Shetland war memorial vandalised ahead of by-election

A heated row has broken out between political opponents in the Shetland by-election after the overnight appearance of graffiti on the Lerwick war memorial.

The resignation of Scottish Liberal Democrat Tavish Scott has led to the Shetland by-election, where the war memorial has been vandalised with the letters SNP.

With just a week to go until polls open, the plinth of the memorial, which sits opposite Lerwick town hall, was last night daubed with the letters 'SNP' in black spray paint, prompting speculation from some that it was a "smear" against the party.

Police Scotland today appealed for witnesses and official party candidates were quick to condemn the actions of the vandals. However, party supporters took to social media to suggest that it was either the work of those looking to undermine the SNP or the result of "anti-British feeling" caused by "Scottish nationalism".

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The graffiti appeared just hours after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visited the island in support of her party's candidate Tom Wills, in what has become an increasingly bitter by-election campaign with the SNP believed to be eating into the traditional support for the Scottish Liberal Democrats. The election for the Scottish Parliament seat was called after the resignation of Tavish Scott who had been the Liberal Democrat MSP for 20 years.

Today SNP candidate Tom Wills said he was “appalled” and “outraged” by the "heartless attack on our memorial honouring those who died protecting all our freedoms.

“Needless to say this attack has absolutely nothing to do with my campaign or the SNP. Whoever is responsible should be ashamed and subject to the full consequences of the law.

“I strongly urge anyone with information to contact the police so we can find out who is responsible for this mindless act of vandalism."

The graffiti has now been removed by local volunteers.

And Scottish Liberal Democrats’ candidate Beatrice Wishart said: “I’m absolutely appalled. There is no excuse for this.

“We all know that emotions run high during an election but vandalism of this sort has no place in our community. This is not how politics is done in Shetland.”

Police in Shetland said they were appealing for information about the incident which was reported shortly after 8am this morning.

Chief Inspector Lindsay Tulloch said: "Vandalism is never acceptable in any circumstances and damaging a war memorial is a particularly disrespectful act.

"This has caused considerable upset in the local community and I have spoken with the local authority and asked that the memorial is cleaned as promptly as possible.

"Our enquiries are ongoing and at early stage. We would urge anyone who may have seen anything suspicious overnight in the area or has any other information which could help to come forward."

The graffiti was also condemned by independent candidate Ryan Thomson on his Facebook page, who said: “I’d like to express my complete contempt for this act of vandalism, it has no place in Shetland, nor this country. This tarnishes politics here in Shetland and tarnishes this by-election campaign for all parties and candidates."

And Scottish Conservative candidate Brydon Goodlad added: “This is an appalling act of vandalism and a sign of total disregard for those who bravely fought and died for this country.

“It is also a sad indictment of the state of our politics in Scotland today. I hope all candidates in the by-election will unite in condemning this.

“I would appeal to anyone with any information about this to come forward and contact the police immediately. Those responsible should be met with the full force of the law.”

Anyone with information can contact police in Lerwick on 101, quoting reference 573 of August 22, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.