Future of constitution (Les Sinclair)

Your article and editorial in last week’s paper relating to the current debate on Scotland’s constitutional future raises interesting questions.

Brian Wilson is possibly correct when he says that the failure of centralism has made the case for autonomy, but his justification for that statement in relation to Shetland seems weak.

Perhaps Mr Wilson is unaware of the events leading up to the June 2010 Accounts Commission inquiry and the consequent issues at the SIC? Could he justify swapping London-centred government for Edinburgh-centred government being a departure from centralism if the electorate answer “yes” to the impending referendum question?

Danus Skene, in typical nationalist form, pleads some sort of special case existing to justify a “negotiated position” for Shetland within an independent Scotland. What will his answer be to communities across Scotland who plead similar special cases? What will the resulting face of Scottish government look like when all these special cases have been negotiated?

Malcolm Bell brings a note of sanity to this issue when he says that reasoned debate is the only way forward. It is up to everyone to ensure they contribute to this debate in order that the true outcome of a “yes” vote is fully appreciated.

Les Sinclair
8 Annsbrae Place,
Lerwick.

52 comments

  1. Robin Barclay

    I note the recent flurry of comment on Shetland’s status as part of Scotland, and how that might be interpreted in the event of different results in the forthcoming referendum on Scotland leaving or remaining within the UK. As most Shetlanders know to some extent, there does not seem to be any doubt that “Shetland” was “pawned” to the Scottish Crown in 1469 as part of a dowry from King Christian of Denmark (and Norway) to King James III of Scotland on his marriage to King Christian’s daughter, and the “pawning” was intended to be temporary, and redeemable by payment of the sum of money that was originally promised for the dowry. It seems that first Orkney, then Shetland were offered as a temporary settlement in lieu of the dowry money.
    Since there was no feudal ownership of land in Norway/Denmark by their crown, land in Shetland was held by allodial title, independent of any superior landlord (and udal law pertained), so all that King Christian could offer were his estates in Shetland, and not overlordship of the entire Shetlands. However the Scottish Crown interpreted this in feudal terms and siezed control of the whole islands (Orkney and Shetland) by annexation in 1471, and there followed the brutal earldom of Patrick Stewart.
    It may be interesting to refer to the settlement of the Treaty of Perth (1266) in which Norway recognised Scottish sovereignty over the disputed territories in the west of Scotland in return for a lump sum of 4,000 marks and an annuity of 100 marks. Scotland also confirmed in that treaty the Norwegian sovereignty over Shetland and Orkney.
    Scotland at that time was a nation becoming unified from lesser kingdoms – the Scots themselves had been invaders from Ulster, vying with the Norwegians occupying the western isles and Britons, Picts and Anglo-Saxons in other regions. So – go far enough back, no land was owned by any crown until these emerged and asserted their “rights”. The Treaty of Perth does seem important in officially recognising the Norwegian sovereignty over Shetland and Orkney, and unlike the latter Scottish or English feudal crowns the Norwegian sovereignty did not insist on overlordship of all land. Thus in 1469 the then unified Danish/Norwegian crown could only “pawn” the actual crown estates but not the sovereignty – or that is one popular interpretation.
    The status of Shetland (and Orkney) has never been properly clarified since. It seems that over subsequent time a number of attempts were made by the Scandinavians (themselves a shifting amalgamation of Norway, Denmark and Sweden) to reclaim them by negotiation, but they were consistently fobbed off. The Treaty of Breda in 1667 appears to have settled various issues (including the allocation of New York from the Dutch to the UK) and confirms that the pawning of Shetland and Orkney is ‘unprescribed and imprescribable’. In other words, the pawned status has not been, and cannot be, changed. Shortly after this, Charles II (in 1669) used his Act of Annexation to try to remedy the concept that the isles were held in trust (through the unredeemed pawning) to state “It is not only fit in order to his majesty’s interests, but will be the great advantage of his Majesty’s subjects dwelling there, that without interposing any other Lord or superior betwixt his Majesty and them, they should have an immediate dependence upon his Majesty and his Officers”. In other words Shetland and Orkney are a Crown protectorate directly governed by the Crown (until they are redeemed from the pawning, which he didn’t mention, nor did he mention that the land holding is allodial anyway and the crown does not have feudal superiority).
    It is worth remembering that the “Crown” is that of Scotland, the descendents of King James III of Scotland. It just happens that the Crowns of Scotland and England united in 1603 with the accession of King James VI of Scotland to the united thrones of England and Ireland. This was a was a personal or dynastic union, with the Crown of Scotland remaining both distinct and separate. The Act of Union in 1707 united the sovereign states of Scotland and England/Wales/Ireland into the United Kingdom. The referendum coming in 2014 will ask the people of Scotland (since nobody asked them in 1707) whether that union (the UK) should remain or whether Scotland should leave the union and be a self-governing independent sovereign state. If the majority of the people of Scotland vote to leave the UK, and Scotland retains a Crown, that crown will be the Crown of Scotland, and Shetland will be a protectorate of the Scottish Crown, not the Crown of England (no matter how Shetland votes in the referendum). A comparison might be made to the Pacific Islands which are protectorates of Australia (could they be protectorates of the Australian Crown, also embodied in the same personage as the Crowns of Scotland, England, Canada, New Zealand, etc – or are they protectorates of the government?). There is nothing constitutional to support that Shetland could remain within the UK if Scotland secedes from the UK – the protectorate (Shetland) remains the responsibility of the Scottish Crown until the pawn is redeemed. However it seems about time that the status of Shetland (and Orkney?) as a temporary Crown protectorate is recognised and that their governance is negotiated. Their administration as a county of Scotland refers back to their illegal feudal annexation in 1471. It can be debated whether any current or future government of Scotland or the United Kingdom has the legal right to govern them directly – only the Crown of Scotland has that, and that has obligations under the dowry settlement of 1469 to protect their status, and allow their redemption. It would seem that modern day Norway has a strong claim to regain sovereignty by redeeming the dowry settlement. Is Shetland the Malvinas of the northern Atlantic, or would the indigenous islanders (and who are they?) be more willing to switch sides?

