THE REPUBLIC OF HJALTALAND: From The Province Of The Cat

aef8p7pgh5mhhv4o7ji0m0l6ebmpnbWhen you go on any journey it is a search for something. On the other hand, as the great Roman Stoic Seneca put it, “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.” My journey this Summer was a search for Scotland and what it means to me and, a bit like that undertaken by Edwin Muir in his “Scottish Journey” of 1934, I headed North – from Caithness to Orkney and then to Shetland and back again.

I was suffering from a surfeit of babel regarding this somewhere place, cunningly disguised as Scotland, so I needed to get out of my native patch and to return in order to ask myself some questions and to hear other voices. Clarity, stillness, truth, distance: these were my mottoes. Cities were out of the question as they were the opposite of this: loud and too available. I needed clean air and reality. So I headed North. The acoustics of Scottish politics were getting too loud. The foul stench of Brexit, the false choice between two unions, the act of dark hubris that was the Trident vote: each one of these, and more, was like a rivet hammer banging down on the steel of my resistance. Why can’t we be free of this, I asked the fulmars. You can, they answered. So I was off, to find my nation in the places where the idea of Scotland is marginal at best, distant and awkward to most of the people who live in Orkney and Shetland; a place at the edge of our geography but central, I think, to our political future. As to Caithness, I will come to speak of her later.

I needed clean air and reality. So I headed North. The acoustics of Scottish politics were getting too loud. The foul stench of Brexit, the false choice between two unions, the act of dark hubris that was the Trident vote: each one of these, and more, was like a rivet hammer banging down on the steel of my resistance. Why can’t we be free of this, I asked the fulmars. You can, they answered.

Journey or no journey, one thing is clear enough to me: Scotland has a big decision to make and she will have to make it soon. These are the days of wonder and blunder. If a Scottish Government advisor came in to a planning meeting, pre June 2016, with a fictional scenario for a strategy meeting and they had put together something resembling what has happened since the end of June 2016 they would have been laughed out of the room. I fear no-one in Scotland is laughing now, to throw Nigel Farage’s weasel words back at him. Our politics is being dictated and managed by barefooted pantomime actors who are leading us into tragedy – they speak false verses. Quite frankly I am fed up with it. Something fundamental is being missed here. Everyone who reads Bella Caledonia knows what it is.

The Tories in London may have won the Brexit vote even though they lost it – especially in Scotland – but that does not interest them. They are still in power and that is all they concern themselves with. Political commentators may like to split the infinitive over how Theresa May’s government is different form David Cameron’s government and it is a good sport, I’ll grant you, and it fills column inches in newspapers and air time on Tv and radio. But here’s the truth: they are no different from each other. They just are a different sameness – especially in Scotland. They have prayed for a thing and in Brexit it has come their way, but it is a thing, a reality, which is a long way from being their own. Their selfishness will destroy them. What they have seen as an opportunity time and circumstances will withdraw. What then? What do we do in Scotland when the regime in London, so devoid of feeling or empathy, without sincere political, economic and cultural relationships does not so much manage a society but create a prison? At the moment our Scottish political leaders are dithering. They are acting, as was once said by a 17th century critic of my beloved Seneca’s writing style: “as a boare does pisse – scilicet, in jirkes.”

The people, however, have other needs than those which benefit a politician’s career. In Orkney they were cutting silage and baling hay. This is a vital time for these gentle and fertile islands. Cattle and agriculture generally is the mainstay of their economy. Tourism comes a close second but like the weather it can be fickle. The Orcadians have loaned themselves to tourism in a way which can act as both an example and a warning to other places. Their abundant archaeology is a great tourist draw as the daily crowds who visit the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae, Maeshowe and now the recently discovered revelation which is the Ness of Brodgar prove. There are many other beautiful places to visit. The countless campervans and cars that drive off the ferries and the hundreds of passengers who disembark from the John O Groats ferry and transfer to coaches swell the traffic visit most of them. Every day during the Summer a cruise liner docks at Kirkwall and if they are too big, as they sometimes are, they anchor out in the bay and the cruise passengers are shipped ashore to mill around Kirkwall like ants. Sometimes I wonder if they actually know where they are.

