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‘I was nervous about it, it was always going to be tough’ – Two of Orkney’s former councillors talk about losing their seats

Former councillor Barbara Foulkes, who lost her seat in the next council at last week's Orkney council election
Former Orkney councillor Barbara Foulkes, at the CLAN Cancer Support shop in Kirkwall, where she volunteers. Andrew Stewart/DCT

Last week’s council elections saw many familiar faces return to their seats in Orkney – but this wasn’t the case for all the incumbent councillors.

With 35 candidates vying for 21 seats, there were always likely to be one or two shake-ups. For every happy and relieved new or returning councillor, there were plenty of candidates heading home disappointed.

Friday saw three of Orkney’s incumbent councillors find out they wouldn’t be part of the next council.

Barbara Foulkes, a former councillor for Kirkwall West and Orphir, has been dealing with that disappointment over the weekend.

Former councillor felt she had more to give Orkney

She said: “I was absolutely gutted and I said that at the time. I really wanted to go on. I felt I had another five years to give the council.

“But there were eight candidates standing for four seats in the ward, so I was always nervous about it. It was always going to be tough.

“I was disappointed on the day, that’s not how I feel today. Now, I feel lighter and brighter.

“It’s important to acknowledge your failures and deal with them. I feel I’ve accepted it and moved on quite quickly. What’s next? I have no idea yet.”

Asked if she has thought about why she didn’t get back in, she said she feels she presented well during the campaign period.

So, she feels she can’t give any insight into why the votes went the way they did. Only the voters can answer that question.

She said she’s been touched by the kindness shown to her – by members of the public, elected members, and friends – following the election result.

From being tipped to be Orkney council’s next convener to accepting loss at the election

However, she has no plans to become a ‘council watcher’ and will be stepping away from that world for a while.

Mrs Foulkes was heavily tipped to become the next convener, or civic head, of Orkney’s council. She said, if she had regained her seat and had won the support of other councillors, she would have accepted that role.

Referring to the wall in the Orkney council chamber which features pictures of past conveners she said: “There are no women up there. That’s something I desperately wanted to change. If you can’t see it you can’t be it. I really wanted to do it for all the women who stood.”

She added: “I’m immensely proud that we’ve got six women councillors this time. I played a part in that and I’m proud of that.”

Another former councillor, who didn’t find enough favour with the electorate this time was Rob Crichton.

He had been a councillor for three terms and most recently served provided a steady hand as chairman of the council’s planning committee.

Why didn’t some candidates connect with the electorate? Only the voters can say

Speaking just moments after he found out he had not been re-elected, he said he was “stunned”.

After a short pause, he added: “Well, not really, to be honest.”

He said: “You’re in the hands of the public and you don’t know where they’re going to go.

“There’s been a backlash against the previous council. I don’t think I’ve done anything to annoy anyone. If anything, I thought I was making a good fist of doing what I was doing.”

“But, in this day and age, the public are scunnered with both national and local politics. It might be a result of that.”

However, he added that he wouldn’t be spending time wondering why he didn’t get his seat in the chamber back.

He added: “You have to just move on and find something else to do.”

‘You just have to move on and find something else to do’

Mr Crichton and Magnus Thomson – Orkney’s third incumbent councillor not to be re-elected – both stood in the Stromness and South Isles Ward.

In 2017 this ward went unopposed, with three candidates for three seats.

It was a different story at this year’s Orkney council election.

Six candidates stood in the ward. When all was said and done on Friday, only James Stockan had been re-elected.

Notably, Mr Stockan, the previous council political leader, retained his seat with quite a clear margin.

He will be joined in his ward by first-time councillors Lindsay Hall and Graham Bevan.

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