This is our island, keep swimming

IMGP4837aHere in Shetland a new campaign group has been formed, with the aim of gaining autonomy for the islands. The group, Wir Shetland, was launched on 14 October and its website lays out guiding principles of opposition to Scottish independence and the European Union, and to a belief in self-governance for Shetland. Wir Shetland don’t want Shetland to be an independent country, but they see the islands as being better off if they had similar status to that of the Falklands. Becoming a British Overseas Territory, so the group argues, will ‘secure the legal rights of Shetland residents, businesses and similar bodies,’ and allow islanders ‘to develop trade and cultural links between Shetland and her political and geographic neighbours’. Exactly how the legal rights of Shetlanders are currently under threat isn’t very clear, but the group’s members see Shetland as being so distinct – culturally, historically, economically – that the only way ahead is to break away from national government and run things locally.

On the face of it, Wir Shetland might seem to be empowering islanders to take control of their own destiny. Who better to run a place than the people who live there? But it’s telling that, so far, the only political party to come out in favour of the group is the Tories. They, of course, love the idea of groups like this, because they don’t really believe the national government should do anything for anybody. And if the proles are busy arguing about filling potholes or funding trampoline lessons, then malevolent creeps like George Osborne and Jeremy Hunt can get on with the important business of selling public assets to their rich pals at knockdown prices. Anything that means people don’t think about issues that are actually important – poverty, inequality, the hegemony of neoliberal economics – is bound to get the seal of approval from the Conservatives.

It’s interesting to see the right – and Wir Shetland is firmly in UKIP-type territory – employing some of the methods and rhetoric of the progressive left. Like many groups which emerged before and after the Referendum, they are a grassroots campaign, active on social media, and hoping to encourage significant political change. They speak about local democracy, local rights and freedoms, about using what they see as local assets (like oil) for the benefit of local people, and about the damage done by a distant governmental machine that doesn’t understand local particularities.

It’s not hard to make parallels between this kind of thing and much of what was said last year. But groups like Radical Independence and the Scottish Left Project have come into being because there is an urgent need for radical change to the way Scotland is owned and operated. A country where a tiny number of rich people own a huge portion of the land is not a fair society. A country where the way people vote doesn’t influence the government they get is not a fair society. Pro-indy groups have emerged to think about ways out of these problems. A group like Wir Shetland doesn’t have a radical agenda. What they want is to get as much as they can for the islands and not worry about anybody south of Fair Isle. It isn’t much of a program. Cruel benefit cuts, brutal fitness-to-work assessments, and reactionary curbs on union activity will all continue, even if Shetland leaves the EU, gets control of Crown Estate assets in the isles, and establishes a 200 mile economic zone around the archipelago.

How long the group lasts is anybody’s guess, but I suspect they might gain some support in the run-up to the European Union referendum. Anti-EU sentiment will no doubt be encouraged by right-wingers and most of the mainstream media, and Wir Shetland’s principles will sit pretty comfortably with much of the bile that gets whipped up. The EU is seen by the British right (and this is aside from basic Daily Mail racism) as interfering with the laws and rights of a sovereign nation, and as costing a fortune which would be better spent at home. Much of what Nigel Farage and guys like him say about the EU is easy to laugh off – stuff about laws which determine the correct bend in a banana, and so on – but the referendum does present a conundrum for anybody on the left in this country. If you believe in progressive, egalitarian change, should you vote to stay in Europe or leave?

The idea that the EU can enable progressive, egalitarian change is thrown into extreme doubt when you look at the recent treatment of Greece. The imposition of a particular economic model was severe, allowing no room whatsoever for any alternative thinking that the elected Greek representatives came up with. The EU insisted, as George Osborne does whenever he gets the chance, that there is no alternative to low public spending, minimal business regulation and low taxes. Greece might not have wanted that kind of economic model (they actually voted against it in a referendum), but that economic model is exactly what they got.

Like lots of people on the left, I find myself instinctively in favour of continental co-operation, of seeing ourselves as Europeans rather than retreating into a little-islander fastness where we can stick a hand through the bars and wave two fingers at the French. But how can you vote against the neoliberal EU club when it means being on the same side (albeit on the other wing) as UKIP goons like Godfrey Bloom or Roger Helmer? How does anybody with even marginally leftist politics find a way to place themselves in the European Referendum?

As I say, it’s a conundrum, neither side of which is very appealing. On the one side is the braying, hateful British right wing, and on the other is a small group of politicians who think that austerity is unavoidable for the successful running of an economy. In the Scottish Referendum the progressive left was unanimously on the Yes side, but there isn’t such a straightforward position to adopt in the European vote. A Socialist Scotland, independent of Westminster and the EU, isn’t on the agenda, so what does anybody who isn’t an austerity fan or a racist do? As the ballot gets closer it’ll be interesting to see what thinking emerges around the question. The one thing I’m sure of is that drawing a circle around Shetland and telling everybody else to get to fuck isn’t the answer we need.

Comments (81)

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  1. Richard says:

    I find myself agreeing with much of this article. Perhaps, instead of viewing this EU in/out referendum in the obvious terms (i.e. do we want to be in the EU or not), we should look at it tactically and do what we can to ensure a Yes vote in Scotland and a No vote in England, in order to trigger a 2nd Independence referendum.

    Yes, I know it’s cynical, but let’s face it: once we achieve independence for Scotland, THEN we can decide for ourselves whether we want to be in the EU or not.

