17th August 2018
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Students shift in favour of ‘yes’ vote after college debate

A debate at Shetland College today into Scottish independence ended with a slim majority voting in favour of sticking with the status quo.

However the hour-long debate, in which MSP Tavish Scott spoke for the “no” campaign and SNP member Danus Skene and Glasgow-based Yes Scotland youth co-ordinator Ross Greer spoke for independence, did manage to shift opinion in the “yes” direction.

Before the debate a ballot was taken – 20 returns yielded four “yes”, 10 “no” and six “don’t know” votes. Afterwards this had changed to nine “yes”, 11 “no” and only two who did not know.

This was very encouraging, said Mr Greer, who is a member of the Green Party.

Opening the debate, he stressed that he did not support the SNP and the issue was not about “one flag or the other”, but about democracy, fairness and prosperity. He said that with only four per cent representation at Westminster, Scottish influence was “negligible”. Scots do not get what they vote for and the system “doesn’t work for us,” he said.

He said Scotland is the eighth wealthiest country in the world but one in four children lives in poverty – in the comparable country of Denmark it is one in 20. Given Scotland’s “vast wealth” it should be an “incredibly prosperous” nation.

Mr Scott responded by saying that Scotland, including Shetland, has the “best of all worlds” by being in the UK. Scotland can set its own policies for health, education and transport but at the same time benefit from the power of the UK internationally. “To ignore all that would be a mistake.”

The benefits could be seen within the UK too – he gave the example of Sir Chris Hoy, who could not have achieved his Olympic medals had he not been part of Team GB. On a personal note, he did not want to use a passport when visiting family in the west country of England.

Mr Skene called issues such as passports a “distraction”. He said the vote in the referendum was about giving Scotland, rather than the UK, the right to make fundamental choices: “It’s about moving from lack of opportunity and imposition to making up our own minds.”

This would include currency. Mr Scott said he did not know what this would mean for an independent Scotland – it could possibly result in Angela Merkel setting the budget.

He also said that the “yes” campaigners were taking a chance “benchmarking” the whole economy on the price of oil and gas, but Mr Skene said the uncertainty prevailed at UK level too. In any case Scotland would have renewables, and separate fiscal arrangements would enable the country to help small and medium-sized businesses.

But again he did not want to dwell on details: “It’s like moving house and worrying about the clutter under the kitchen sink.” He said it was about “my country looking after itself” and that the time was up for the partnership of 300 years, which had been of “greater or lesser effectiveness.”

Responding to a comment that Scotland might find it more difficult to be effective on a “smaller stage”, Mr Greer said that although the UK had many embassies throughout the world it did not necessarily conduct itself well with its “imperialist attitudes”. Arms had been sold to Saudi Arabia and asylum seekers had been sent home to their death.

On a topic closer to home he asked: “What possible benefit does Trident have for us?”

Mr Scott said that being part of the EU had benefited Shetland businesses, and if Scotland had to re-negotiate entry terms, it was possible that: “Spanish fishermen will rub their hands in glee”.

But Mr Skene said the issue was not about money, it was about “self-management” from a country “sure of its own identity”.

Mr Greer agreed that the vote should be about creating a fairer society rather than personal wealth, and pointed out that the UK is in debt to China. But Mr Scott retorted: “Of course it’s about money.”

The debate touched on peripherality – would a centralised government in Edinburgh be any better than a centralised government in Edinburgh? Mr Greer said: “democracy works better on a smaller scale”, and, in his summing up, Mr Skene said that from a Shetland point of view the best chance of increased powers of autonomy would be through a “yes” vote.

However Mr Scott said the SNP campaign was “floundering”, with no-one having any idea where the country would end up if it split apart.

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About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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24 comments

  1. J Stewart

    That actually reflects national trends that younger people are more in favour of independence:

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/945815_519990671393261_1677903282_n.jpg

    Reply
  2. Well done to all the young folk!

    This auld yin says:

    Choose to have a choice.
    Vote to have a vote.
    In 2014 you have a chance to have a voice.

