The SNP and Liberal Democrats have clashed over the future of the Northern Isles should they reject independence and the rest of Scotland vote for it in a referendum.
Two Highlands and Islands MSPs today criticised isles MP Alistair Carmichael for saying it would be up to people in Shetland and Orkney to decide where their constitutional future lay.
Jean Urquhart and Mike MacKenzie claimed the islands would better off in an independent Scotland than under UK government rule.
Attempts earlier this year by isles MSP Tavish Scott to provoke debate on the constitutional position of the isles have so far fallen on stony ground, and the SNP registered a tiny number of votes for its two candidates in the elections to the SIC in May.
But weighing in, Mrs Urquhart said: “The days of London politicians telling us how things are going to be in Scotland are over – these comments only demonstrate just how much Westminster MPs live in cloud cuckoo-land.
“The people of Scotland elected an SNP government in overwhelming numbers at last year’s Scottish parliamentary elections and the SNP is totally committed to ensuring the people of the islands and throughout Scotland can have their say the referendum in 2014.
“Residents of the Northern Isles need only look east to our Nordic neighbours for a vision of the economic prosperity they will enjoy under independence.
“The Northern Isles, in common with much of Scotland, voted in favour of devolution in 1997. The 2001 Census shows that the percentage of people saying they are Scottish is greater in the islands than a number of mainland areas of Scotland. The option of ‘Other British’ and ‘Other’ was available; this highlights the attempts by Mr Carmichael to say the islands are not Scottish as little more than really desperate stuff.”
Mr MacKenzie added: “As an islander myself, I am a frequent visitor to Orkney and can empathise with Orkney issues. On my latest trip to Orkney I encountered many voters who wanted to have a full and frank conversation on the benefits of independence – something they are being deprived of by their Westminster representatives, whose first resort is to scaremongering, distraction and threat.
“I urge Alistair Carmichael and his Conservative cronies in Westminster to stop playing games and to have a mature and sensible discussion on the benefits that Scottish independence will have for all communities across the country.”
In his comments, made to the Herald newspaper, Mr Carmichael claimed the SNP had accelerated the process of centralisation of government.
“As the shape of our constitution is discussed, it is now right for the people of Orkney and Shetland to ask whether or not they could have more control of their own affairs as part of a devolved Scotland within the UK or as part of an independent Scotland,” he said.
“There has not been much discussion about the position of the Northern Isles post independence because few people in Orkney and Shetland favour separation. But if Scotland voted yes to separation and the process of consultation were to continue, then clearly people here would want to choose for themselves where their constitutional future lay.
“If that required a further referendum in the Northern Isles on our own position, then there would be nobody in Edinburgh who would have the right to deny us.”