillies. The growing pains of the early councils meant that they were not particularly effective, and the electing of councillors was hardly a democratic process. The Lerwick Town Council minute book lists those eligible to vote for each election, with the numbers well under 60 men. Almost every single councillor was a member of Shetland's noble class, or was related to the elite. Elections were held every three years until 1876 when they moved to a yearly election cycle, with a total of 12 councillors serving 3-year terms, and four vacancies to fill every year.

Between the years of 1818 to 1833, the Town Council recognised things which they wanted to change - the poor sanitary conditions, the rowdy sailors - but it wasn't until 1833 when they founded the Commissioners of Police of the Burgh that they began to get a grip on the situation - albeit a very loose one. The problems continued throughout the 1800's, but the Town Council did begin to effect a change, with such things as improved schooling, sanitary conditions, regular water and policing all improving towards the latter part of the century.

In 1889, Westminster passed the Local Government (Scotland) Act which provided that a county council should be established in each county. In 1890, the Zetland County Council held its first ever election, electing 27 councillors to represent the various wards Shetland had been subdivided into. For many in the peripheral communities of Shetland, this was the first real representation that they had experienced. The ZCC was less dominated by elites than the Town Council had been, but initially landowners and other wealthy Shetlanders still held most of the power. The ZCC wards included three seats for different areas of Lerwick, which means that Lerwick was doubly represented. This anomaly was eventually corrected in 1929, when the Lerwick seats were converted into a Parish District Council with much reduced powers.

Both the ZCC and the LTC continued to operate until August 1975 when both were replaced by the Shetland Islands Council. This was a body created under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 and had 22 constituencies (6 of which were Lerwick's, causing upsets to some). The SIC underwent various boundary changes and at the most recent election had 7 constituency areas which elected 22 members.

Shetland Election Results

Jarl Media currently has the most comprehensive database of Shetland's political history available anywhere. Every major election and by-election to occur in Shetland is available here. See below for more details.

Local Elections

Lerwick Town Council (1818-1975)

Lerwick Town Council
1818 - 1820 - 1823 - 1826 - 1829 - 1832 - 1835 - 1838 - 1841 - 1844 - 1847 - 1850 - 1853 - 1856 - 1859 - 1862 - 1865 - 1868 - 1871 - 1874 - 1876 - 1877 - 1878(by) - 1878 - 1879 - 1880 - 1880(by) - 1881 - 1882 - 1883 - 1884 - 1884(by) - 1885 - 1886 - 1886(by) - 1887(by) - 1887 - 1888 - 1889 - 1890 - 1891 - 1892 - 1893 - 1894 - 1895 - 1896 - 1897 - 1898 - 1899(by) - 1899 - 1900 - 1901 - 1902 - 1903 - 1904 - 1905(by) - 1905 - 1906 - 1907 - 1908 - 1909 - 1910 - 1911 - 1912 - 1913 - 1915(by) - 1915(by) - 1916(by) - 1916(by) - 1916(by) - 1919 - 1920 - 1921(by) - 1921 - 1922 - 1923 - 1924(by) - 1924 - 1925 - 1926 - 1927 - 1928 - 1929 - 1930 - 1931 - 1932(by) - 1932 - 1933 - 1934 - 1935 - 1936(by) - 1936 - 1936(by) - 1937 - 1938(by) - 1938 - 1940(by) - 1941(by) - 1941(by) - 1941(by) - 1942(by) - 1943(by) - 1944(by) - 1945(by) - 1945 - 1945(by) - 1946(by) - 1946 - 1947 - 1949 - 1949(by) - 1950 - 1950(by) - 1951 - 1952 - 1953 - 1954 - 1955 - 1955(by) - 1956 - 1957 - 1958 - 1958(by) - 1959 - 1959(by) - 1960 - 1961 - 1961(by) - 1962 - 1962(by) - 1963 - 1964 - 1965 - 1966 - 1967 - 1967(by) - 1967(by) - 1968 - 1969 - 1970 - 1970(by) - 1971 - 1972 - 1973

Zetland County Council (1890-1975)