    1. Steven Johnson says:

      That’s a bit pathetic.
      You’ll vote in favour of the EU even though you don’t believe in it just so you can trigger a second referendum.
      “Cruel benefit cuts, brutal fitness-to-work assessments, and reactionary curbs on union activity will all continue, even if SCOTLAND leaves the UK, gets control of Crown Estate assets, and establishes a 200 mile economic zone around the country.”
      I’ve changed that quote a little bit.
      This article is utter nonsense.
      Most of the members of Wir Shetland are left of the centre, but, we welcome ALL people from all sides.
      It’s neither left or right wing to want to leave the EU.
      The EU is detrimental to Shetland, our biggest industry is fish, and we’re not even allowed to fish our grounds without going cap in hand the EU.
      There’s nothing UKIP about us, we want a healthy prosperous Shetland, just as the SNP and co want a prosperous Scotland.
      The SNP want to leave the UK but stay in the EU, if the Uk votes to leave the EU the SNP will trigger a referendum to prevent Scotland being “ripped out of Europe.” Well, Shetland voted 2-1 against independence, we don’t want to be ripped out of the UK.
      Where’s the journalistic balance?
      Where’s the right to self determination.
      Where’s the right to chose our future and not have it thrust upon us?
      This article and it’s writer is an utter joke.

      1. duncan says:

        This article doesn’t make much sense. As soon as anyone seems to have an opinion that questions Europe it is instantly derided as racist or, even sillier, something to do with the daily mail. But the author is unable to grasp that others, in this case, Fir Shetland, would like to take matters into their hands- democratically-for better or for worse. Its not racist to believe the economic mechanisms of the European Parliament don’t represent people and for people to democratically seek change. Some European nations are expressing this now. It isn’t fascism to do that, indeed, it’s fascism to not allow people to do that, or to name call and to smother minority views as fascist or prole.

    2. David Allan says:

      A EU YES vote in Scotland might not happen especially if we keep bangin on about it potentially triggering another indy referendum. There are 55% of Scots who just might vote NO again.

  2. jeans-jacques says:

    One point not being made about the EU referendum is what ‘leaving the EU’
    actually means. The day after England votes to ‘leave the EU’ they will have
    to enter into a Free Trade negotiation with Brussels.
    If they want a deal like other EFTA countries such as Norway and Switzerland
    there is going to have to be give and take.
    Given London’s lack of real leverage (economic or military) and the dominance
    of the City of London’s economic interests in the English economy what is
    London going to sacrifice (fisheries,energy, ship building, Carbon credits,territorial [Spain] etc.,)
    to secure the interests of the City of London.

    1. Muscleguy says:

      The day after you think? It took Greenland EIGHT years after voting to leave to negotiate an exit from the EU even with lots of expert administrative help from Denmark. Just like Scotland would not have been independent on the 19th if we had voted Yes, so the UK will not be out of the EU the morning after a Brexit vote.

      Which means here in Scotland we will not have to jump in haste at another referendum. We can look at the increasingly terrible conditions forced on the UK going it alone in international trading waters and see that staying in as we voted for would indeed be a better thing. This will make a Yes vote much more certain than in the volatile period immediately after a Brexit vote. We will need the hyped optimism and glee of the kippers and Little Englanders settle into harsh reality first because the nature of our conjoined media is that some of that will infect Scotland.

      1. Steven Johnson says:

        I’m not sure what’s worse?
        The little Scotlanders vying racist nonsense against the English, or the pathetic attempt to link a new progressive group who are full of optimism to the radical right!
        Who is Mark Smith anyway?
        Never heard of you chap, I’m guessing you’re not from Shetland, have likely never visited but have googled it and looked at Wir Shetlands page.
        I’m also guessing the extremist left wing SNP paid you to write this tripe.

        1. Graham Fleming says:

          It is a British front envisaged by Bernard Ingham and Co For Midder In gland. They have taken the sea of the Berwick shire coast as well. 60% of shetlaun fowk in the census said they were SCOTTISH nobody said they were Shetland er NONE

  3. bjsalba says:

    It sounds to me as if they are looking for a sort of Faroese type arrangement. Might be OK in the short run to make such an arrangement with Westminster, but when subsequently Scotland gets independence from Westminster, they might be in a bit of a pickle.

  4. Valerie says:

    What a shame to read about Wir Shetland, in the light of how Scots everywhere have bonded over the Carmichael affair. Even the 4campaigners had doubt they could raise the cash needed.

    Carmichael has galvanised a lot of people across and out with Scotland who also believe politics has to be done differently. I think many, like me, have now contributed a few times, on the basis that the Scots in these islands deserve an honest politician looking after their affairs.

    I think the biggest argument for remaining in the EU is access to markets. I hope SNP will articulate this and other arguments properly.

  5. Anton says:

    I’m not sure of the point Mark Smith is making. He seems to object to Shetland’s right to self-determination on the grounds that Shetlanders might vote for local policies with which he disagrees. Which, frankly, isn’t much of an argument.

    And his remark that “cruel benefit cuts, brutal fitness-to-work assessments, and reactionary curbs on union activity will all continue” is plain wrong – the whole point of becoming a British Overseas Territory is that Shetlanders would be exempt from policies emanating from Edinburgh or Westminster and would have the right to determine their own future.

    In my view it’s a compelling argument. I also think it’s wrong, but the reasons set out by Mark Smith don’t even begin to address the legitimate aspirations of the Northern Isles.