Certainly, recently, the behaviour of some of them indicates that they don’t. One Saturday as a couple and their families were exiting from their wedding ceremony in St Magnus Cathedral they were besieged by a throng of “tourists” as though they were an exotic species of animal. At a funeral, as the coffin left the cathedral, some cruise liner “visitors” thronged round it taking “selfies” and one demented individual even tried to lift the coffin lid. Now, I will admit, these are maybe random incidents but they do indicate the reality that tourism, when it over exposed to a relatively small place, does corrode and distort the thing it proposes to promote. Tourism and location are not necessarily harmonious. They undertake archaeology in Orkney because it is there to be discovered not because it will benefit the tourist industry although you would be hard pressed to make that distinction. Meanwhile the cattle are in the fields and the population of the islands go about their daily business. That their “daily business” may be changing due to the pressures of tourism is another issue. Who knows but maybe we all secretly worship the things we criticise.

In the EU referendum Orkney was the first Scottish area to declare and with a turnout of 68.4% voted to Remain by 63% which was 7,189 votes as opposed to Leave’s 37% or 4,193 votes. Orkney may be a set of islands off the North coast of Scotland but she is firmly in Europe by recent democracy and by history, tradition and culture.

In the EU referendum Orkney was the first Scottish area to declare and with a turnout of 68.4% voted to Remain by 63% which was 7,189 votes as opposed to Leave’s 37% or 4,193 votes. Orkney may be a set of islands off the North coast of Scotland but she is firmly in Europe by recent democracy and by history, tradition and culture.

As is Shetland. A more contrasting set of islands to Orkney would be hard to imagine. From the Fair Isle to Muckle Flugga the cliffs of Shetland soar up to the sky in a stone hallelujah. Shetland sweeps the sea as if it were a massive ship, like the magical Skidbladnir or Naglfari from Norse myth, so huge that it can contain all the gods and their gear but so ingeniously constructed that you can fold it up like a cloth and put it in your pocket. The reality of the place and the memory of it are like that. If Orkney feels independent Shetland feels like a republic. In Norse it is Hjaltaland, variously meaning “hilt” or even “horse”, from which we get the Scots world “sheltie”, or “cat” as the Gaels referred to Shetland as Inse Cat, or “the island of cats”. No escaping cats in this world. Like everywhere North of Inverness Shetland is etymologically a mixture of Pictish and Norse and this alone makes her European. A cursory glance along the major port that is Lerwick harbour would dispel any doubts as to Shetland’s European position. The last Norse Earl of Shetland and of Orkney, Jon Haraldsson, was murdered in Thurso in 1231. Both sets of islands were pledged by Christian I of Norway and Denmark in 1469 as a dowry for his daughter Margaret who was wedded to James III of Scotland. The islands were claimed by the Scottish crown in perpetuity because the cash side of the deal never materialised. So it has remained ever since. The Union of 1707, the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in 1999 and the drunk dancing of the Brexit vote have all directly affected Shetland and at the same time passed her by.

From the early 15th century Shetland was an important link in the chain of the powerful trading block known as the Hanseatic League. Shetland exported wool, butter and salted fish and imported such things as she needed. This aspect of international trade still influences Shetland. The main industry of fishing, of which mackerel represents a good half, is worth over £80 million a year is almost exclusively exported abroad. Last June Shetland voted by 56.5% to Remain which is 6,907 votes as opposed to Leave which mustered 5,315 votes which is 43.5%. However Shetlands fishermen voted almost unanimously to leave the EU. In a poll conducted by Aberdeen University it revealed that 92% of British skippers voted to leave the EU. This was mirrored in Shetland. I have heard that the island of Whalsay, where the mackerel fleet is based, voted by 80% for Leave. The tragedy is that no matter whether Britain is in or out of the EU the fishermen, of all of Scotland will lose. For British politicians fishing is a bargaining chip and Scottish politicians, and more especially Northern Isles politicians, have no power, presently and constitutionally to change that. Independence for Scotland and real self government for both Orkney and Shetland will go a long way to address the injustice that the fishermen feel has been inflicted upon their industry. They will find that voting for Leave is about as constructive as shooting yourself in the head.