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  2. Douglas Young

    Let’s hope the debate on Independence in Shetland looks forward. Forward to a written Constitution, to self determination, confidence and belief in ourselves to run our Country in a socially cohesive way. Not Utopia, just fair. I’m looking forward to debate and a YES in 2014.

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  3. Sandy McMillan

    We may all get a shock if the Scandinavians were to get involved in the sovereignty of the Orkney and Shetland Isles, we may find our self’s involved in more than a verbal battle over who owns Shetland, (It may end up similar to the Falkland cold war with Argentina,) Shetland sits in the middle of very lucrative area of the North sea and on the West coast the Atlantic ocean, the media have just stated that £90 millions worth of fish was landed in Shetland last year, and within the quotas dished out by the Europeans, If Shetland were to lay there cards on the table to Holyrood now not after, 2014 this would give us the chance to see what was best for Shetland, It is no use coming (greetin efter,) saying we should have done it that way or this way, where are our Politicians they should be thrashing out what is the best for Shetland, of course we hear from them weekly with there diary of how they have managed in either Holyrood or Westminster, this is not especially at this time what we want to hear, our Islands and our lives are at stake, It is the positive news we are waiting for.

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  4. ian tinkler

    I hope that now at last the message is getting home. Shetland would be no better served by Holyrood than Westminster. Salmond has made his views very clear on this, Shetland is too small and Shetlanders too few to matter. If we must tear down The Union we should say to Salmond and Cameron “A plague on both your houses”. Time now for a change. For every Shetlanders sake, take control of your own destinies and fight for autonomy from Hoylrude and Westminster. Faroe, The Chanel Islands and the Manx show how this can be done and how well it serves their people. Referance : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9154028/SNP-attacks-Shetland-and-Orkney-troublemakers.html

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  5. George Kippets

    Seeing as how we canna run the SIC, how can we ever hope to run an independent Shetland? Get real, folk.

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  6. Gordon Harmer

    Oh! and the MSP’s in Holyrood and the MP’s in Westminster are doing a better job than our council, George Kippets, you are the one who needs to get real.

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  7. douglas young

    There are two men in the UK who already know deep down that the vote will be YES; obviously the First Minister, and David Cameron, which is why he has decided on the EU in/out referendum.
    Westminster running Shetland? No more NHS Scotland, no more Air Discount Scheme, no subsidy on the ferry- remember everything must pay- and since it was a Tory govt that promised to refund the SIC house building programme of millions, and we are still waiting, I think we would be more fairly treated, and are being , by an SNP rule than Tory.
    Or are some of us getting greedy?

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  8. Robert Sim

    Douglas Young has outlined why,in the real world, Shetland is better off under Scottish government. But it goes further than that. Our institutions – the legal system, the police service, the medical sector and all the various arms of local government (education, transport etc) – are all Scottish and are designed to be in line with Scottish national statute and policy. How would all that be unpicked and redesigned in line with – what? I am afraid that there is no realistic alternative to the present system.

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  9. Gordon Harmer

    Due to lack of true facts and sensible argument Douglas Young has resorted to lies and scare mongering so early in this debate. It speaks volumes.

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  10. Ian Tinkler

    Robert, The Channel Isles, The Manx and Faroe appear to have had no problems with self government. Amazing how simple tasks appear to confound some. Crown Dependency does not require our institutions – the legal system, the police service, the medical sector and all the various arms of local government (education, transport etc) to be reborn from scratch. It would however give Shetland and Shetlanders the chance to ditch once and for all the idiocy of European and Central regulation. I realize for Salmond’s acolytes and yes campaigners may baulk at the prospect of autonomy for Shetland and Orkney. Fortunately many island Folk are progressive and brave enough to contemplate change; those that object often invent spurious problems to enable their personal biases (Independent Scotland under Salmond, for example) to colour, distort and raise objection to change. Strange is it not that breaking The Union is OK, separation of Shetland and Orkney from Scotland is “is not a realistic alternative”. A bit of a double standard I fear.

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  11. Gordon Harmer

    Happy burns night to all who would vote Yes or No.

    Does haughty Gaul invasion threat?
    Then let the louns beware, Sir;
    There’s wooden walls upon our seas,
    And volunteers on shore, Sir:
    The Nith shall run to Corsincon,
    And Criffel sink in Solway,
    Ere we permit a Foreign Foe
    On British ground to rally!
    We’ll ne’er permit a Foreign Foe
    On British ground to rally!

    O let us not, like snarling curs,
    In wrangling be divided,
    Till, slap! come in an unco loun,
    And wi’ a rung decide it!
    Be Britain still to Britain true,
    Amang ourselves united;
    For never but by British hands
    Maun British wrangs be righted!
    No! never but by British hands
    Shall British wrangs be righted!

    The Kettle o’ the Kirk and State,
    Perhaps a clout may fail in’t;
    But deil a foreign tinkler loun
    Shall ever ca’a nail in’t.
    Our father’s blude the Kettle bought,
    And wha wad dare to spoil it;
    By Heav’ns! the sacrilegious dog
    Shall fuel be to boil it!
    By Heav’ns! the sacrilegious dog
    Shall fuel be to boil it!

    The wretch that would a tyrant own,
    And the wretch, his true-born brother,
    Who would set the Mob aboon the Throne,
    May they be damn’d together!
    Who will not sing “God save the King,”
    Shall hang as high’s the steeple;
    But while we sing “God save the King,”
    We’ll ne’er forget The People!
    But while we sing “God save the King,”
    We’ll ne’er forget The People!

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  12. John Tulloch

    Thanks to Robin Barclay for the fascinating insight into Shetland’s history.

    Here’s an interesting model, courtesy of Wikipedia:

    “The Åland Islands or Åland (Swedish: Åland, Swedish pronunciation: [ˈoːland]; Finnish: Ahvenanmaa) is an autonomous, demilitarised, monolingually Swedish-speaking region of Finland that consists of an archipelago lying at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea. Collectively, the islands in the archipelago form the smallest region of Finland, constituting 0.49% of its land area and 0.50% of its population.