Zetland County Council
1890 - 1890(by) - 1890(by) - 1890(by) - 1890(by) - 1890(by) - 1890(by) - 1891(by) - 1892 - 1893(by) - 1893(by) - 1893(by) - 1895 - 1896(by) - 1896(by) - 1897(by) - 1898(by) - 1898(by) - 1898 - 1899(by) - 1901 - 1902(by) - 1902(by) - 1902(by) - 1902(by) - 1903(by) - 1903(by) - 1904 - 1905(by) - 1906(by) - 1907(by) - 1907(by) - 1907 - 1909(by) - 1909(by) - 1910(by) - 1910 - 1911(by) - 1911(by) - 1911(by) - 1913 - 1914(by) - 1915(by) - 1917(by) - 1919(by) - 1919(by) - 1919(by) - 1919 - 1920(by) - 1920(by) - 1920(by) - 1921(by) - 1921(by) - 1921(by) - 1921(by) - 1921(by) - 1922 - 1924(by) - 1924(by) - 1924(by) - 1925(by) - 1925 - 1927(by) - 1927(by) - 1928 - 1929 - 1930(by) - 1930(by) - 1931(by) - 1932(by) - 1932(by) - 1932 - 1933(by) - 1934(by) - 1934(by) - 1935 - 1936(by) - 1936(by) - 1937(by) - 1937(by) - 1937(by) - 1937(by) - 1938(by) - 1938 - 1940(by) - 1940(by) - 1942(by) - 1945(by) - 1945 - 1946(by) - 1947(by) - 1948(by) - 1948(by) - 1949 - 1950(by) - 1950(by) - 1951(by) - 1951(by) - 1952(by) - 1952 - 1952(by) - 1955 - 1955(by) - 1955(by) - 1955(by) - 1958 - 1958(by) - 1959(by) - 1959(by) - 1960(by) - 1960(by) - 1961 - 1962(by) - 1963(by) - 1963(by) - 1964 - 1964(by) - 1964(by) - 1966(by) - 1966(by) - 1967 - 1967(by) - 1967(by) - 1970 - 1970(by) - 1970(by) - 1970(by) - 1971(by) - 1972(by) - 1972(by) - 1973 - 1974(by)

Shetland Islands Council (1974-present)

Shetland Islands Council
1974 - 1976(by) - 1977(by) - 1978 - 1982 - 1983(by) - 1986 - 1987(by) - 1990 - 1991(by) - 1993(by) - 1993(by) - 1993(by) - 1994 - 1996(by) - 1999 - 2002(by) - 2003 - 2007 - 2008(by) - 2011(by) - 2012

National Elections

Parliament of Great Britain (1707-1801)

Parliament of Great Britain
1707 - 1708 - 1710 - 1713 - 1715 - 1722 - 1727 - 1730(by) - 1734 - 1741 - 1747(by) - 1747 - 1754 - 1761 - 1768 - 1771(by) - 1774 - 1780 - 1784 - 1790 - 1796

Parliament of the United Kingdom (1801-present)

Parliament of the United Kingdom
1801 - 1802 - 1806 - 1807 - 1812 - 1818 - 1820 - 1826 - 1830 - 1831 - 1832 - 1835 - 1837 - 1841 - 1847 - 1852 - 1857 - 1859 - 1865 - 1868 - 1873(by) - 1874 - 1880 - 1885 - 1886 - 1892 - 1895 - 1900 - 1902(by) - 1906 - 1910(Jan) - 1910(Dec) - 1918 - 1921(by) - 1922 - 1923 - 1924 - 1929 - 1931 - 1935 - 1939-40 - 1945 - 1950 - 1951 - 1955 - 1959 - 1964 - 1966 - 1970 - 1974(Feb) - 1974(Oct) - 1979 - 1983 - 1987 - 1992 - 1997 - 2001 - 2005 - 2010 - 2015

Scottish Parliament (1999-present)

Scottish Parliament
1999 - 2003 - 2007 - 2011 - 2016

European Parliament (1979-present)

European Parliament
1999 - 2004 - 2009 - 2014

Local Politics

Council Leaders

Lerwick Town Council (1818-1975)