However lyrical Orkney appears and no matter how majestic Shetland presents herself we live in a complicated world. The oil industry and all that goes with it guarantees that. On the other hand, as Seneca would have it, “there’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”. The current tension over the role, function and operation of the Shetland Charitable Trust is testament to that. Since oil first came ashore at Sullom Voe in 1978 the Shetland Islands Council brokered a deal with the oil companies and in a British context found itself in a unique position of actually benefiting from North Sea Oil and now from the reserves of the Shetland Basin West of the islands. The criticism of the Charitable Trust which administers the £220 million fund is that it is made up of establishment figures and is guilty of cronyism and suffers from a lack of direct democracy. A significant amount of Shetlanders feel that they have no say on how this money is spent and that too much is directed towards prestige projects such as the Mareel (a multi purpose entertainment centre) and not enough on poverty and homelessness. The claim of D4CT, which is an action group who have set up an online petition, is that the Trust members are a self-appointing clique who are guilty of self-interest, channeling cash into in-house projects such as Viking Energy which is a windfarm company and a subsidiary of Scottish and Southern Energy. Space does not allow me to go into the details about all of this but go to www.democracy4sct.com for more information, to sign their petition, and for the general low down.

Whether you agree with them or not the energy, if you pardon the pun, behind the D4SCT group is typical of both Shetland and Orkney. Getting up off your reclining position and doing things is second nature to them. It is a culture that does not wait to be told what to do. The actions of the Orkney Four, in relation to their MP Alistair Carmichael and his deplorable attitude to the truth, is a case in point. However far from Edinburgh and London these islands may be they are close to the reality of what politics should be: active, local and with international horizons. They are used to determining their destiny for themselves and the Scottish Government would be smart to pay attention to this now. Like Scotland, Orkney and Shetland have been ill served by their politicians. Caithness, sadly, has been routinely betrayed by hers. The social and economical dog’s dinner which it now represents will have to wait for another day to relate.

As I got off the ferry at Scrabster and made my merry way up to Thurso I watched the Hamnavoe sail back across the Pentland Firth to Orkney. By the time I got half way along Victoria Walk I saw the sinister sleek blue shape of the nuclear waste ship caress the outer boundaries of Holborn Head. Its two cranes folded midships like the arms of Mussolini. In that ship is all that is wrong with our history. What is independence for if it does not free us of that? One day, I swear, we will all live in the Republic of Hjaltaland.

©George Gunn 2016

Tags:

Comments (33)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Hugh Loughlan says:

    Excellent article George.

  2. Alf Baird says:

    A paradox: the twa wealthiest coonties in Scotland (thanks tae oil/gas ‘funds’), yet baith aye wantin mair cash fi Embra for a’thing, an baith isles votet Naw tae, an votet LibDems anaw, yet hae the wurst energy poverty?!?

  3. Fiona MacInnes says:

    Nice one George

  4. John Page says:

    Brilliant as always. thanks, George

  5. Wullie says:

    Over-egging the pudding somewhat, even in Caithness half the names are Gaelic & in Sutherland more so. There is this tendency for folk in the Northern Isles to fancy that they’re some kind of Vikings & have a bit of a chip about being exploited historically by Scotland. The latter Is undoubtedly true and as at least half the population is of Scottish descent & doubtless off those who did the colonising in the first place. Their forefathers were both the exploited & the exploiters.

    Weren’t we all? as Alastair Carmichael might have said.