    1. Mike says:

      The rights of Shetlands self determination is for the Scottish Parliament to determine. If the cause of Shetland Independence wins a majority of support within the Scottish Parliament then a referendum should be called on the matter.
      After all we are a constituent Parliamentary democracy.

      1. Anton says:

        Mike, thanks for your reply.

        You say: “The rights of Shetlands self determination is for the Scottish Parliament to determine. If the cause of Shetland Independence wins a majority of support within the Scottish Parliament then a referendum should be called on the matter.”

        But by this argument it would seem to follow that the right of Scotland to self determination is for the UK Parliament to determine, and that only if the cause of Scottish Independence wins a majority of support within the UK Parliament then a referendum should be called on the matter.

        Maybe that’s what you think? I don’t.

        1. Mike says:

          What a stupid piece of utter garbage to post.

          Scotlands relationship with the rUK is one of Parliamentary treaty of Union. Scotlands relationship with the Orkney and Shetland isles is one of ownership and sovereignty.

          There is no legal or legitimate comparison in relation to their respective constitutional setups.

          The Scottish Parliament has authority of ownership over the Orkney Shetland Islands the UK Parliament doesn’t have authority of ownership over Scotland.

          A comparison you were already only too aware of.

          1. Anton says:

            I’m sorry you should be so angered by the idea that the Northern Isles should have the right to self-determination, and it’s a pity that you should rely on legalistic arguments.

            In response to your claim that the Scottish State “owns” Orkney and Shetland, I think it’s worth noting that strictly speaking, under laws confirmed by the Scottish Parliament in 1569, the islands are in pawn to Norway and Denmark and can be redeemed on payment of the original loan. (https://ahdinnaeken.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/independent-scotland-will-lose-orkney-and-shetland/.

            It’s true that in 1669 Shetland and Orkney were unilaterally annexed by the Scottish Crown (http://www.udallaw.com/1669%20Act%20of%20Annexation.htm), so even if you don’t accept that Norway and Denmark can call in their loan it’s clear that ownership vests in the Crown – currently HM Elizabeth II – and not, as you suggest, “the people of Scotland”. I’m aware that the Crown has since derogated certain powers and authorities to the UK Parliament, though the legal basis is uncertain and in any case is irrelevant to your argument.

            But these are legal technicalities. Putting them aside for the moment, why are you so bitterly opposed to the principle of self-determination for the peoples of Orkney and Shetland but (I assume) supportive of self-determination for Scotland? Are your only grounds the legalities of the situation? In which case we can let the lawyers decide. Or do you have other reasons which you have yet to explain?

          2. Ali Inkster says:

            If you are going to claim “ownership” it would be good if you could prove it.

          3. Neil says:

            not an expert on international law but I’m pretty sure Shetland doesn’t have much of a an argument of a ‘right’ to self determination, unlike Scotland (ok, I’m not saying there’s no counter argument re Scotland, but the counter argument involves denying Scotland is in a union, which would kind of destroy the narrative that has been heard and understood for generations and lead to a much more disgruntled Scotland than currently exists).

            However, taking a rationalist type approach (rather than a technical legal approach), I do think it’s difficult to deny Shetlanders a right to determine their form of Government, as it is with Glaswegians or any other ‘part’ of the ‘whole’. I think good politics and good political structures should ENCOURAGE ‘parts’ of states to stay. Let’s face it, support for Scottish independence would be very low if we were living in a fairer society, with less poverty, unemployment etc. What concerns me about this Shetland movement is that it becomes a Channel islands, which, having lived there for 4 years, I know is doing very little to promote equality or social justice internally or externally, but unarguably has a high standard of living if we only focus on GDP, average salary, and crime. I never saw the Scottish indy movement as remotely motivated by isolationism, and avarice.

    2. Graham Fleming says:

      The whole point of the exercise is divide and rule and Shetland remains under London dictat far from international law.

  6. bill fraser says:

    Could never see this idea coming to fruition,but if it did would probably be a rather damp squib,especially when Scotland eventually gets it’s independence.

  7. L THOMSON says:

    Let the Shelland and the Orkney be independent Why because history has tolds us one it will only bring discontent against any kind of rule from Scotland or britain, because the SNP has bedded its self in being part of the british political establishment. I thought the SNP would bring settlement to Scotland and at some point Independence. Me personaly I am no longer chasing that carrot it just aint going to happen.

    1. Mike says:

      Neither Shetland nor Orkney want to be Independent of Scotland. If they did all they have to do is win a majority of support for the proposal within the Scottish Parliament on a mandate for referendum. Simples.

  8. gay abandon says:

    Surely the creation and adoption of TTIP is all one needs to know about the EU and it’s ambitions for ‘hard working folk’? It’ll screw all of us to the benefit of the 1%.

    1. prj says:

      TIPP will still be a threat whether we are in or out and using TIPP for a reason on how you vote is a red herring.

      1. Mike says:

        That’s only true if we remain in the union whether in or out of the EU as all of the pro union parties support the principle of TTIP.
        The way to avoid TTIP is to become Independent and protect ourselves with a constitution.