Years

Name

Title

1818-1823 Arthur Edmondston Senior Bailie A Edmondston headshot.png
1823-1827 Charles Ogilvy Snr Senior Bailie
1827-1829 William Spence Junior Bailie
Acting as Senior Bailie
1829-1832 William Spence Senior Bailie
1832-1844 Charles Ogilvy Jr Senior Bailie
1844-1847 Joseph Leask Junior Bailie
Acting as Senior Bailie
1847-1856 William Sievwright Snr Senior Bailie
1856-1862 Charles Gilbert Duncan Senior Bailie
1862-1865 Joseph Leask Senior Bailie
1865-1874 Charles Gilbert Duncan Senior Bailie
1874-1876 William Sievwright Jr Senior Bailie William Sievwright Jr.png
1876-1883 Major Thomas Cameron Chief Magistrates
1883-1890 John Robertson Chief Magistrates
1890-1895 Charles Robertson Provost/Chief Magistrate Charles Robertson Headshot.png
1895-1904 John Leisk Provost John Leisk Headshot.png
1904-1907 James M. Goudie Provost James M Goudie Headshot.png
1907-1910 Arthur Porteous Provost Arthur Porteous Headshot.png
1910-1913 Arthur Laing Provost A L Laing Headshot.png
1913-1915 Robert Stout Provost Robert Stout Headshot.png
1915-1920 Peter Goodlad Provost PS Goodlad Headshot.png
1920-1924 Robert D. Ganson Provost RD Ganson Headshot.png
1924-1927 James Laing Provost James Laing Headshot.png
1927-1930 John T. J. Sinclair Provost John TJ Sinclair Headshot.png
1930-1933 William Sinclair Provost William Sinclair Headshot.png
1933-1936 Robert Ollason Provost Robert Ollason Headshot.png
1936-1941 James A. Smith Provost James Smith Headshot.png
1941-1946 Magnus Shearer Provost Magnus Shearer Headshot.png
1946-1950 James Aitken Provost JJ Aitken Headshot.png
1950-1953 Robert A. Anderson Provost Robert Anderson Headshot.png
1953-1956 George Burgess Provost George Burgess Headshot.png
1956-1959 William Conochie Provost William Conochie Headshot.png
1959-1962 Robert Blance Provost Robert Blance Headshot.png
1962-1965 Harry Gray Provost Harry Gray Headshot.png
1965-1967 Andrew Nicolson Provost Andrew Nicolson Headshot.png
1967-1971 Eric Gray Provost Eric Gray Headshot.png
1971-1974 Bill Smith Provost Bill Smith Headshot.png
1974-1975 James Taylor Provost James J Taylor Headshot.png

All images from 1891-1975 kindly supplied by the Shetland Islands Council.

Zetland County Council Conveners (1890-1975)

Years

Name

Title

1890-1907 John Bruce Convener John Bruce Headshot.png
1907-1910 John B. Anderson Convener JB Anderson headshot.png
1911-1913 James C. Grierson Convener JCGrierson.jpg
1914-1917 Robert D. Ganson Convener RD Ganson Headshot.png
1918-1923 John W. Robertson Convener JW Robertson headshot.png
1924-1927 Henry Mouat Convener Henry Mouat headshot.png
1928-1929 James A. Smith Convener James Smith Headshot.png
1930-1935 Magnus Shearer Convener Magnus Shearer Headshot.png
1935-1936 Thomas Johnston Convener Thomas Johnston Headshot.png
1936-1937 William McDougall Convener W Laidlaw headshot.png
1937-1938 Adam Halcrow Convener Adam Halcrow Headshot.png
1938-1943 Edward Adie Convener Edward Adie headshot.png
1944-1947 Robert J. H. Ganson Convener
1947-1955 William Thomson Convener
1955-1960 Prophet Smith Convener
1960-1963 Tom Henderson Convener
1963-1967 William Hamilton Convener
1967-1970 Robert A. Johnson Convener
1970-1973 Edward Thomason Convener Edward Thomason Headshot.png
1973-1975 George Blance Convener

Shetland Islands Council (1974-)

Years

Name

Title

1975-1986 Alexander Tulloch Convener AI Tulloch Headshot.png
1986-1994 Edward Thomason Convener Edward Thomason Headshot.png
1994-1999 Lewis Shand Smith Convener Lewis Shand Smith Headshot.png
1999-2003 Thomas Stove Convener Tom Stove Headshot.png
2003-2012 Alexander Cluness Convener Sandy Cluness Headshot.png
2012- Malcolm Bell Convener

Local Government Constituencies

Constituencies of Shetland

Status

Constituencies

Active Constituencies Lerwick North - Lerwick South - North Isles - Shetland North - Shetland West - Shetland Central - Shetland South
Former Shetland Islands Council Constituencies Aithsting, Sandsting And Weisdale - Aithsting, Sandsting And Whiteness - Aithsting And Sandsting - Bressay - Burra - Cunningsburgh And Sandwick - Delting - Delting East - Delting North - Delting South - Delting West - Dunrossness - Dunrossness North - Dunrossness South - Gulberwick, Quarff And Cunningsburgh - Lerwick Breiwick - Lerwick Central - Lerwick Clickimin - Lerwick Harbour - Lerwick Harbour And Bressay - Lerwick Lower Sound - Lerwick North - Lerwick North Central - Lerwick Sound - Lerwick South Central - Lerwick Staney Hill - Lerwick Twageos - Lerwick Upper Sound - Lerwick Upper Sound, Gulberwick And Quarff - Lerwick West - Nesting - Nesting, Whiteness, Girlsta And Gott - Northmavine - Sandness And Walls - Sandwick - Scalloway - Unst - Whalsay And Skerries - Whiteness, Weisdale & Tingwall - Yell - Yell North And Fetlar - Yell South
Former County Council Constituencies Aithsting - Bressay - Burra - Cunningsburgh - Delting North - Delting South - Dunrossness North - Dunrossness South - Fetlar - Gulberwick - Lerwick Central - Lerwick North - Lerwick South - Nesting And Lunnasting - Northmavine North - Northmavine South - Sandness - Sandsting - Sandwick - Tingwall - Unst North - Unst South - Walls - Whalsay And Skerries - Whiteness And Weisdale - Yell North - Yell South

National Politics

Great Britain and the United Kingdom

List of Members of Parliament (1707-)

Note: Members are mentioned upon their first win but not subsequent wins (re-elections).