    1. Graham Fleming says:

      Innse Cat was the old gaelic name for these islands with gaelic papar using ogham amongst the native Cattanach to teach Christianity Lang a for the nord man set foot there.How did the cat people in caithness and sutherland evolve there pictish tongue into gaelic so quickly if they were not cognate languages. The clan chatten all venerate the cat in its septs most of whom have representation on Shetland today you could say the return of the Cattanach to part of their homeland is all to clear to say these islands are not just norse.

  6. Richard MacKinnon says:

    What a depressing fellow George Gunn must be. Even holidaymakers from far off places that choose to visit Scotland’s remotest islands are a problem for George. George, also on his holidays, sees other tourist as ants, and in his melochony George muses “Sometimes I wonder if they actually know where they are.”
    Sometimes I wonder, what has brought George to this sorry state and if there is anything I could do to help. I have a feeling that George’s depression might have something to do with recent referendum results. I could be wrong here but I am guessing George voted Yes in 2014 and Remain in 2016 and that being on the loosing side both times has, and I choose my words carefully here, upset him and made George frustrated.
    So here is my advise George, I hope you find it useful. Just one thing first, I know, that sometimes the best advice is not always what you want to hear. George be honest with yourself, you know I am talking sense here. It can be difficult telling a friend something that you know they dont want to hear but you have to tell them for their own good, you would not be a proper friend if you didnt tell them. So here goes, George, move on with your life, accept the result. Scotland voted to remain a part of the UK and the UK voted to leave the EU.
    George, once you have acknowledged those two facts, put them together in your head, Scotland in the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom independent of the European Union I believe you will be the better man for it.
    PS. George, have you ever thought of taking up a hobby.

    1. Maria F says:

      I am not George, Richard, but I am a bit offended by your comment, actually.

      You say:
      “So here goes, George, move on with your life, accept the result”

      Which result Richard? Because there have been an awful lot of ‘results’ since the 18th September 2014. These are just a few:

      1. An staggering 45% of the Scottish electorate that voted on 18 Sept 14 were prepared to take the risks in an independent Scotland rather than enduring anymore a government from the UK. You do realise that 45% is much bigger a figure than the percentage than voted for the current UK government, don’t you Richard?

      2. All the promises made by the BT campaign if a NO vote won have been broken one by one: what we were offered to vote for was not real: we were going to be the ‘most devolved country in the world’, well, Richard, are we?

      3. The implosion of the SLab party and an earthquake in the political landscape in Scotland: nothing is what it used to be.

      4. A democratic deficit you cannot longer ignore: Only one Tory MP from Scotland, and yet, we are forced to endure and suffer the consequences of the mismanagement of a majority conservative government that Scotland didn’t vote for.

      5. We don’t have a voice and for as long as we remain in the Union, we will never have. This ‘result’ becomes obvious in instances like these:

      a. All but one of the Scottish MPs (representing the people of Scotland) voted against the renewal of Trident and yet, we are lumbered with the darn things just because the English MPs want to.

      b. An overwhelming majority of the Scottish electorate everywhere in Scotland voted to remain in EU and yet, a conservative government we didn’t vote for is threatening with taking us out of the EU against our will: is there any point for Scotland to vote, Richard?

      6. The political landscapes in Scotland and England are heading in completely opposite ways: people in England is frighteningly moving to the far right while Scotland is overwhelmingly supporting a nationalist party: how on earth can you reconcile that in an Union without sacrificing the political views of one of them, Richard? If you have to do that then you cannot longer talk of ‘a union of equals’. If you cannot talk of ‘an union of equals’ then the word ‘union’ is meaningless.

      7. The UK we voted to remain in 18th of September 2014 doesn’t exist anymore.

      8. Most prognostics for Scotland’s economy, social mobility, research, etc out of the EU are disastrous. Both SLab and SCon heavily campaigned for Scotland to remain in the EU because of this, but now both branches seemed to completely lose steam in their EU support when remaining in the EU may well be incompatible with remaining in the UK. What does this ‘result’ mean for you Richard? Well, for me the ‘result’ is obvious: SLab and SCon are prepared to sacrifice Scotland and Scotland’s people’ lives for the benefit of the wellbeing of their UK political parties. In view of this, how can they be trusted again that they really have the best interests of Scotland at heart? I think this is a hell of a result, don’t you agree?

