20th February 2018
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Islands are not a problem but a solution, conference is told

Shetland Islands Council leader Gary Robinson used his opening speech at the Our Islands Our Future conference to outline the significance of the islands’ contribution to the UK economy.

The conference began today in Kirkwall with speeches from the three council leaders, setting out their vision for increased powers and constitutional change for the islands.

Introduced by political journalist Iain Macwhirter, Mr Robinson described the significance of the the islands’ economic input through fishing, aquaculture and oil in particular.

He stressed, too, the fact that Shetland gives £64 million more to the UK economy each year than it gets back. That, he said, cannot be ignored.

“We are serious players” Mr Robinson said, and “we feel we have legitimacy in pursuing our objectives.”

The history of oil in Shetland is proof of the islands’ ability to look after their affairs responsibly and successfully, he added. Sullom Voe, and the environmental protection co-ordinated by Sullom Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group, were a “triumph” of “self-determination”, he said.

But the Our Islands Our Future campaign is “not nostalgically looking back to the golden days of Sullom Voe” he assured the audience. Nor, he went on – with a gentle dig at Tavish Scott, seated not far away – is it “about ‘wir oil’ or ‘wir fish’. This is about “enhancing” local powers.

“Devolution was never supposed to stop at Edinburgh,” Mr Robinson said, but it was a process, bringing power into the hands of people and communities. The islands’ campaign is a continuation of that process.

Orkney Island Council’s Steven Heddle spoke of the need for legislation and policy decisions to always take the needs of the islands into account. We must have “island proofing”, he said, and called for “remoteness and insularity to be an equality issue”.

“We don’t think that one size fits all”, he added.

Mr Heddle highlighted a number of priorities, or ‘wants’, on which the conference and the campaign would focus.

The councils want to see “our perspective considered as a matter of course”, he said. “We want to enhance our relationship with Europe”.

We want “fiscal and regulatory powers to let us empower economic development – and sustainable development”, and we want “the chance to develop how we work with our community planning partners”.

Overall, he concluded, we’re not looking for the government to do this for us. “We’re asking for the tools to do it ourselves.”

While Angus Campbell of the Western Isles covered much of the same ground, he spoke passionately.: “The constitutional debate [in Scotland] has provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to try and create “a level playing field”.

“We have the talents and the vision, but we do need the tools” he went on. Our Islands Our Future was about getting those tools.

“When we have the powers to do so, we make things happen,” he said. “History will show that when we are given the chance to deliver, we do deliver.”

Mr Campbell said that there was “discrimination” against the islands, at a national level. And an “island act”, as he called it, “would address this discrimination”.

“What we are proposing is not just in the interests of the islands … it is in the interests of Scotland, the UK and Europe” he said. “We are not a problem, we are the solution.”

The Shetland Times’ coverage of Our Islands Our Future will continue online tomorrow, and in next week’s paper.

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8 comments

  1. John Tulloch

    The Shetland News report covering the same event contains some interesting quotes from Convener Robinson:

    “We are not going to step outside the family of local authorities in Scotland” and

    “This is the first opportunity in many years to have a proper, grown-up political debate in Orkney and Shetland and I am quite excited.”

    1. If Shetland is not going to step outside the family of local authorities in Scotland then we’re not looking for Falkland Islands or Isle of Man status within rUK if the referendum vote is “YES” but Shetland votes “NO”.

    This begs the question “Will we get to know how Shetlanders vote” or has that idea been ruled out as potentially “inconvenient”?

    2. Shetland is not looking for anything resembling Faroe/Aland status in an independent Scotland if Scots and Shetlanders both vote “YES”.

    Far from it, we’ve got our begging bowl out to Salmond for alms of broadband and the right to pick the Northlink ferry contractor!

    Exactly what is it that we’re going to be debating in Orkney and Shetland now that you’ve given away your negotiating position and we know that what we get will be less than this effete, fawning request?

    After all the talk the “Grand old Duke of York” is “marching us all down again”!