Year Elected

Name

Born

Died

Party

1707 Sir Alexander Douglas January 1718
1713 George Douglas 1662 4 January 1738
1715 James Moodie 4 February 1724
1722 George Douglas 1662 4 January 1738
1730 Robert Douglas c.1703 30 April 1745
1747 John Halyburton 10 May 1765
1754 James Douglas 1703 2 November 1787
1768 Thomas Dundas c.1708 16 April 1786
1771 Thomas Dundas (2nd) 30 June 1750 3 June 1794
1780 Robert Baikie 4 April 1817
1781 Charles Dundas 5 August 1751 7 July 1832
1784 Thomas Dundas (2nd) 30 June 1750 3 June 1794
1790 John Balfour 6 November 1750 15 October 1842
1796 Robert Honyman c.1765 31 July 1848
1806 Robert Honyman (2nd) c.1781 20 November 1808
1807 Malcolm Laing 1762 16 November 1818
1812 Richard Bempde Johnstone Honyman 4 May 1787 23 February 1842
1818 George Heneage Laurence Dundas 8 September 1778 7 October 1834
1820 John Balfour 6 November 1750 15 October 1842
1826 George Heneage Laurence Dundas 8 September 1778 7 October 1834
1830 George Traill 5 November 1787 29 September 1871 Whig
1835 Thomas Balfour 2 April 1810 1838 Tory
1837 Frederick Dundas 14 June 1802 26 October 1872 Liberal
1847 Arthur Anderson 1792 28 February 1868 Liberal
1852 Frederick Dundas 14 June 1802 26 October 1872 Liberal
1873 Samuel Laing 12 December 1812 6 August 1897 Liberal
1885 Leonard Lyell 21 October 1850 18 September 1926 Liberal
1900 Cathcart Wason 17 November 1849 19 April 1921 Liberal Unionist Cathcart Wason headshot.png
1902 Cathcart Wason 17 November 1849 19 April 1921 Independent Liberal Cathcart Wason headshot.png
1906 Cathcart Wason 17 November 1849 19 April 1921 Liberal Cathcart Wason headshot.png
1918 Cathcart Wason 17 November 1849 19 April 1921 Coalition Liberal Cathcart Wason headshot.png
1921 Malcolm Smith 1 December 1856 12 March 1935 Coalition Liberal
1922 Robert Hamilton 26 August 1867 15 July 1944 Liberal
1935 Basil Neven-Spence 12 June 1888 13 September 1974 Conservative
1950 Jo Grimond 29 July 1913 24 October 1993 Liberal 70px
1983 Jim Wallace 25 August 1954 Liberal Jim Wallace headshot.png
1988 Jim Wallace 25 August 1954 Liberal Democrat Jim Wallace headshot.png
2001 Alistair Carmichael 15 July 1965 Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael headshot.png

Scotland

List of Members of the Scottish Parliament (1999-)

Note: Members are mentioned upon their first win but not subsequent wins.

Year Elected

Member

Party

1999 Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat 70px

List of Parliament of Scotland Commissioners (1235-1707)

Below is a list of members for the ancient Parliament for Scotland. There are some gaps, as the information is quite erratic. The information is from both The Parliaments of Scotland - Burgh and Shire Commissioners, M. Young, (Edinburgh, 1992-3) and http://rps.ac.uk.

Year

Member

1617 Robert Henderson of Holland
Edward Sinclair of Essenquoy
1652 Hugh Craigie of Gairsay
Arthur Buchanan of Sound
1661-2 Hugh Craigie of Gairsay
1663 Patrick Blair of Littleblair
1667 Arthur Buchanan of Sound
William Douglas of Egilshay
1669-72 Patrick Blair of Littleblair
1678 Captain Andrew Dick
1681-2 Sir William Craigie of Gairsay
1685-6 Henry Graham of Breckness
Charles Murray of Hadden
1689-90
1696-1701
Sir William Craigie of Gairsay
1703 Alexander Douglas of Egilshay
1703-5 Sir Archibald Stewart of Burray
1705-7 Alexander Douglas of Egilshay

Referenda

External Links