    Åland comprises Fasta Åland (“Main Island”, on which 90% of the population resides)[5] and a further 6,500 skerries and islands to its east. Fasta Åland is separated from the coast of Sweden by 38 kilometres (24 mi) of open water to the west. In the east, the Åland archipelago is contiguous with the Finnish Archipelago Sea. Åland’s only land border is located on the uninhabited skerry of Märket,[6] which it shares with Sweden.

    Åland’s autonomous status means that those provincial powers normally exercised by representatives of the central Finnish government are largely exercised by its own government.”

    Their motto is “Islands of peace.”

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  13. John Tulloch

    I meant to add in my comment above, at 28,000 the population of Aland is comparable to Shetland.

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  14. Robert Sim

    Ian, thanks for your reply to my last post. However I feel that I have to reply, as you are glossing over some crucial facts and that could mislead. You say that “The Channel Isles, The Manx and Faroe appear to have had no problems with self government.” If we focus on the first two, the ones under British rule, the reason they have “no problems” is because they attained their semi-independent status in the mediaeval era (the 14th century, to be specific), long, long before the essential institutions of modern society came into being; and every historical development since then, up to and including the modern state, has therefore been adapted to suit their pre-existing autonomous condition.

    In the case of Shetland, the very opposite is the case. Our islands have been part of Scotland and then the UK for hundreds of years. We have no experience at all for hundreds of years of self-government in the way you mean.

    We live in the modern era. Our institutions, as I said previously, are those of the Scottish state and they are shaped and controlled by national statute and policy. You go on to say that “Crown Dependency does not require our institutions – the legal system, the police service, the medical sector and all the various arms of local government (education, transport etc) to be reborn from scratch”. I think that effectively it would mean that, as, under Scottish independence, there would be a need to re-work the relationship between the Crown Dependency and either the Scottish state or the rest of Great Britain, whichever was the relevant body. Unless you propose setting up teacher-training institutions, law faculties and teaching hospitals in Shetland? I think the idea of doing that re-shaping job is not, as you say, a “simple” one. It is an unrealistic and unnecessary one.

    That is not to say that Shetland should not argue its case strongly under independence, if that comes to pass. I think that is an uncontentious point.

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  15. Gordon Harmer

    Positive Scottishness contrasts with the inward looking negative narrative of grievance and division. The SNP, on ceremonial occasions, wear a white rose in reference to a work by nationalist poet Hugh MacDiarmid. “The rose of all the world is not for me”, he wrote, “I want for my part only the little white rose of Scotland.” How closed-minded. How parochial. How un-Scottish. How negative.

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  16. ian tinkler

    Have truly read some drivel in my time, but Robert Sim, you have surpassed yourself this time. Are you claiming that the setting up of a modern independent state or Crown Dependency cannot be done in modern times, due to the complexity of modern institutions? Try telling that to most of Eastern Europe? Just spend a couple of minutes researching recent history and think before committing pen to paper. You further outline the difficulties in setting up teacher-training institutions, law faculties and teaching hospitals in Shetland? Well of course we could always copy the model used by The Channel Isles, The Manx, Faroe and many other small countries. Strange is it not that The Chanel Isles do so well without a teaching Hospital, Law School and modern University. Perhaps Robert you are finding problems where none exist, only your belief, now look to the truth.

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  17. John Tulloch

    The forthcoming Scottish independence referendum in 2014 is potentially an historic event of similar proportions to the Union of the Parliaments, 1707, or, for Shetland, the “Maid of Norway” episode in 1469.

    That and the historic legal anomalies detailed by Robin Barclay above being the case, it is vital that we get it right this time. There is a potentially amazing future for Shetland if we are prepared to grasp it and no stone should be left unturned along the way.

    Suffice it to say that “learned helplessness” along the lines of “A new constitution.. an laas, peerie aald wis could nivver manage dat?!” must not be allowed to enter into it.

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  18. Brian Smith

    Robin Barclay’s account is inaccurate from beginning to end. For details see my article in the New Orkney Antiquarian Journal, 5, 2010.

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  19. Robert Sim

    ian, your customary abuse aimed at anyone who takes issue with you, in however slight a way, is entertaining up to a point but ultimately tiresome. I think I am now rapidly running up some sort of personal record with you as having produced the worst ideas and the worst drivel you have ever come across.

    Hyperbole apart, you will see, if you re-read my last post, that I was not “claiming that the setting up of a modern independent state or Crown Dependency cannot be done in modern times”. I was merely pointing out that it wouldn’t, as you appeared to claim yourself in your previous post, be a “simple” thing to do. I think it would be a big and potentially self-defeating diversion of energies to try to do what you are suggesting. But we live in a democracy and if that is the way our representatives ultimately wish to go I will accept it along with everything else. And then you can tell me “I told you so!”

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  20. John Tulloch

    How about all the little countries in the Third World that were freed from the British Empire, who wrote their constitutions and laws?

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  21. Sandy McMillan

    Why should Shetland hand over what rightfully belongs to us Islanders, only for either Westminster or Holyrood, to do as they want what with what is not there’s only for David Cameron and Alex Salmond to do as they wish neither of whom have never not set foot on Shetland, at the moment the UK Is in a near state of bankruptcy, if they go we go as well then what, we will get none of the freebees we are getting, I cannot see any reason why Shetland cant stand on its own two feet, at least if we go down there will be no one to blame but our self’s,
    Now that our MSP Tavish Scott has become involved hopefully he will make the SNP sit up and listen, the SNP know exactly what the wealth of our Isles and surrounding waters holds, at this moment we hold the ACE card in the pack but we must play our card right, and hold out for some sort of Autonomy if there is a YES vote, or if there is a no vote all the more reason to go for it alone, is there any legitimate reason why we cant stand on our own, smaller Isles around the Globe have gone on there own and never looked back, with the proper people in charge, yes I mean intellectuals who know there right from there left, I seriously think Shetland has it all, Shetland in my estimation is like a huge Diamond sitting in the middle of the North sea and the Atlantic, what we need is some one like Tavish Scott or similar to push for our rights, I am not a Lib Dem by any means, A guy like Tavish Scott who knows Shetland in side out, is the type of person who would make a excellent Governor, or what ever the title would be, Shetland would need to think very hard on which way is the best way forward, Shetland has three options, Either stay with Westminster, David Cameron and Nick Clegg in charge, or a yes vote and go with Alex Salmond, or go it alone and look after our own affaires.

