“The last thing the Northern Isles want is to be ruled by Glasgow trade unionists and Edinburgh lawyers…”

At the Guardian’s Scotland Blog, Severin Carrell notes the independently-minded Shetland and Orkney Lib Dem MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur’s attempt to play Alex Salmond at his own game – with a joint, “at best provocative and, in constitutional terms, at least playful”, submission to the UK government’s consultation on the independence referendum.  Short BBC video report here.  From the Guardian’s Scotland Blog

Scott and McArthur have reinvigorated a long-standing notion that the former Viking earldoms of Shetland and Orkney have their own, quite distinct views on self-determination and identity.

In fact, many islanders don’t really regard themselves as Scots at all and are at times openly hostile to Edinburgh rule, which they regard as remote and uncaring about their particular needs, interests and culture.

Instead, the pair suggest, if the Scottish National party were to win independence in the autumn 2014 referendum the northern isles could refuse to leave the UK, or demand a much greater local take of Scottish oil revenues or even declare independence themselves.

So Scott and McArthur are exhorting their constituents to grasp the opportunity to seize back influence as part of that process, from taking greater local control over the seabed, to scrapping redundant oil and gas rigs, to getting a fatter slice of future oil and marine energy incomes.

And from the accompanying Shetland Times op-ed

The MSPs conclude with three options which the Northern Isles could seek:

  1. To retain their current constitutional position within the UK and as part of Scotland but negotiate additional responsibility over key public sector areas.
  2. Enhanced powers or independence from Scotland if Scotland were to vote for independence but the Northern isles voted no. The SNP’s policy at successive elections conceded the Northern Isles’ right to their own self-determination.
  3. Enhanced constitutional and tax status within the UK. The Faroes provide one model with links to Denmark. Closer to home the Isle of Man and Channel Islands offer various models of island communities that constitute themselves in different ways from the rest of the UK.

And they conclude: “Shetland and Orkney may never have a stronger opportunity to negotiate a future for the islands which can benefit the economy, culture and identity in the wider world for the advantage of future generations of Islanders. There are obvious risks for the Northern Isles from ignoring this opportunity, not least as it will limit our ability to argue against the drift of public policy delivery to the central belt and the consequential loss of local accountability.

“Orkney and Shetland should establish their objectives as island communities in this period of constitutional upheaval and use their inherent advantages as leverage with both the UK and Scottish governments.”

Let’s hope Mr Scott’s and Mr McArthur’s stated aim of getting the debate going here in the isles works; it’s too important to be left to the fantasists in some quarters of the national media.

The Guardian’s Severin Carrell has a great quote from Shetland Lib Dem MSPs Tavish Scott

I’m not in any way prejudging the views of our constituents. It’s for us islanders to decide what we want, and how best use the current bun fight between Westminster and Holyrood to further our islands’ needs.

If we don’t we will be run over by the steamroller of either the UK government or Edinburgh government. When devolution happened in 1999, I thought it would see more powers devolved within Scotland, but has it hell. We’ve seen enormous centralisation of power in Edinburgh.

They’re not apologising for what the Vikings did 1,000 years ago either!