      Richard, if we have been lied to and the UK is not longer what we were ‘sold’ before the 18th September, less than 2 years ago, why on earth do we have to accept the result?

      Many products that you buy have 2 year guarantees. Where is the guarantee for the Scottish people that we were getting what we voted for? If there is no guarantee, then I don’t see why we should be accepting any result, quite frankly.

      You say:
      “Scotland voted to remain a part of the UK”

      Less than 2 years ago Scotland voted to remain a part of a UK that doesn’t longer exist Richard. Where are the guarantees that we are going to get what we voted for? As I said above, if there are not guarantees, why do we have to accept the result? At the end of the day, this is a consumer’s world, isn’t it? Or would you be the type of person that would ‘accept the result and move on’ if you placed an order and paid for a Ferrari, receives a Fiat 600 for the same price instead and gets told by the seller: ‘move on with your life Mr MacKinnon, accept the result, you know that I am making sense here’? Surely not, so how can you expect that the rest of us accept ‘the result’?

      You say:
      “and the UK voted to leave the EU”
      And what is the UK, Richard? The UK is not a country, it is a state formed by 4 countries. 2 of those countries voted to remain in the EU and 2 voted to leave. So, clearly, only half of the UK voted to leave the UK, not the whole UK as you say. You are not going to have the cheek now to say that Scotland and NI are ‘less UK’ than England and Wales, are you?

      It just happens that England has an 85% of the population of the ‘Union’ therefore if you chose to ignore the fact that the UK is actually formed by 4 different countries then it is always the will of the English people what determines the UK, isn’t it? If that is the case, is thee any point for the other 3 countries to vote at all?

      Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, by a bigger percentage than England voted to leave the EU. Therefore, why should the will of England be more important than the will of Scotland Richard? Why should we accept a result we didn’t vote for and that will hurt us rather than benefit us?

      You say:
      “you know I am talking sense here”

      Are you sure of that?

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        Maria,
        I believe you, you are not George, but thank you for replying, you pay me a massive compliment. If my comments cause you a bit of offence, I am pure chuffed.
        Maria, I cannot help but notice you are mightly offended. Your reply to my comment is labouriously long. I got bored after 5.b actually. But I will of course answer the important question you ask. “Which result Richard?” Answer – The ones that count.

        1. Maria F says:

          Thank you very much for your reply, Richard.

          I admit that I didn’t like your comment to this fine article that George has written, but I fully agree with you in that of “the ones that count”, because every single one counts.

          Every day in politics brings a new result and as such must count. Don’t you agree?

      2. seastnan seastnan says:

        Brilliant! Really well-put and putting down a unionist sheeple argument item-by-item.

    2. Douglas says:

      Richard, maybe try to learn how to spell the word “losing” before you start handing out advice to George Gunn? Embarrassing, patronizing drivel, as always from you.

      Timely piece by George on a part of Scotland we hear far too little about.

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        Douglas,
        Thanks for the spellingh check. Fancy trying to critique the logic?

        1. Interpolar says:

          Richard,

          Sorry, I have to pile in here now too. I think that as Mary has staked out, a Yes or a No may be valid under a certain set of circumstances, but if these change, then it is – at least in a democracy – defensible to be able to answer again.

          Many people being offered a tea may say no, because they prefer coffee, but on learning that the coffee is served only cold, would like to revert to the original offer.

          1. Richard MacKinnon says:

            Interpolar,
            Its a bit of a strange metaphor you use to make your point but, fair enough, I am happy to develop it if it helps. “Many people being offered a tea may say no, because they prefer coffee, but on learning that the coffee is served only cold, would like to revert to the original offer”.
            So what do you do? Go back up to counter and ask for a cup of tea instead? Problem with that Interpolar is that things have changed since you came into the cafe all those years ago. The girl behind the counter that first served you is nowhere to be seen now there is a guy with a tattoo gun in one hand and stud and ring piercings all over his face. “What happened to the cafe?” you ask. “It went bust way back in 2014” the young man replies.