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  22. ian tinkler

    Robert, do not get carried away with your own elegant prose. You may write well but just for once write the truth, use simple facts with referances. That way you may appear less foolish. The truth is what matters, not just what you believe. I will ask you again, why Shetland would require setting up teacher-training institutions, law faculties and teaching hospitals in Shetland as of your previous texts have claimed? If you have no answer to that question your previous writings may be o so clever, but just simple nonsense. Also again, I ask, why exactly should we in Shetland not have the choice, democratically, of following Faroe, The Manx, Chanel Isles, Aland Isles and so many more small isles to a freedom from central control? Try a simple answer in plain text. Do not be deliberately vague with elegant, verbose language. I am sorry if you find it abusive that I call you to book for writing rubbish. Try simple facts to make your point, they are much harder to criticize.

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  23. Gordon Harmer

    Robert, “Our islands have been part of Scotland and then the UK for hundreds of years. We have no experience at all for hundreds of years of self-government in the way you mean”. This is actually “drivel” as you are advocating Scotland as an example for self government.

    Everything you have said is true, not about Shetland but about Scotland, even with the the Scottish Parliament, Scotland has no idea of self government in any way or form.

    When our dictatorial First Minister is asked any question on Scotland’s future as an independent nation all we get for answers are lies and rhetoric.

    We have no idea if we will be part of Europe or not, we don’t know what currency we will have. We don’t know what we will pay for our TV licence, road tax, driving licence, passport and a hundred other every day expenses. We don’t know what share of the pension pot we have all paid into in Westminster will come to Holyrood for the benefit of Scottish pensioners.

    Every day people have questions about every day costs and we don’t know the answers because neither do the SNP who along with others would take us blindly into the unknown.

    What Ian proposes can be researched and the answers are there because it has been done before, there are no lies or rhetoric involved.

    You seem to take issue with the way Ian debates, well Iv’e learned through experience that’s the way he does it, so my advice is if you cant stand the heat stay out of the kitchen.

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  24. Douglas Young

    I am interested in both sides of the debate but comments describing someone else’s point as “drivel” is helpful to neither.

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  25. John Tulloch

    Douglas,

    Gordon, like Ian is apt to “call a spade a spade” and for the benefit of the polite dinner party fraternity, my interpretation of “drivel” is “devoid of logic.”

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  26. Robert Sim

    Savaged by the self-appointed guards of the forum!

    Ian, Gordon and John, I suggest you all have a look again at the last paragraph of the letter that started this debate off. It states that “Malcolm Bell brings a note of sanity to this issue when he says that reasoned debate is the only way forward”. “Reasoned debate” means examining the facts and drawing conclusions from them. That is what I did in my previous posts. For example, one fact I was looking at is exactly the same fact you can address – but chose not to – about how long the Channel Islands etc have been semi-autonomous. You then brought in another lot of facts about former Eastern Bloc countries in support of your different point of view. Fair enough. That is the nature of debate. We don’t all have to agree on a single point of view – not about complex, hypothetical matters like what happens after Scotland gains independence.

    Reasoned debate also only works if you make an effort to understand what the other person is saying. I was, for example, Ian, not claiming Shetland would require the setting up of teacher-training institutions, law faculties and teaching hospitals here, as you seem to think. I was simply pointing out that it is not a straightforward matter to negotiate Crown Dependency status, including how law and education etc would be run here. I made that point and then added “Unless you propose setting up teacher-training institutions, law faculties and teaching hospitals in Shetland?” So they were mentioned to make a point, not as a proposal I was making. It would of course be lunacy to do anything like that.

    Anyway, to come to the main point. You ask, Ian, “…why exactly should we in Shetland not have the choice, democratically, of following Faroe, The Manx, Chanel Isles, Aland Isles and so many more small isles to a freedom from central control?” Who said that choice does not exist? Certainly not me. You need to read something else I wrote above: “But we live in a democracy and if that is the way our representatives ultimately wish to go I will accept it along with everything else. And then you can tell me “I told you so!””

    My main point is quite simple and has been made above more than once. I do not think it would be manageable or worthwhile for Shetland to strive after Crown Dependency status. There, I have said it in one sentence. Simple enough for you?

    Gordon took something I said about the fact that Shetland has been part of the Scottish and then the British nation-state for hundreds of years and then wrote a long piece about Alex Salmond. I must admit I got lost in there somewhere. He ends by charmingly inviting me to stay out of the kitchen if I can’t stand the heat. Presumably the heat generated by the really serious debaters, as opposed to amateurs like me. It might be worthwhile, though, Gordon, reading the Shetland Times text that is there every time you post a comment, the bit that says: “Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.”

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  27. ian tinkler

    Robert, I am glad for a clear and unambiguous expression of your opinion. That cannot be criticised and is laudable. It is however only an opinion, no more, no less. I would disagree, often inane as are local leaders are, they are local, contactable and our very own. We individually can see and discus events and policy with them. That is something individually we can never do with Salmond and his Holyrood friends. or for that matter Westminster politicians. I prefer our own locally bred and resident clowns to distant clowns from overseas. My natural preference would be continuation of a United Kingdom, but if that is not to be, Shetland has the ability and leadership to go for Crown Dependency, for what it is worth, that is my profound belief.

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  28. Gordon Harmer

    Robert my long piece was a short piece about the SNP and its dictatorial leader blindly dragging us all down the independence road. I also pointed out that Ian’s proposal was a better deal for Shetland because it contains no lies or rhetoric unlike Salmond fairy tale view on independence.