  9. Julian Arculus says:

    David Cameron made a surprise visit to Shetland during the build-up to the Referendum last year. Only the third prime minister to visit the islands, following Thatcher 35 years ago & Heath back in the 1970s. Hardly anyone votes Tory here, but we do have an awful lot of oil. The Wir Shetland model fits very nicely with England & Co. retaining control of the oil in the event of Scottish Independence. Rather too nicely ~ the local Tory party has fully signed up for it with almost embarrassing haste…

    1. cirsium says:

      Julian – since Shetland sits within Scotland’s territories, it would be an “enclave”. As such, under international maritime law, Shetland would be entitled to a 12-mile limit from their shores. There is not a significant amount of oil within this 12-mile limit.

      1. Julian Arculus says:

        Regardless of Wir Shetland, if Shetland continues to vote No, Cameron will be intent on detaching us and the current 200 mile limit UK waters around us from Scotland. Not forgetting Cameron has a bigger Navy… the Falklands have a 200 mile limit & there’s nothing Argentina can do about it.

        1. Julian Arculus says:

          To be honest I think he’d do the same even if Shetland voted Yes. Without the oil England’s economy is stuffed. Even with Corbyn as PM it’s hardly going to be like the 60’s when Harold Wilson negotiated the Median Line with Norway and chose to be unnecessarily generous…

          1. Donald McCormack says:

            Partion failed in Ireland it would fail with Shetland. Would they service Lerwick by ferry from Newcastle?

            I absolutely agree with devo max for Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles and Inner Hebrides in Scotland as is and in an independent Scotland.

            If the tories are involved in Wir Shetland I’d treat it with complete contempt. The tories have changed from the blue rinse brigade we can laugh at to a nasty bunch of duplicitous nutters who like nothing better than to manufacture misinformation whilst undermining Scotland.

        2. Robin Stevenson says:

          Julian The Falkland Isles are in an entirely different situation from Shetland, inasmuch as, there are 400nm+ that separates both the Argentine mainland and The Falkland Isles, therefore neither EEZ encroaches on one another, IF Scotland was independent and Shetland chose to be regarded as a crown dependency and remain with the rUK, then their EEZ would have to be negotiated between each party.
          There are a number of factors that have to be taken into account, such as, historical economic benefits, landmass, population etc, there are also very few historical precedents that could be suitably used by way of example, however, one such example that has been looked at is “St Pierre Et Miquelon case” where France demanded 100% of its EEZ, but after a ruling by UNCLOS ended up with 25%

          1. Ali Inkster says:

            Wrong again Wrobin

          2. Mike says:

            Not to mention the fact that Orkney and Shetland belongs to the people of Scotland and not the people of Orkney and Shetland so in order to obtain their own self determination they would have to win a majority of support throughout Scotland for it via the Scottish Parliament.
            We are a national Parliamentary democracy so such decisions are decided within the authority and legal representation of this Parliamentary democracy.

            Is this concept too complex for people on here to comprehend?

  10. Common Sense says:

    The hypocritical arrogance of this article is breathtaking, it would be comedically so, if it wasn’t written in such an obviously earnest manner.. The fundamental argument is that it is OK for the left in Scotland to campaign for an independent future for the people of Scotland, because the left is intrinsically moral and good and will create a better society. However it is not OK for the people of Shetland, where Lerwick is as far away from Edinburgh as Edinburgh is from London to campaign for even a modicum of self determination. This is because that just shows they are greedy and self centred, and don’t want to share resources with the rest of Scotland. Well maybe the people of Shetland, or many of them don’t particularly feel connected to the rest of Scotland, just as the author does not feel connected to the rest of the UK. What gives believers in Scottish independence the moral right to lord it over Shetland and say what is right for them, the same way they regularly complain that the rest of the UK (lets be honest they mean England), does to Scotland?

    1. Juteman says:

      Dundee voted Yes in the referendum. I demand independence now!

      1. Common Sense says:

        Go for it, that is only fair.

    2. Mike says:

      What a total haver.

      The relationship between Scotland and the rUK is one of joint Parliamentary union. The relationship between Orkney and Shetland relative to Scotland is one of territorial sovereignty of ownership.

      Again for the terminally pig ignorant. No part of the territory of Scotland can depart without going through the legal process pertinent to the constitutional setup built within a constitutional Parliamentary democracy.

      We have constitutional Parliamentary democracies in order to manifest legal and legitimate processes over disputes and conflicts of interests. That’s the whole point of them!

      While we have a constitutional Parliamentary democracy we cannot ignore its authority legally!

      That’s called insurgency. Seems Tavish Scott and his cohorts want to be insurgents and traitors to the land and the very concept of constitutional parliamentary democracy because it doesn’t suit their own personal desires. Something which is all too common and simple for the Uncle Tam unionists. And they get upset when we deny their Scottish identities even though they go out of their way to deny not only their own Scottish identities but everybody elses as well.

  11. MJack says:

    Westminster want Shetland to be on a knife edge when it comes to the issue of the constitution, it’s a card they can play involving oil at any time which doesn’t hold as Scotland’s territory will surround the island and we’re their closest land. They also want Carmichael to stay and definitely dont want the SNP to gain that seat. Expect this group to be well funded by Tory donners. BTW if Shetland go like Jersey and become a “dependency of the UK” they will not have a European stamp on their passport so will not be able to work in Europe automatically which might effect some of the oil workers. My advice would be to only let those who have lived in Shetland for many years to vote, if there ever is a vote.

    1. Donald McCormack says:

      The last thing you could guarantee the tory party would have in mind is the benefit of the people of Shetland or Scotland.

      Divide and rule!

  12. Hoss Mackintosh says:

    Interesting – I wondered why Cameron made that unusual and un-published trip to Shetland before the referendum. He is a very devious man and the Tories are a very devious party.

