BY JOHN ROBERTSON
THE QUEEN has been invited to make a state visit to Forvik off Papa Stour by Stuart Hill, the constitutional campaigner who claims to have removed the isle from the UK.
A letter sent on Tuesday declares the former Forewick Holm as the Queen’s newest and smallest Crown dependency but warns she will have to postpone any visit until he has made the place “suitable”.
The stunt is Mr Hill’s latest tactic in his aim to prove Shetland is not legally part of Scotland, the UK or the European Union. He told the British head of state he had returned his island to “the true and constitutional position of Shetland” as a Crown dependency, which he maintains it has been ever since it was pawned by the King of Denmark in 1469.
He wrote: “I am hopeful that the rest of Shetland will elect to follow the same path, thereby bringing to an end the current illegal situation here.”
In a proposed move which could lay him open to criminal prosecution, he told the Queen: “The Forvik administration will be minting coins with your Majesty’s image on the obverse side, together with the Forvik shield on the reverse.”
If he is not taken to court for counterfeiting, he may get his hoped-for legal confrontation with the British state over any number of other issues, including his refusal to pay VAT from one of his businesses, now amounting to around £1,600 outstanding, or through his deliberate failure to seek Crown Estate permission for the basic harbour works he proposes.
He said: “I want somebody who simply cannot let go and is prepared to go through the Court of Session and the House of Lords. I’m sure there is no end of people who would like to see the Crown Estate with a bloody nose, or even the Customs & Excise.”
Other potential bait-takers include the SIC, who may be forced to act against his lack of planning permission for his official residence, or perhaps the Crown courts may have to act if he breaches one or more of the environmental restrictions imposed on Forvik as part of the special area of marine conservation (SAC) around Papa Stour and Sandness and the designation of the Papa coastline as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). Mr Hill said the state body Scottish Natural Heritage already has some concerns about his activities.
The self-styled steward of Forvik has continued to attract extensive coverage from media around the world, having hosted TV and press crews from Japan, France and the UK in recent days. Among the British interest has been the anti-EU heavyweight newspaper Daily Telegraph, which despatched a correspondent to Forvik, and the Left-leaning political magazine New Statesman.
By yesterday Mr Hill’s website www.forvik.com had attracted over 57,000 hits in less than 12 days, although traffic has slowed down greatly since the initial rush last week. Among the more eccentric offers he has had recently is one from a Finnish woman in her 60s offering to be his wife.
By Monday his fund-raising campaign to build his new state had brought in around £4,000 from non-Shetland residents who have bought honorary citizenships at a cost of around £60 each. But his crucial aim of winning local financial and moral backing has not yet got off the ground with no takers so far for his offer of full citizenship, a tiny plot of land and voting rights in return for about £120 (two Forvik gulde in Mr Hill’s world).
He believes events he has planned for the future will bring many in the Shetland community to join him in support and he points to around 1,000 people here and in Orkney who backed his previous campaign to restore udal law to the islands.
With a stiff breeze keeping him on the Mainland on Tuesday, Mr Hill said he was anxious to get back in to Forvik to continue building his small arch-shaped official residence. All the materials he needs have been shipped in from the pier at Sandness on his purpose-built 20-foot boat.
A metal Forvik flag is flying from the tiny holm. When in residence in one of this two tents he currently has no source of heating or power, although a weak mobile phone signal makes calls possible in a small part of his territory.
The fledgling principality is already starting to rub neighbours and authorities up the wrong way. At the weekend while he was doing a live radio interview the police arrived at his Shetland partner’s home in Ocraquoy, near Cunningsburgh. He said the station later got calls from listeners worried that the forces of the state had come to get him.
The officers were actually following up a complaint of loud bangs being heard, seemingly from Forvik, which, it had been suggested to them, might be Mr Hill detonating explosives, perhaps to blast away rock for his official residence or to clear his makeshift harbour.
He said he had been doing no such thing and he told The Shetland Times the reports had been sufficiently alarming to him that he went to his island to check all was well.
Meanwhile Mr Hill distanced himself from various racist groups whose members The Shetland Times revealed last week were showing an interest in his bid to resist authority and form a new nation.
While he eventually accepted that people with extreme views might be attaching themselves to his cause he said he could not be held responsible for them and realistically there was nothing he could do about their interest.