    By “if you cant stand the heat get out of the kitchen ” I meant if you debate with Ian who is known for his direct approach expect a robust argument in return. Just get on and answer him instead of bleating about the way he does it. If you think he is bad go on independence blogs or Facebook and get a taste of the cyber bullies on there, Ian is a kitten in comparison.

    Having said that please tell me why we should not have the chance to determine where funds allocated to us are spent. Westminster,Holyrood and Brussels have made a pigs ear of it especially where Shetland is concerned. Are you saying we don’t have the right to determine our own future.

    Shetland is probably the most economically viable part of Britain just now and we can sustain that well into the future. If the rest of Britain had followed Shetlands no vote on the common market referendum, this country would not be in the state it is in now. I think this shows we have foresight and could fend for our selves and therefore should be given the chance to do so.

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  29. John Tulloch

    Robert,

    Actually, I enjoy your contribution to the various debates and hadn’t considered my last comment as savagery at all, rather, as a light-hearted addition.

    Nor do I find much to quibble about in what you have said however I can’t agree with this comment you made above;-

    “I think it (setting up a Crown Dependency) would be a big and potentially self-defeating diversion of energies to try to do what you (Ian Tinkler) are suggesting.”

    Yes it would involve considerable legal and bureaucratic effort however I don’t accept it would be “potentially self-defeating.”

    I take your point about the Channel Islands and the isle of Man however the difficulties you indicate do not seem to have hindered Scandinavian countries from creating autonomous island communities in the twentieth century, as recently as 1975 (Greenland).

    I expect places like Faroe and Greenland have experience of developing satisfactory institutions that we could learn much from if it came to it.

    I am not saying we should leave Scotland or the UK, I am saying that during this once in three centuries opportunity we should consider all options and their implications carefully and indeed, debate them here and elsewhere.

    I want us to make the right decision for the right reasons and if it turns out there are serious benefits in Crown Dependency I can’t accept learned helplessness in the form “Whit, peerie aald Shetlan’, we cud nivver dae dat”? as an excuse for not doing it.

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  30. ian tinkler

    (Sorry, Robert, for error here, should be written), It is however only an opinion, no more, no less. I would disagree with that opinion. (Dyslexia rules)!!! PS, I see things only in black and white, no greys, fact or nonsense, nothing in between. As an educationalist Robert, any opinions. (Dyslexia or science training colouring my opinion and critical view)

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  31. Derick Tulloch

    A peerie suggestion.

    Assuming Scotland becomes independent and the UK is therefore dissolved, the current proposal from the SNP is for a unicameral parliament as now. Basically the Scottish Parliament will simply take on the full powers of a normal state parliament and the unnecessary layer (Westminster) will no longer be in the equation. This will save Scottish taxpayers £50m a year.

    Because the population is greatest in the central belt, the elected chamber will always (and correctly) be dominated by the populated areas.

    One way to re-balance this would be to have a Scottish Senate – a second, revising chamber. The Senate should be elected geographically – Shetland gets – 1 or 2 Senators, Glasgow gets 1 or 2, Orkney gets 1 or 2, Edinburgh gets 1 or 2. Senatorial constituencies to be broadly based on the existing 32 local authorities – although Highland is really too big so perhaps it should be split into at least 2 constituencies.

    As with the House of Lords the Senate should have the power to delay and revise, but not over-rule the elected chamber.

    The Senate should not be based in Edinburgh in order to maintain ‘distance’ from the Scottish Parliament, but should be outwith the Central Belt. There’s a rather fine building in Perth that would do nicely (bear in mind that Senators would have to travel from the Borders and from Shetland).

    The Senate should be constitutionally entrenched as part of our new written constitution.

    In this way the outlying areas – the Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, the Hebrides, Orkney, Shetland, The Highlands, the North East – would be properly represented in the new Scottish Democracy

    Forget Tramish and Lib Dem self-interest. Forget the irrelevance of UKIP or of Calamity’s Shetlandshire dreams. Forget the fake viking tosh. Take practical steps to ensure that the centralism of Westminster is not replicated in Scotland.

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  32. John Tulloch

    An interesting suggestion Derick which would provide some safeguards for rural areas, I wonder how it will go down with Labour and the SNP, perhaps Yes Shetland will revoke their vow of silence and let us know?

    Reply
  33. Ali Inkster

    Derick Tulloch, the scorn in the first part of your last paragraph is typical of the attitude of the SNP and Salmond in particular towards Shetland, The apple has not fallen very fair from the lairds tree in your case, has it?

    Reply
  34. Gordon Harmer

    Derick, in the unlikely event of a yes vote and Scotland becoming independent the UK will not be dissolved it would just become a threesome.

    I don’t know how you work out that by getting rid of Westminster, Scottish tax payers will be better off by £50m a year. When the Scottish parliament has the propensity to spend £414m on an extraneous and grotesque building such as Holyrood.

    If your Senate was based in Perth they would probably build themselves another eyesore in the image of Holyrood at a cost close to £1billion. This supplementary and expensive layer of government will still be some 250 miles from Lerwick and therefore out of touch with the requirements of Shetlanders.

    Many on the yes side of the independence fence argue that Westminster is 300 miles from Edinburgh therefore out of touch with the needs of Scotland. Well Edinburgh is also 300 miles away from Lerwick so we can apply that logic to the argument for self determination for Shetland (without fear of contradiction).

    For you to say “take practical steps to ensure that the centralism of Westminster is not replicated in Scotland” totally negates every word you have written in your comment. You can only have decentralisation by giving power and responsibility to those who desire it.

    Whatever form of government layout you propose if it involves the SNP we will be governed from 831 miles away by a corrupt and unelected bunch of x and failed politicians in Brussels.

    Reply
  35. Derick Tulloch

    John,
    Yes Shetland could and should play a role in lobbying for a Senate. I would say Shetland should play a leading role. Whatever one’s view on Scotland’s constitutional future if we are heading for Independence then it is up to us to make it fit our needs. Applies to Argyll as much as Shetland. All this nonsense about Shetland ‘staying’ with England is just scare and fear – and given the international precedents regarding ‘isolated offshore islands’ within the EEZ of other states extremely risky nonsense for Shetland.