    If this is the kind of democracy we can expect from an autonomous Shetland government (a stitch-up and we already know what to expect from Edinburgh) then we will be better to stick with Westminster – even with the House of Lords and all the crap that goes with monarchy.

    Convener Robinson says he’s excited” about this wonderful debate we’re going to have but I’m not excited.

    I’m dismayed and on this showing, I’ll be voting an emphatic “NO!”

    Reply
  2. Brian Smith

    That’s because, John, like all the other Vikings, you love the status quo.

    Reply
  3. sandy mcmillan

    If Gary Robinson and Co, can carry out the policys they are proposing, there is no reason why we cant go it alone, Shetland and its water are the richest in probably Europe, this will be the only chance Shetland will get to look after its own affaires.
    I am backing the YES campaign

    Reply
  4. John Tulloch

    Brian,

    Please! You can NOT be serious! ”

    If Vikings “loved the status quo” most of us would never have heard of them (you might have). Nor were they noted for fawning to the Scots except possibly in 839 when, reportedly, a Viking contingent came upon a decisive battle between Scots Picts. The outnumbered Scots were defeated and their leader Alpin – father of Kenneth MacAlpin, first king of Scots – was killed and decapitated by the Picts.

    Seeing this the Vikings felt it incumbent upon them to take out the winners which they did in traditional fashion and they subsequently helped the Scots against “the status quo” until Kenneth MacAlpin acceded to the throne of Scots and Picts in 843ad.

    If Vikings had loved “the status quo” we wouldn’t be having this discussion. We might be discussing but it would be about something else – and we’d likely be talking Welsh!

    Of course, if you’re referring to plastic Vikings who can’t be bothered to get off their backsides except for “a bloddy good pissup” that is an entirely different matter!

    Reply
  5. sandy mcmillan

    Going it alone has nothing to do with the Picts, Viking, or the past, Its all about today, what Shetland has, Norway has shown how, Norway has become a very prosperous country, why should Shetland not become the same, Why should Westminster reap what is rightfully ours, I am concerend about the inmates of the Town Hall mob lets hope they get it right.

    Reply
  6. Jake Arthur

    “Brian,

    Please! You can NOT be serious! ”

    If Vikings “loved the status quo” most of us would never have heard of them (you might have). Nor were they noted for fawning to the Scots except possibly in 839 when, reportedly, a Viking contingent came upon a decisive battle between Scots Picts. The outnumbered Scots were defeated and their leader Alpin – father of Kenneth MacAlpin, first king of Scots – was killed and decapitated by the Picts.

    Seeing this the Vikings felt it incumbent upon them to take out the winners which they did in traditional fashion and they subsequently helped the Scots against “the status quo” until Kenneth MacAlpin acceded to the throne of Scots and Picts in 843ad.

    If Vikings had loved “the status quo” we wouldn’t be having this discussion. We might be discussing but it would be about something else – and we’d likely be talking Welsh!

    Of course, if you’re referring to plastic Vikings who can’t be bothered to get off their backsides except for “a bloddy good pissup” that is an entirely different matter!”

    Oh God…ZZZzzzzzzzzzz. You must live in some dire pit of resentment with only the Shetland times as an output for your continual navel gazing. Get a life and enjoy yourself.

    I’m fed up of all this talk. The continual martyrdom and pretty clear xenophobia of some.

    Reply
  7. John Tulloch

    Agreed Sandy, I allowed Brian to distract me with his little dig about “loving the status quo” – which I don’t.

    I want to see substantial new local powers and I don’t mind which larger “protecting power” we run with as long as Shetland is treated fairly with due regard to our history, geography and culture.

    Reply
  8. John Tulloch

    @Jake Arthur,

    As you are quoting my riposte to Brian I assume you are referring to me with your comment about “continual martyrdom and ….. pretty clear xenophobia”?

    Actually, I’m quite pleased when people insult me in a debate, it tells me they are unable to counter my arguments.

    Perhaps you’ll prove me wrong on that?

    Reply

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