    Reply
  3. James Rattray

    What an intriguing report.

    The swing from Undecided to Yes is striking.

    And not at all surprising. All the points from the NO campaign were negative. Some of them were untrue or deeply misleading. But they simply did not work.

    That is what the YES camp have been saying all along – negative campaigning doesn’t work. And the more people see it, the less they believe it.

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  4. David Spence

    I am sure nobody needs a geography lesson to know that Scotland, Wales (I would say Ireland………but part of it has been ‘ stolen ‘ by the *******) are countries in their own right…….or is this not recognized by the majority of people in the United Kingdom (mainly 1 country which has the largest percentage of the population – even so, that is no excuse for the present status quo). Give me 1 sensible reason why Scotland or Wales should not be independent? The creation of a United Kingdom was not a mutually agreed partnership between the countries (Wales, Scotland and Ireland) and thus it is their right to vote for independence and have greater autonomy of its own affairs.

    So, please answer the basic question : Is Scotland and Wales recognized as countries, and do they have the right to govern themselves?????

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  5. Is my reading of this right?

    Tavish Scott’s arguments are based on not wanting to use a passport between Scotland and England (like the French don’t going to Belgium), that Scotland would be reliant on a “volatile” oil and gas economy (like Norway is, although they seem to be doing OK), and Scotland would be incapable of negotiating a decent fisheries agreement with the EU (like the UK hasn’t)?

    Is that it? Is there nothing positive coming from the anti self-determinationists?

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  6. Douglas Young

    Chris Hoy could not become a gold medalist without Scotland being in the Union? If this is the best Tavish Scott can come up with for continuing to pay 9.6% of the UK’s tax revenues and receiving only 9.3% back, little wonder the tide is turning towards a YES vote.

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  7. Ron Wilson

    What’s this faux concern from Tavish on passports to visit people in Somerset? When travelling within the UK right now passports are needed to board internal flights. This is pure infantile scaremongering and is an insult to the intelligence of the electorate.

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  8. David Allan

    Tavish , I’d gladly sacrifice our “international influence” any day to ensure we continue to benefit from a properly funded Scottish National Health Service, to see future young Scots continue to enjoy the opportunity to go to University without incurring tuition fees . To continue to enjoy the benefits of Scottish Water being under public control. (no water meter). That`s why I`ll will vote for Independence. 50+ Scots MP’s have never had any international influence.
    A Scottish Government can have International Influence.

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  9. Dan Simpson

    Chris Hoy could not have won a gold medal if he hadn’t represented GB ???? Thats nonsense,Chris Hoy is a top cyclist he would have competed for Scotland and won for Scotland.Tavish Scott is badly affected by the Scottish cringe I think.

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  10. Jerry Mciver

    Why is it always the argument that Scotland pays more into the UK than it gets back? To me that just suggests an impending ‘Shetland Problem’ if Scotland gained independence. Suddenly swamped with wealth it would go on an orgy of spending until it had commitments its revenues could no longer support. This will happen at some point, just as the EU project was always doomed to failure without the union of political, monetary and tax policies that no member state really wants.

    The SNPs case doesn’t add up – the benefits of tax independence and the prospect of tax being fair and progressive to most will be interpreted as tax cuts. Hooray! They are also suggesting all the freeby’s and subsidies are retained and extended as Scotland benefits from increasingly socialist policies – the state paying for more and more stuff. Hooray!
    How? Lower taxes and more public spending? Can only mean borrowing or raiding the oil pot until that’s dry. Sound familiar?

    Scotland, like Ireland, greece, spain and portugal is geographically remote from the demographically weighted centre of Europe. In the long term, regardless of governments, policies and anything else, this fact will drive who has wealth relative to anyone else. Distance from markets = expense = reduced relative competitiveness = greater demand for publicly funded support to be sustainable.

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  11. Stewart Mack

    The only thing I see “floundering” is Tavish Scott as he scrabbles to hang onto an ounce of credibility, although the same can be said for the remainder of his Lib Dem colleagues.