    I was at a well attended lecture at Glasgow University in September by Donald Shell entitled ‘Does Scotland Need A Senate’ http://www.gla.ac.uk/events/lectures/?action=details&id=6210 and I made the point that quite a few in the land of my birth would ask ‘Why swop far away London for far away Edinburgh?’ (not a view I hold to but I asked the question). Seemed to be well received and I noted that the Research Director of the Constitutional Commission took it on board. There are many ways to provide checks and balances but a geographically elected Senate is the only way to do it in a country with Scotland’s human geography. Shetland, Orkney, Elean Siar, the Highlands, Argyll and Kintyre, The Northeast, Caithness & Sutherland, The Borders and Dumfries & Galloway are potentially a very influential grouping and should be working together to ensure a Senate forms part of any discussions around a Scottish Constitution are in there at the drafting stage to ensure the outlying areas are fully represented. Shetland has her unique points, as do all these other areas. All have an interest in shaping any reformed Scottish State to our own interest and ensuring the Central Belt does not dominate.

    Ali I have no idea what du is on aboot regarding lairds trees and apples! Certainly scorn for fake vikings though. Load a nonsense.

    Gordon £50m is from the Yes Scotland main site. Presume they have added up all the MP salaries (nearly £4m alone!), expenses, staff costs, House of Lords etc and that’s what it comes to. A Senate could be funded from that with a very considerable surplus.

    I suggested Perth because it is geographically central and there is a fine building currently vacant which could be adapted for a very modest sum. http://www.saveperthcityhall.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/PCH1.jpg
    Amenable to other suggestions – Aberdeen or Inverness have good transport links but no suitable building going cheap.

    The constitutional position is clear – the United Kingdom State was formed by the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England (incorporating Wales) in 1707. Ireland came later, and partly left again – but the founding partners are Scotland and England/Wales. If one partner withdraws from the Treaty and there is no UK State. If your wife leaves you, you are single!

    Reply
  36. Derick Tulloch

    PS Labour would be against it as they seem to be against everything. The SNP – I think we would push at an open door, particularly if all the outlying areas supported a Senate. The Liberals if they had any sense would grab the idea as a drowning man grabs a spar – but I suspect their British Unionism will blind them to it.

    Reply
  37. Robin Barclay

    Brian Smith says my account is inaccurate from beginning to end and cites his own published interpretation as the correct account. My account is based on what I was told growing up in Shetland by various sources, and verified by checking from what seems to be available currently on the internet. I am no expert in this, whereas it is in Brian’s professional/academic field – so I would very much like to hear what his interpretation of Shetland’s constitutional position is, and where my reading has misinformed me. He cites an article he has published which is not freely available, so it would be good if he could summarise his views here, not just for me but for the information of others. I have no political axe to grind – I would hesitate to join any party because I might feel obliged to vote for them. I am swithering as to how I personally should vote in the independence referendum, but suspect that the country will vote no to leaving the UK. However that doesn’t mean that Shetland’s constitutional position shouldn’t be clarified and that there might be an opportunity to use that process to gain some measure of autonomy – it may never come again so it needs to be considered and maybe pursued. It might be going a bit far to suggest that we could even look to doing some deal with Norway if we can’t get satisfaction from Scotland and/or the UK. Norwegians seem to have a good deal from their government in many respects – but that doesn’t seem to figure in any comment above. I have many friends in Norway and from discussions with them it seems to me that Shetlanders should maybe look across the water, compare, and reflect whether that might be in their interests. Maybe Brian can tell us if constitutionally that is a no starter.

    Reply
  38. Brian Smith

    Robin – if you write to me at kellister@btinternet.com I shall send you a pdf of the artcle. Best, Brian.

    Reply
  39. Alan reid

    - Gordon Harmer, would you care to comment on the following?

    “‘Scotland subsidising rest of UK’ October 2010 by World Renowned Economist Andrew Hughes Hallett

    “A leading Professor of Economics, Andrew Hughes Hallett, has sensationally confirmed that Scotland has been subsidising the UK treasury in London for years and that the Calman Commission recommendations are unworkable and potentially damaging.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbUZkKD-jrY

    Reply
  40. Alan reid

    The Unionists say, If Westminster retains control of Shetland, Orkney and Rockall, Scotland will have no oil resources.

    If Scotland becomes independent Westminster won’t be able to hang on to Shetland, Orkney, Rockall or any other part of Scotland (see: Shetland and Orkney).

    However, even under the hypothetical circumstance that this occurred, Westminster wouldn’t be able to retain control of the oil fields anyway, so ya boo sux. These matters are regulated by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which the UK is a signatory. International law specifies that a state controls the continental shelf and associated mineral and fishing rights up to 200 nautical miles (230 miles or 370 km) off its shores. When another state possesses an island within the continental shelf of this state, special rules apply.

    The continental shelf off the Atlantic coast is Scotland’s to exploit and develop, even if Westminster clung on to Rockall like a plook on the face of an adolescent sociopath. According to the Law of the Sea: “rocks which could not sustain human habitation or economic life of their own would have no economic zone or continental shelf.” Westminster could pauchle its way to keeping Rockall, but as far as oil and fishing exploitation rights are concerned, they’d be entitled to rockall.

    Neither would Westminster gain much by holding onto Shetland and Orkney. When an island belonging to one state sits on the continental shelf of another state, the islands are treated as enclaves. This matter was discussed in detail in a legal paper published by the European Journal of International Law: Prospective Anglo-Scottish Maritime Boundary Revisited

    Most of the rights to the continental shelf would remain Scottish, Map 2 on page 29 of the legal paper shows the most likely sea boundaries. Westminster would be entitled only to a small zone around the islands, and the waters between Orkney and Shetland. This area contains no oil fields. If Shetland and Orkney were to remain under Westminster’s control, Shetland would no longer have an oil fund. The map is reproduced here, so you can do a reverse Jeremy Paxman and sneer derisively at Westminster’s pretensions.