        2. Alex M says:

          The only logic I could detect was an attempt to stir up ill feeling and possibly intemperate replies. Just one thought – we have a variety of elections, these are repeated, but voters are allowed to change their minds, and their votes on the evidence they see.

          1. Richard MacKinnon says:

            Alex M,
            There is a difference between election votes and referendum votes. Elections come around every 5 years. Referendum?

    3. Drambuie Dick says:

      Little to critique in “feelings and “guesses” and the three spelling mistakes really don’t help Richards credibility.

    4. Drambuie Dick says:

      Rhetorical post based on Richards “feelings” and “guesses” together with other silly assumptions. Like it or not the three spelling errors and other bad grammar do little to enhance the credibility of the piece.

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        Drambuie Dick,
        I cant tell you how upset I am, all my spelling and grammatical errors seem to annoy a lot of other contributors. I sometimes feel like turning off my computer for good. But then I think, wait a minute, what is more important, spelling and nice prose or being clearly understood. Badly educated as I am, (Dougie, note the split infinitive) am I getting my message across? That is the important thing. I can get over the pure humiliation of being at the bottom of the class for spelling. Im used to that. But does what I say resonate?
        There’s only one way to find out. Carry on and say it as you see it.

  7. Wullie says:

    Rather silly advice from Richard, George would be ill-advised taking up the knitting just yet. The next Scottish referendum result will solve George’s problems & put Richard’s gas in a peep at one stroke!

    1. Richard MacKinnon says:

      Wullie,
      Tell me again when’s that going to happen? I’ll stick it in my diary? Dont want to get doubled booked.

  8. Jenny says:

    Brilliant writing. Thank you George

  9. w.b.robertson says:

    first visited Orkney & Shetland in the 1960s. was back only last year. the islanders are industrious, world wise, and positive. traditional farming continues to prosper. oil has been a massive boon and the locals have shared in it, likewise tourism which is growing each year. what`s not to like? not quite sure what Mr Gunn was looking for.

  10. Lochside says:

    George states that the Northern Isles have been ill served by their politicians?..How about a £220 million oil fund negotiated by Shetland Council. Something that Aberdeen at the very least, but Scotland as a whole should have had replicated. As Scotland had a Secretary of State at the time who was powerless and politically impotent, the real power at Westminster,Tony Benn Secretary of Energy decided against Scotland benefitting generally in any way from the oil coming out of Scottish waters.

    To compound matters, ‘Father of the Nation (sic) Donald Dewar conspired near midnight in late 1999 with Tory Blair, in the House of Commons, to move Scotland’s water boundaries so far north that you can see English waters from St. Andrews! 6000 square miles, and several oil fields safely moved into English domain to compound the theft of Scottish resources.

    No, Shetland has done well. It has an oil fund, that has been denied to rest of Scotland. And by the way, it is Scottish. The oil fund was designed to sow seeds of divide and rule. So before any home rulers for the Northern Isles chips in, please note that no-one suggests that France gets back the channel islands.

  11. Wullie says:

    Lochside, a very good post, I think Cheorge had his rose-tinted spex on when he crossed the Firth. Caithness mannies weren’t always as well received there, check the Battle of Summerdale! 🙂

    @ Richard, you know very well that we are all in limbo untill Theresa presses the “Self Destruct” button.

  12. George Gunn says:

    I have no rose tinted glasses nor do I underestimate the achievement of the Shetland Islands Council to negotiate a separate deal with the oil companies in the 70’s. Their then chief executive went on to join the BNOC set up by Tony Benn and murdered by Margaret Thatcher. The tension in Shetland now is how the Shetland Isles Charitable Trust manage the £220 million oil fund. There are well argued cases of cronyism and undemocratic activities articulated by the D4CT group which anyone can access on http://www.democracy4sct.com

    As to the Celtic/Norse thing I am constantly reminding the people of Caihness that they are both Celt and Norse with the majority of the place names in the county being Gaelic and that Gaelic was spoken extensively and quite recently in the larger Western parishes of Latheron, Reay and Halkirk up until the late 19th century. Those who claim otherwise and that we are “vikings” usually have an anti-Gaelic prejudice which is not matched by the historical and cultural evidence.