    Westminster have form on this type of set-up in the Isles…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Westminster_(1462)

    But it did not work out too well for the islanders.

    However, I do not think it will work as the 12-mile limit will apply to Shetland. They will still make a lot of money from landing the oil (as they do at the moment) but it will not be in their territory as islands have no claim on the continental shelf…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Convention_on_the_Law_of_the_Sea

  13. MBC says:

    Shetland is 22,000 people. Whilst WS say they want to be autonomous, not independent, how do you run a health service and pensions on the proceeds of maybe 10,000 tax payers? OK, maybe they intend to generate tax from outsiders. Maybe they even plan on becoming a tax haven like Guernsay or the Isle of Man. That was one thing I always wondered about during the indyref, as these places seem to do OK, so why wouldn’t Scotland? What currency do they use? But I can’t see how Wir Shetland can claim a right to the oil around Shetland if it is not actually a sovereign state. Shetland has actually done quite well out of the oil whilst still a part of the UK, by its local council driving a hard bargain with oil companies with what limited jurisdiction it had, so that it has, like Norway, established an oil fund, which, I believe, now totals £350 million. Not bad, for 22,00 folk. So what more autonomy do WS actually want, than Shetland has already? If it’s not sovereignty? Running an island group is an expensive business, unless everybody decamps to the mainland.

    1. Anton says:

      MBC: Well, the Isle of Man manages to do all right with a much smaller population than Shetland. So who’s to say that the same results can’t be achieved by the Shetlanders? The question is whether they should be able to make these decisions for themselves.

      I myself think it would be a bad idea, for all sorts of reasons, but I can’t see why Shetlanders should be denied the same right to self determination that most of us here, I guess, would claim for Scotland as a whole.

      1. MBC says:

        I agree. If Shetlanders want to be like the Isle of Man then that’s up to them. I just wondered what the Isle of Man was like as a place to live in, and if that’s something the Shetlanders would want. Because my impression is that there are not a lot of actual Manx there, but maybe I’m wrong?

        1. Mike says:

          No it isn’t up to them at all. It has to be determined via a constitutional vote within the Parliament of Scotland. We are a constitutional Parliamentary democracy for this very reason.

          The Orkney and Shetland Isles belong to the people of Scotland not the people of Orkney and Shetland.

      2. Angus McCowan says:

        Anton, the Isle of Man has a population four times that of Shetland, it also has an exceedingly large number of very wealthy people and has excellent communication and transport ties with England.

        1. Anton says:

          Angus: You say that “the Isle of Man has a population four times that of Shetland, it also has an exceedingly large number of very wealthy people and has excellent communication and transport ties with England.”

          So what? Are you suggesting that the merits of independence should be judged by population size, communication and transport links, and the number of wealthy residents?

      3. Mike says:

        I told you in order to gain a legitimate right to self determination they only have to win an overall majority of support for the proposal via the Scottish Parliament for obvious legal and constitutional reasons. We are a constitutional democracy after all. And remember Scotland is not a constituent of the UK Parliament and is therefore not obligated to be considered as one for constitutional purposes.
        Scotland is in “JOINT” Parliamentary union with the Parliament of England Wales and is therefore entitled to end said Joint agreement without consultation with the rUK.
        Neither Orkney nor Shetland has such an agreement with the Scottish Parliament as the territory of the Orkney and Shetland isles belongs to the Nation State of Scotland.

        As if you didn’t know.

  14. Lawrie says:

    i think the clear no votes in places outside the central belt should be cause for the SNP to think about what kind of Scottish local democracy is required. The fact that many Shetlanders trust Edinburgh less than London should make someone take notice in Holyrood. I would like to see some action on local government from the SNP, e.g. I don’t think that you can have land reform dictated from the center, there will be different solutions required (tax, land use) in different places. I think land use should be regulated by democratically elected local government – that is local government in units of 10 – 30,000 people. I think also that local government should decide how many services that they want to run, power over local income tax etc (Westminster will devolve some income tax to Holyrood? is it possible then to devolve this power to local government?). I had a look at the WS Facebook page, some quite strange stuff there (trawlers don’t cause marine destruction was particularly bewildering) but think WS is a symptom of people feeling controlled by outside forces that they have no say over, which should be familiar to any Scottish person and I remember once being in a Shetland pub during a Faroe Islands – Scotland match, more people were shouting for the Faroes.

    1. MBC says:

      There are quite a lot of English incomers to Shetland and Orkney which might have been behind the high No vote. As in the Scottish Borders.

      WS seems like an anti-SNP, anti-Scotland, anti-EU front. I noticed that the UKIP vote (4.6%) was higher in Shetland than anywhere else in Scotland at the May elections. Most places in Scotland it was around 2%. Fishermen are also anti-EU. That the trawlermen are claiming they do no damage on WS website sounds like the anti-EU fishing lobby has joined forces with the Kippers who have migrated in from south of the the Tweed.

      4.6% of UKIP voters from a population of 22,000 folk isn’t many, but I suspect that’s who’re behind WS.

      1. Angus McCowan says:

        Fisher folk tend to vote nationalist, it was the uk that sold the Scottish fishing fleet down the river, irrespective of what Sckts wanted.

    2. Mark Gordon says:

      Voting outside the Central Belt might necessarily be of a higher percentage postal. Should we wait (but not with breath held) for the results into whether or not the postal vote was rigged before accepting how unpopular the Yes vot was outside the Central Belt?