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  12. Stewart Mack

    Jerry its not always the arguement that scotland pays more than it gets back! – For decades the Uk Govt, have told the Scots how they subsidise our nation and that we couldnt possibly survive without them. Now we find out that we were being told untruths for all those years and that, as many had thought, Scotland was a net contributer to the UK economy.The parties, ALL the parties should rightly make some noise about that. I dont see any of the Westminster MP’s saying sorry for misleading you for all those years Scotland, we got it wrong, They have simply and conveniently dropped it from their argument for a No vote.

    How many more untruths will out during the course of this campaign remains to be seen.

    There will be those that are so entrenched they will support (or reject) the possibility of an independant Scotland with every fibre of their being based mainly on some sort of misplaced loyalty or political dogma, there are however a large majority who are undecided and will be listening to the arguements right up to the last minute and making their own decision. Roll on the greater debates

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  13. Joe johnson

    I’m a proud Scotsman, and I believe Scotland will better in the United Kingdom. If we leave despite what the SNP say, we will be worse off. As the old saying goes “if its not broke, dont fix it”

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  14. Jerry McIver

    Fair point Stewart. But as someone once said to me, the scots are keen to tell you they have been subsidising the English for the last 40 year (since oil). They never mention the previous 260 years though.
    This isn’t a political decision or a generational decision. It’s a singular decision. 40 years is a blink in history. Oil will run out and the Uk will have zero obligation to let you back in no matter how desperate things get. It won’t be their problem any more.

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  15. Jerry
    all the countries that became independent after they left the Empire, how many have asked back?
    None.

    Joe
    if it aint broke, why fix it?
    The UK is broke in so many ways. The moral compass that allows the bedroom tax to be imposed on those most in need while at the same time allowing outrageous bankers bonuses and tax avoidance on an industrial scale is just one example.

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  16. JohnTulloch, Arrochar

    There are some serious issues about money and the liars, damned liars and statisticians will doubtless continue their exchange of fire however while it is a consideration and while it is important for small countries to “ring fence” major liabilities in the way Ireland and especially, Iceland, failed to do with their banks, there is much more to it. Money cannot buy happiness however, a sense of purpose and control of one’ life most certainly can.

    It is then about people assuming responsibility for and taking control of, their own lives which hones their creativity and commitment to life, their maturity. That said there remains a need to be part of and contribute to, larger groups which can assist their members in the event of dire need whether due from banking crises or tsunamis.

    There is no reason why Scotland cannot be successful on its own – with or without oil – like Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, etc. and I favour greater autonomy, not only for Scotland but also for places like Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and any other distinct groups who may wish to have more say over their own affairs. The question is, “how far should we go down that road”?

    Down that road potentially ruinous decisions may be made and if Scottish independence lead to, say, full independence with consequent full responsibility for the liabilities of e.g. huge banks like RBS and HBOS, then independence could be disastrous for places like Shetland which may have voted against full separation.

    For such reasons, it is in the interets of smaller groups to, either, remain associated with larger ones or, at least, to insulate themselves from catastrophes by legislation and or adaptation of defences against natural disasters.

    It follows that full separation is not to be taken lightly and if Scotland is to depend on the EU instead of London then think “Spain, Greece, Cyprus,” etc. and consider whether London would ever raid Scots’ bank accounts if Scotland ran out of money.

    The present round of UK austerity which has us all squealing blue murder looks like a socialist utopia compared to these places e.g. Spanish youth unemployment currently sits at around 50%!

    It would be important also to maintain the overall integrity of the UK as the “umbrella” organisation, the “bank of last resort,” the “goalkeeper.”

    It seems to follow from this that both Shetland and Scotland would benefit from much greater autonomy, up to the level of that achieved in Faroe and the Isle of Man and less than that achieved by Iceland.

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  17. John Ross

    @David Spence: If you’re going to debate on a public forum have the courage of conviction to make your argument – don’t hide behind asterix. Who exactly are the thieves?