    Westminster’s Shetland threat is a bluff. Westminster knows it’s a bluff. They just don’t want us to know too.

    Reply
  41. Ali Inkster

    @ Allan Reid, So what would happen to the continental shelf if Shetland and Orkney were to choose to be free of both Edinburgh and London? Scots nationalists are happy to crow about how the oil and fish is theirs all theirs and no one else’s.
    But what if eh?

    Reply
  42. Allen Fraser

    The political and economic fantasist Alec Salmond and his band of deluded separatists intend to use 2014, the 700th anniversary of a rare home international victory for Scotland, as the date of a referendum on the partition of the United Kingdom.

    If the referendum resulted in the formation of a separate Scottish state it would be a nice gesture by Scotland to hand Shetland back to Norway as a gift to celebrate the 200th anniversary in 2014 of the year that Norway broke free from its 400-year union with Denmark and became an autonomous nation.

    The chances of a yes vote and Shetland being handed back to Norway are about the same.

    Reply
  43. Gordon Harmer

    Alan Reid, I think Andrew Hughes Hallett was probably having a delusional attack when he said that, the same kind of attack that seems to affect most separatists from time to time. It seems to be brought on by actually believing what Alex Salmond preaches.

    Reply
  44. Gordon Harmer

    Alan, he advocates Scotland’s own currency, “what” printed by whom and guaranteed by whom, as lender of last resort? RBS, or BOS? The Bank of Toytown would be a better gamble? Do you have a clue how the financial institutions operate? Worse still, does John Swinney or Alex Salmond.

    According to the Barnett formula public expenditure allocated per head of population in the UK works out like this,
    England £7,121, Scotland £8,623, Wales £8,139, Northern Ireland £9,385, so just how does Scotland subsidise the rest of the UK.
    Every one pays the same rate of tax the same VAT the same everything through out the nation so who is subsidising who?

    I ask you, is this a valid reason to break up the most successful union in the world.

    Reply
  45. Jim Reid

    I suppose it all depends where you pull your facts and figures from and how you wish to present them. Some actual figures which anybody can get.

    Everyone tells us that Scotland is too poor to stand on its own feet and we will always require an English subsidy.

    Fact! Scotland has 8.6% of the UK population yet raises 10.41% of all UK tax revenues. (Source Treasury red Book 2002) Go figure it out for yourself. Exactly who is subsidising who?

    Scotland could not survive without the Barnet formula handout from England.

    The Barnett Formula is nothing more than a device which gives Scotland some of its own pocket money out of Scotland’s pay packet which is taken by England. In 2002, Scotland contributed £42.7Billions to the UK Exchequer and received £18.1 Billions doled back in return via Barnet. It would be a much better idea to keep the £42.7 Billions as an Independent Country.

    North Sea oil is running out fast and soon there will be nothing left……

    According to Professor Alex Kemp, of Petroleum Economics at the University of Aberdeen. North Sea Oil and Gas production will still be present in 2050. There is as much known oil left yet to be extracted than has already been exploited. Shale gas looks to be a long term solution should we decide go down that route and stop paying a ludicrous subsidy to an industry that never will be able to meet our needs.

    Britain is becoming a net importer of oil and natural gas.

    False, Scotland is a net exporter of Oil and Gas. Fact: An independent Scotland with 17.5% of Europe’s Oil reserves will be a net exporter of oil and gas for at least 25 years more years. Properly invested the proceeds will make Scotland the second richest nation on earth for its size. There will be huge social and economic benefits for all Scotland’s Citizens and public services.

    Scotland is too poor and small to afford to defend itself.

    Why not? Switzerland uses just 1% of its GDP to provide a modern efficient Army and Air force. Norway spends 1.9% and can defend itself adequately. The UK spends 2.32% of GDP on its armed forces (Including Trident) Scotland can afford 1.6% of its GDP and still have modern professional armed forces half the size of the present UK.

    We have a huge balance of payments problem; Scotland cannot possibly hope to pay her way.

    False, the UK as a whole has Balance of Payments deficit of £44 Billions per annum. Scotland however actually contributes a Surplus of £3.4 Billions in 2005.

    Scotland could not compete against the mighty economic muscle of England.

    Untrue, Denmark has an economic superpower to her south (Germany) and she does very well indeed. Switzerland is surrounded by three great economic superpowers, France, Italy, and Germany, yet she is the most prosperous nation in Europe. Singapore is a tiny island of 4 million people right next door to Indonesia with a population if 201 Millions yet is the powerhouse driving the SE Asian economy. Scotland has more than enough expertise to compete and prosper.

    Scotland is too far away from the centre of Europe to prosper.

    Nonsense, we have all the resources that a modern society will need, it is incredible what is being made of Scotlands place in Europe if there was a yes vote. There is absolutely no reason to suggest we would not be accepted as currently it’s all hands to the pumps to try and save the floundering Euro economy.

    The City of London is too powerful a financial centre for Scotland to compete against.

    Scotland is the third largest of Europe’s top ten financial centres, supporting employment for in the region of 200,000 people. Financial Services accounts for 8% of Scotland’s GDP and generates more than £20 billion annually for the economy. Scotland is reckoned to be the 12th leading global financial centre.

    Scotland does not have the financial expertise to run its own affairs.

    Who says so, it is strange that the late British Empire relied on a preponderance of Scots to run their affairs. Scots bankers, economists and Accountants (reckoned to be the best in their fields) are to be found at all levels of the UK Government. Therefore the expertise is there. I can hear ‘What about Gordon Brown’ well we did not lose the triple A status under his tenure. In my lifetime the longest period of controlled interest rates and no boom and bust economy as in the eighties when we lurched from one election to the other. Allbeit they gave the decision making power to Sir Mervin King a guy who actually knew what he was doing.

    One thing we do seem to excel at is running ourselves down. The ballot box will decide, but remember there is no 2/3 majority required as was imposed by Westminster in the Seventies 51% will do.

    Reply
  46. John Tulloch

    And the relationship of Switzerland and Norway to the EU is…?