  15. HenBroon says:

    This background hissing emanates from mainly unionist sources who like Tavish Scott and a few others are nursing their own personal wrath at the SNP and Alex Salmond, their nemesis. The volume of the hissing has gone up in the last year or two, mainly based on the false premise that Shetland will on the day of Scottish Independence being declared, announce it’s own independence and scarper over the horizon with all the oil under it’s goonie. Thus scuppering iScotland for ever. It was at best a very simplistic formula seemingly dreamt up by sniggering wee boys over their smart phones.

    As has been pointed out UNCLOS has something to say on that, and the 12 mile limit.

    The people of Shetland are not as daft as Tavish Scott and his band of SNP haters would like them to be. They currently enjoy very good terms regarding it’s oil fund and subsidised travel. Support from the Scottish mainland has been a feature of Shetland for a very long time. The links with Scotland are very strong.

    This campaign is based on political jealousy and hatred. If Carmichael gets the high jump as he should, we can expect to see the volume being cranked up right through to the election. However I think it has been shown that most people are sick and tired of the likes of Carmichael and Scott, their brand of dishonest anti Scottish politics is quite vomit inducing. Carmichael was the one who said he was going to look at the carriers contracts to see if they could be taken from Scotland in the event of independence. That you are prepared to damage your countries economy to satisfy your desire to damage Alex Salmond tells me that these charlatans belong in the playground, where they are.

  16. Scott says:

    It should be noted that Wir Shetland chairman is an expat Shetlander living in Scotland, and the most active members are those who were the loudest campaigners for a no vote.

    A lot of Shetlanders are sitting on their hands watching this play out.

    Also the Wir Shetland campaign are unhappy that the SNP are starting their consultation on devolution for the Isles. WS believe that this is purely because there is an election coming. However ask them anything and you will get a stock reply of SNP bad, EU bad Westminster good. You will also be referred to as SSnp, this from one of their members that want Shetland only for pure bloods. I know this as I live in Shetland. I am a Shetlander but I also know my history.

  17. Viking Lass says:

    Dear Hen. I don’t have an iphone, and think that your views on Shetlanders are very skewed. There is no hissing up here, background or otherwise. We are not so much against Scottish politics as for Shetland and autonomy for these isles as part of the United Kingdom. What has Scotland to do with Shetland’s oil fund, other than it (SNP) would like to get its hands on it?

    Your language is very emotive – there is no political jealousy or hatred involved here that I am aware of, just the desire to run our own affairs without the three layers of government suffocating us – the EU, UK and Scottish Parliaments. As far as some of us are concerned we feel that our islands are already treated as an overseas territory, with the neglect and lack of inclusion you’d expect of an even more remote British community.

    The monies which flood from Shetland to the UK mainland would be better spent in Shetland, in looking after our own people.

    1. Derick fae Yell says:

      Da trouble is, ‘Viking Lass’ dat ‘The monies which flood from Shetland to the UK mainland” is wholly dependent on aa concerned gaily gjaan alang wi ‘Wir Shetland’s’ fantasies o an EEZ extending aa da wey tae da Faeroe and Norwa boundary. Dat is a peerie bit contentious ta say da laest.

      Moast laekly is 12nm enclave wi-in Scotland’s EEZ. No oil. Some fish. Scallops. Renewable energy exports dependant on an interconnecter at wid definitely hae ta geeng troo Scotland’s watters. http://www.ejil.org/article.php?article=505&issue=34

      ‘Wir Shetland’, if I read der roaddeens right, seek a self-governing Shetland ‘within the British Realm’. Dat pretty much guarantees 12nm becis Shetland wid dan be an offshore pairt o Eengland, wi-in Scottish watters. Plus da issue o whaur Norway’s EEZ boundary comes tae wid be reopened.

      It might be at da Sage o Arrochar and Captain Calamity, Admiral o da Fleet, is right. Maybe. But maybe no.

      And wha, exactly, appointed dem ta spaek fur Shetland? Wha elected dem. Naebody.

      It is, sadly, a fact at dis idea at Shetland is ‘different’ fae Scotland, and should secede erupts, and ONY erupts, when Scottish nationalism is at a high. Evidence being The Orkney & Shetland Movement (I genuinely tink not influenced bi Bernard Ingham’s Partitionist pish), which arose in reaction tae da SNP surge oda 70s. Ida mid 80s da Movement claimed 800 members – way bigger as any political pairty. If we recall, O&SM stood a candidate ida 1987 General Election. A really good candidate as it happens – John Goodlad. Fae memory I tink I mebbe vottit fur him. He got 14%, exactly da sam as SNP wis gettin at da time. But we nae SNP candidate dey wir nae wey a tellin if dat wis joost da SNP vott wi naewhaur else ta geeng.

      Whin da SNP faded during da 90s, da Movement mysteriously disappeared.

      Nou da SNP is back, lo and behold, quelle surprise ‘Wir Shetland’ pops oota da widwark. Fronted bi a tribe o rabid Better Together campaigners fae da Referendum. Tulloch (Arrochar), Inkster, Harmer, Tinkler. Tiresomely indefatigable correspondents in Shetland News and Shetland Times, tellin wis day in day oot ‘SNP Bad’. Mmmhmm. Laekly, boy. Laekly.