  13. Wullie says:

    Well said George, have a good holiday!

  14. Ed says:

    PRQBABLY MORE VIKING DECENDANTS IN BURGHEAD MORAYSHIRE, PER CAPITA,THAN EITHER ORKNEY OR SHETLAND !!!!! SOME ONE WILL TEL ME NO DOUBT?

    1. Graham Fleming says:

      Don’t know about viking descent but over 60% said they Were Scottish by nationality in the census the vast majority in both areas any division between the rest of the country should not be tolerated as nobody put down they were either Shetland ers or Orcadians

  15. MBC says:

    I enjoyed reading this piece with its lyrical descriptions and trenchant political observations, but I wasn’t sure where it was going in the end, or what the point of it was. On the one hand it argued that we are sleepwalking into a disaster (Brexit) that none of us created or can avert, as our fate is decided by Tory politicians in England elected on only 28% of the UK franchise; and that our elected Scottish politicians are asleep or impotent; on the other hand it seems to suggest that localism (SCT) might be an antidote and is alive in parts of Scotland like Shetland; yet even that too fails the democracy test, or to invigorate the local economy.

    For all its eulogising of Orkney and Shetland, they were amongst the most hostile areas of Scotland to Scottish independence, yet the UK they voted overwhelmingly to preserve has just thwarted their European aspirations and damaged their long term interests. The fisherman of Shetland might be delighted by Brexit but the farmers of Orkney will pay the price. They will be the victims in losing EU agricultural subsidies. Will the fishermen be willing to share their Brexit bounty with the farmers? And what will happen when the fishermen have finally exhausted the bounty of the seas, as they nearly did in the 1990s until the EU intervened to save fish stocks? I would like to hear where the islands stand now in terms of their political awareness. George admires the sturdy and dogged independence of the Orkney Four, yet the truth is that the islanders’ support of the Lib Dems was not shaken by that party’s support of its lying, cheating MP.

    The islanders chose Bonkers Britain over an independent Scotland, what will they do when Bonkers Britain bites them on the bum? Has it even sunk in?

  16. George Gunn says:

    dear MBC,

    I agree that the fishermen will find out the hard way just what Brexit will mean for them. I also know that fishermen, egged on by the banks in the nineties, would have emptied the sea if it were not for EU quotas. The history of ALL the crofting counties involvement with the Liberal party, and how that morphed into the Lib Dems, is problematic. On the other hand the SNP, in both Orkney and Shetland, have made mistakes with candidates in the past and in the Northern Isles the person matters as much as the party. However things are changing. Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross has shown how a constituency can ditch the Liberals and embrace the SNP and I suspect when Clause 50 is implemented and the grim political reality of a post EU Britain emerges and the dire economic consequences become apparent things will change in the Northern Isles. As I tried to say, perhaps not so well, was that the Scottish Government has to reach out to both Orkney and Shetland because despite re-electing non entities such as Tavish Scott and Alistair Carmichael the political consciousness of the younger islanders is maturing and increasingly Scotland is seen as stable whilst the UK is not.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      George, perhaps worth noting that a very significant proportion of today’s N. Isles voting populations (perhaps 25% or more?) are originally from south of the border and few of them have much if any aspiration for Scottish nationhood as far as I can see (in or ootside the EU). Probably rather similar in the two other remaining LD fiefdoms – NE Fife and Edin.W (where also note the high inbound academic/student voting effect there, as in Ian Murray’s Edin S. constituency). This maybe helps explain the variation between these and other Scottish constituencies, though appreciate some in-depth research would be helpful.

Keep our Journalism Independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address to subscribe for free here and receive Bella direct to your inbox.

 
Bella Caledonia