    Correct, they’re not in it and – not that I hold any brief for the present lot, my support for New Labour had to be knocked out of me “good and proper” – Brown deregulated the banks, helped to destroy pensions and failed to adhere to his own “Golden Rule” which all contributed to the mess we are in now.

    The reason the UK’s “AAA” credit rating has been downgraded is because the ongoing mismanagement of the EU economy has added further banking crises exacerbated by bad loans for property and renewable energy which raises inflation and simultaneously takes money out of people’s pockets, hence we have low growth and our credit rating goes down.

    Switzerland and Norway are not in the EU and are doing “nicely, thank you.”

    Reply
  47. Gordon Harmer

    So Jim you have literally copied word for word an article from “Pros and cons of unionism” dated 28/02/2007 and you are calling it facts “what!”

    Quoting figures from 2002 and 2005, 11 and 7 years ago is hardly pulling facts relevant to today’s reality but more like clutching at straws to make fiction.
    Followed by the same old rhetoric, if so and so can do it so can we. This reminds me of being in the playground and hearing other guys bragging what their Dad could do better than a siblings Dad.

    I notice you have not used poor old bankrupt Ireland as an example of what Scotland could be like, you have finally realised this example is a bit to near the truth for comfort.

    And only this week (not 11 years ago) the OBR forecast an £8bn fall in projected revenues from the UK’s oil and gas industry. This will critically damage Scotland’s chances of surviving as a viable independent state, in the unlikely event of a yes vote. The fall in expectations, since the last OBR projections must be hard for the SNP and their sheep like followers to swallow, as they have laid claim to at least 90 per cent of the UK’s North Sea energy reserves. What a blow to Alex Salmond and followers who have depended heavily on claims that “Scotland’s oil” could help their fantasy of an independent state.

    Reply
  48. John Tulloch

    “The UK spends 2.32% of GDP on its armed forces (Including Trident) Scotland can afford 1.6% of its GDP and still have modern professional armed forces half the size of the present UK.”

    Is it just me?

    If Scotland can have armed forces half the size of the UK’s for 1.6 percent of Scotland’s GDP versus the UK spend of 2.3 percent of its roughly 10 times larger GDP then either the English are missing something or we are planning to equip them with “Ginger Jock” Tam o’Shanters, kilts and claymores.

    Reply
  49. Robert Peffers

    Greetings from Fife. I stumbled upon, “The Shetland Times”, website while searching for something else and was greatly interested by the debate on the subject of independence for the Northern Isles. As a long term SNP supporter I know SNP Party policy upon independence for any parts of an independent Scotland wishing independence. First, to be clear, the Scottish Government has no powers to grant independence. This is what Mr Salmond had said about Orkney & Shetland that is wrongly reported as him saying they were too wee to matter. Thus independence for Shetland, if Islanders so voted, is dependent upon Scotland’s first gaining her independence. SNP policy is that, “In an already independent Scotland”, if Shetland so voted, they would become independent but that more decentralised powers would be the best way forward for all concerned. The obvious downside for Shetland is this – On Shetland independence the Islands would be subject to, “The International Law of The Seas”. The Islands would thus become an, “Enclave”, within another state’s territorial waters. Thus they would have very little territorial waters and NO continental shelf whatsoever. How much oil & gas fields would remain in Shetland waters would be very much limited. Please, Shetlanders, ask proper Scottish Government, or even independent, legal advice before continued debate upon this matter. I fear your elected members are rather sparse with the truth.
    Aefauldlie, (Scots for Honestly), Frae, Robert, (Auld Bob), Peffers.

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  50. Ian Morrison

    All this debate is predictably mired in the same concerns and arguments.

    The legal status of Shetland is settled. It has been for hundreds of years. Get over it. Trying to apply modern legal procdedure to medievel times is a non starter. Indeed who gave Norway/Denmark Shetland or Orkney? Where is their legal basis for ownership? This is mired in semantic nonesense. “Illegal annexation”. Pah. Much of the world is made up of countries made from conquests and war never mind what we are talking about here.

    Shetland is as part of Scotland as Perth, Edinburgh, Ullapool, or Gretna. It is a very special place. Beautiful with a cultural richeness that is amazing, BUT there are many places in Scotland that are special. In fact I would contend that every part of Scotland is special and amazing. Shetland however is no more “special” that the next place. This idea that the islands are somehow better than elsewhere is not really constructive. At the core of it is a unconstructive and somewhat distasteful arrogance. I love Shetland but I don’t look on the rest of the country as some scumbags who hate us. Alex Salmond is NOT Hitler but just a politician. You may not agree with his policies or views but to cook up some hatred based on a chip on the should that somehow we in Shetland are actively stuffed by this man and his party is blatently rubbish. Anyway in the question of independance, the SNP and Alex Salmond are the means to an end, they would not be the end. The idea of a senate is exactly what will happen. People in Scotland will look around and choose the best for themselves. They will vote for whatever party will offer them this. Independance does not lead to a SNP fiefdom. They’d be but one party. Maybe even an irrelevant one having lost their purpose. Who knows, but the Scottish people , made up from many cultures, many areas and communities will decide.

    The arguments I read and hear appear ill-tempered and coloured by a nasty prejudice which really doesn’t need to be the case. It isn’t just about money. It isn’t just about what we as individuals or communities get. It is about more than that.

    Can’t we have a mature decent debate?

    Reply
  51. John Tulloch

    Ian,

    I live on the Scottish mainland and I like the people and the place very much, indeed. That is irrelevant to what is best for the future of Shetland.

    I’m unsure why you are resurrecting this argument, there’s a far more important one based on a contemporary issue on another thread – notably, the inability of the SNP and its former member Jean Urquhart MSP to properly research their sweeping statements about the consequences of home rule for Shetland in international law.

    I’d rather carry on with that one for the moment if you don’t mind and I’d very much like to hear your views on that subject.

    Reply
  52. Gordon Harmer

    Just because the debate is not going your way Ian does not mean it is not mature and decent. Typical SNP rant, if you don’t agree with us you are nasty nasty people you are traitors and anti Scottish with a big chip on your shoulder..

    Reply

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