      I hop Wir Arrochar staund a candidate fur da Scottish Parliament in May. And also I hop at dis time Shetland SNP do not decide ta staund aside. An dan we’ll see whit level o support dey hae. 1%? 5%? 10%? And I do not mean co-opting Tavish’s personal vott. Staund a new candidate.

      Meanwhile, cooler, an mair constructive, heids might be best pushin at da open door at is ‘Our Islands, Our Future’. Joost sayin.

      1. An Tabhartas says:

        Despite 32 councillors out 32 complaining about our sea being annexed of the Scottish Borders it’s no Inghams pish it’s Westminster dirty reality . Shetland 3 mile island they’ll probably fly tip their nuclear waste there as well, far from the madding crowd.

  18. Gordon says:

    “The one thing I’m sure of is that drawing a circle around Shetland and telling everybody else to get to fuck isn’t the answer we need”. This applies to nationalists who want to tell the rest of the UK to GTF, goose and gander come to mind.

  19. D. Harper says:

    No real need to worry. Most locals view it like our satirist Da Bonxie does. Please note that just prior to the referendum funding was magically provided to a Shetland separatist for his book (presumably by a ‘Better Together’ downer). http://dabonxie.com/politics/661-angry-correspondents-launch-devolution-group/

  20. Ali Inkster says:

    UNCLOS is quite clear in that Shetland lies outside Scotlands territorial waters 12nm from shore, and as such Shetland is entitled to its own territorial waters 12nm and it’s own EEZ which would be equidistant with neighbours ie Scotland Faroe and Norway. So we would get the oil and the fish and I would hope that as the fair minded folk you claim to be you would wish us well for the future but maybe not.

    1. Graham Fleming says:

      Just another British terrorist front like northern Ireland and the mess in Iraq how many innocent people in Shetland will get it to accompany the 15o million butchered by waste minster thru it’s grubby arrogance. Shetland people will get what it’s deserves if it it remains in the arc of criminality and corruption

  21. Gordon says:

    Danus Skene supports Wir Shetland, here is the proof.

    Danus Skene – SNP Shetland
    13 October at 14:32 ·
    It is depressing to glance through the Shetland Times correspondence triggered by the news of the Wir Shetland launch meeting on Wednesday. When will the Usual Suspects stop sniping at cardboard stereotypes of each other?
    The Wir Shetland initiative is greatly to be welcomed. This is the right time to press Shetland’s interest as the national governance debate evolves. But we will only get the optimum outcome if we pull together so far as we possibly can.
    I shall not be at the Wir Shetland meeting as I will be on my way to Aberdeen for the SNP conference. There, my main business will be briefing others and pressing the Shetland interest on many varied issues. Examples are working to secure support for SIC’s internal ferry system and lining up assertion of the fishing community’s interest in forthcoming renegotiation of mackerel quotas. Meanwhile, I hope the Wir Shetland meeting gets things going well.
    I make one point to those in the Wir Shetland correspondence who are sceptical of SNP motives. I see the SNP door as wide open to meeting island aspirations. There is no SNP conspiracy to trample or exploit Shetland, but there may be ignorance of our needs and aspirations, and I accept a particular responsibility for addressing that.

    1. MBC says:

      It sounds like Danus doesn’t think the WS is a Tory front then.

  22. James J Paton says:

    As a self imposed exiled Shetlander and Scot, who was on the Shetland Islands Council as the then Shetland Movement passed its zenith, this new group will be another such flash in the pan. Shetland does not allow itself to coherently function as a local authority, never mind self-governing territory – tax haven.

    On the EU, Shetland, even with its – now much depleted – oil wealth, has benfitted from huge sums of money from Europe, denied it by the UK Government. This said, CFP asude, the EU is such a rotten, anti-democratic institution ( the Tony Benn position) that as a comitted Europhile, we can be better Europeans actually without the EU. It undermines the whole idea and ideal of Europe.

    1. Andrew Argyle says:

      Who pays for the grants which come from the EU?

  23. Andrew Argyle says:

    “Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us,
    to see ourselves as others see us!”

    1. Lawrie says:

      Not prejudice (although i am definitely not an expert), and thanks for the interesting links. I suspect what is wrong is that some central environmental body is going to come along and tell fishermen where they can and cannot fish, which I am not in agreement with. I am in favour of strong local government who should have the power to overrule central environmental quangos or authorities. Ive heard of cases recently on the West coast relating to housing, or MoD use of sea bed which are just outrageous, the final say must be with local communities though democratically elected local government (Shetland size units, with much more power) and i also think taxation for services that are delivered locally (like a proportion of income tax etc) should be decided at local level, but i digress. On your trawling comments I used to work on a ship for an environmental organization who wanted to show the destruction of marine life due to North Sea oil industry drilling mud (the chemical lubricant of the drill bit), we had a camera on a line which was swung around close to the borders (of the shipping exclusion zone) next to oil installations in the North Sea. The pictures were very amazing, areas outside the zone were criss crossed with lines through the mud, and looked completely without life. The areas inside the exclusion zone were teeming with life and fish. I suspect that left to their own control Shetland fishermen could well steward their fish resources, but key is local control and i doubt that unrestricted trawling is a positive for the marine environment (thinking cod wars, Iceland)

      1. Fiona Matheson says:

        Only some areas/depths are suitable for trawling – they must be devoid of uneven ground, boulders, so trawling could never occur in 100% of the sea.
        You may find this interesting:
        http://www.fishingforthetruth.co.uk/environment/what-is-environmental-impact-of-trawling/