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  18. Stewart Mack

    John Tulloch,

    I was about to answer your post and in fact had started to type when i looked at it again. Its a joke right? Good one, I’ll go have a cup of tea and a chuckle instead, Thanks for cheering me up.

    Reply
  19. David Spence

    Well John Ross, why not try a little bit of research and reading to find your answer.

    All I will say in regards to the ‘ United Kingdom ‘, it was anything but United, and remains this way even today despite 1 countries dominance.

    I suppose you are going to ask me which country is dominant, next?

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  20. David Spence

    As far as I am aware Alec Sammond, under the auspices of the SNP (if the people of Scotland vote for Independence in 2014, and a scottish Government is formed in 2017) is still going to be using the pound sterling as Scotland’s currency, as well as recognizing the Queen as the Head of State?

    I am intrigued to know how much power and influence the Bank of England will have on the Scottish economy, and whether or not Scotland involvement in Europe, if it joins the EU, will either a) Continue to use the Pound Sterling b) Use its own currency or c) Use the Euro, in its choice, economically, to create a stronger economic country?????

    I am also interested to know if Scotland would be better as part of the EU in relation to the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Policy, and whether or not, like Norway, it would be better off out of the EU? It would be interesting to know, as a percentage, how much Scottish business is reliant on Europe for business as well as grants and subsidies?

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  21. JohnTulloch, Arrochar

    Stewart Mack,

    Unlike you I don’t have a dogmatic position on independence to defend “to the last man.”

    When I vote I want to make a considered decision having weighed the consequences of various options and explored the various myths propagated by both sides of the argument. In particular, I shall place great weight on the likely consequences for the future of Shetland which I do see as benefiting from greater autonomy, up to but not exceeding, that of Faroe and the Isle of Man.

    I can understand you might be wounded by my part in exploding the myth of the 12 mile EEZ however, for me, that’s what this debate is about, getting to the truth, a learning process and I wont learn much if people simply dismiss my comments as risible. The 12-mile EEZ whopper was exposed by argument, not by dismissing it as risible, despite it having turned out to be so.

    So where are your arguments?

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  22. John Carpenter

    All I can see is the SNP putting down the well grounded arguments of Labour. They are only able to see a utopia of what Scotland could be; any sensible arguments put forward, they just ignore as ‘English rubbish’
    It is an obscene idea that Scotland would separate from the Union, and still keep the British pound! Scotland would then be completely under England’s control – with no way to have a say in what happens. I thought this was what Alex Salmond was fighting against?
    The idea that Scotland would have a much stronger voice in the European marketplace is nonsense too. Splitting up the union will not lead to greater power!

    This whole article is also misleading, and obviously written by someone with a yes bias. Saying that the favour was shifted towards the yes vote makes it sound like that opinion won. Instead the no vote won, and managed to convince one other undecided person as well.

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  23. Gordon Harmer

    John some of the “Yes” brigade do not have reasonable argument or answers, hence ludicrous and risible juvenile comments. Neither do they have respect for another’s views especially if those views expand beyond their own tunnel vision. Through research it was proven their argument on the EEZ was fictitious but still they come with their opinionated doctrinaire.

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  24. The reason why all those countries that left the empire don’t want to come back is probably they are receiving vast sums of overseas aid from the UK. The countries that have split in europe and the soviet union can’t go back in most cases and have been at each others throats for hundreds of years.

    The SNP government have not covered themselves in any glory over their handling of the Hamnavoe breakdown and lack of a replacement ship. Serco Northlink do not come out of this smelling of roses.What would have happened if one of the boats on the Sheland Aberdeen route broke down? Remember the recent refit of the ships. Independence – they can’t even award a shipping contract with proper provision for a replacement ferry for the north isles to cover ship failure. Some of the entries on here want them to run an independent Scotland- I hope not.

    Having responded to DS’s very personal attack on my politics I still await his response.

    Raymond Smith, Kirkwall

    Reply

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