        ‘Despite the northern North Sea being one of the Scottish fleet’s most important fishing areas, this report highlights that significant areas are only lightly fished, with less than a quarter of the area being targeted on an annual basis. It is a common misconception that large areas of our seas are heavily fished and this report provides confirmation that the reality is very different. The report An Estimate of The Area Fished Around Shetland and in the Northern North Sea can be downloaded at: http://www.nafc.ac.uk/WebData/Files/Report – 2013-04-08 – Area Fished.pdf’

  24. Anton says:

    Mike – You keep saying that Orkney and Shetland “belong” to the people of Scotland. But you must be aware that this claim rests on the unilateral 1669 annexation of the islands by the Scottish Parliament, I guess in much the same way that (for example) the UK later annexed Hong Kong. Two points arise: first, whether this annexation was valid (and there many who dispute the point), and second the fact that the islands were annexed to the Crown and not to the nation of Scotland.

    So even you must admit that the legal situation is a great deal more complicated than you claim.

    1. Mike says:

      The islands were a gift they were not annexed by anybody from anybody.
      Annexation is what happened to Wales and Ireland. Not the Orkney and Shetland Isles.

      1. Julian Arculus says:

        It’s all so much more complicated than you could possibly imagine Mike. Rest assured, the Crown (ie. David Cameron) will have had their best legal brains working on it. This is just the tip of a very large iceberg; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1669_Act_for_annexation_of_Orkney_and_Shetland_to_the_Crown

        1. Mike says:

          No it isn’t and no the UK Government cannot be trusted to act legally or legitimately. And please spare me the recently written and altered history you can only find in Wiki.
          a site which can be altered and edited at will by anybody with an agenda to do so.

          The Orkney and Shetland Isles were a gift to the Nation of Scotland from Denmark. That hasn’t altered and wont be altered by anything written in Wiki. They are Scottish territory and if they want to be anything else will have to put a case via the Parliament of Scotland for consideration.

          You know that I know that and everybody and his dog reading this will know that so stop trying to pretend it will be any other way. Its pathetic.

          1. Julian Arculus says:

            Wow… Mike, you must come up to Shetland and give a public lecture at the Shetland Museum & Archives. Clearly you know so much more about our history than anyone who’s ever been up here before ~ a lifelong study I daresay. Simple minds see things only in black & white ~ I envy you your simplicity!

      2. Anonymous says:

        Eh? Orkney and Shetland were never annexed by Scotland? What do you think happened on 20 February 1472? There’s absolutely no disagreement on this point (apart from your good self). Try googling it.

        On the same basis, I can’t trace anyone (apart from yourself) who thinks that Shetland was a “gift to the Nation of Scotland from Denmark”. Perhaps you could provide your evidence.

        Broadly, though, I rather agree with Corm’s point above that “playing the history game is daft in these arguments”. The only reason for engaging in such a discussion is that you seem to think that historical artefacts trump the right to self determination. Try telling that to Ireland. Or Zimbabwe. Or indeed to any of the previous colonies of the British Empire.

      3. Anton says:

        Eh? Orkney and Shetland were never annexed by Scotland? What do you think happened on 20 February 1472? There’s absolutely no disagreement on this point (apart from your good self). Try googling it.

        On the same basis, I can’t trace anyone (apart from yourself) who thinks that Shetland was a “gift to the Nation of Scotland from Denmark”. Perhaps you could provide your evidence.

        Broadly, though, I rather agree with Corm’s point above that “playing the history game is daft in these arguments”. The only reason for engaging in such a discussion is that you seem to think that historical artefacts trump the right to self determination. Try telling that to Ireland. Or Zimbabwe. Or indeed to any of the previous colonies of the British Empire.

  25. Corm says:

    Playing the history game is daft in these arguments. Go back before the Norse raped their way onto settling the islands they were Pictish and something else before that during the stone age.

  26. Fearchar says:

    The Chagos Islanders(are any of them still alive?) lived in a British Overseas Territory. Just saying.

    http://johnpilger.com/articles/the-world-war-on-democracy

  27. Craig P says:

    Shetland only has to look at Faroe to see the benefits of self-governance, whilst retaining the former colonial power’s (Denmark in Faroe’s case) currency and armed forces. I’d probably be interested in it myself if I were a Shetlander – albeit I’d want to be under the umbrella of Scotland rather than the UK. And not only Shetland – there could and should be significant extra powers devolved to the islands, Highlands, Galloway, and cities, for example.

    The big question though is alluded to in this article – who are the personalities behind the campaign? Does Wir Shetland actually have Shetland’s best interests at heart, or are they just UK loyalist shit-stirrers whose real target is not helping the people of Shetland, but in keeping it dominated by the UK and thwarting Scottish self-determination? I ask because the subject of Shetland’s sovereignty only ever seems to come up in reaction to Scottish demands, vanishing like snaa aff a dyke when the nationalist tide has receeded.

  28. Brian Smith says:

    Wir Shetland is a not-too-cunningly disguised version of UKIP.

    1. Anton says:

      And your evidence for this claim would be – what?

      1. Julian Arculus says:

        The most vocal Wir Shetlanders present plenty of evidence in the numerous letters they’ve written to the Shetland Times (and Shetland News, online) in recent years…

        1. Graham Fleming says:

          Because nobody is allowed to reply to them in the Shetland rags nobody in these islands call themselves Shetland er only incomers hellbent destroying local and Scottish culture to fit into their bigoted world view

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