By NEIL RIDDELL
MAVERICK campaigner Stuart Hill is inviting companies to enter into negotiations for rights to oil exploration in Forvik waters.
In a short statement, Mr Hill urged “interested parties able to enter into serious negotiations” for oil rights to get in touch with him on his website at www.forvik.com.
Last month Mr Hill rechristened the small island off Papa Stour and declared it as a crown dependency, but has yet to receive any official response from either the UK government or the SIC.
He said he was claiming the seabed up to a 200-mile limit, or to the median line between Forvik and other states, but that it would probably not include a corridor 200 miles west of Shetland because Shetland’s rights from Papa Stour and the west of Sandness would occlude his rights. “Even so, the piece of seabed that I am claiming is certainly large enough to put an oil rig on,” he said.
Mr Hill claims what he is trying to do with Forvik is a “microcosm” of what could happen in Shetland if islanders simply asserted legal rights which already exist.
He said: “It has long been rumoured that Shetland is sitting on a basin of oil and as oil discoveries continue to be made ever closer to Shetland’s shores, this would appear to be confirmed.”
Talking to The Shetland Times after returning to the mainland following four days working on Forvik, where he is building an official residence, Mr Hill said the windy weather had persuaded him that it would not be wise to live on the tiny, exposed island during the winter.
“The weather has been pretty rough,” he said. “It’s shown me that it’s not going to be comfortable. I certainly don’t intend to be spending the winter out there. I will be putting up the house and seeing how it fares in the
winter, but I’m not intending to be actually resident there.”
A spokesman for the council’s planning department said that Forvik was included within the Papa Stour special site of scientific interest (SSSI) and that the authority was “monitoring the situation”. He has also been informed that Scottish Natural Heritage is carrying out an assessment to determine whether or not Mr Hill’s works are likely to have a harmful impact on the site.
The spokesman said the council’s planning policy was that it would “not normally support the re-population of any uninhabited island” because the cost of providing services, including health and education, would be contrary to its structure plan and would place an unacceptable burden on the public purse. He added that head of planning Iain McDiarmid, who is on holiday this week, is concerned that only time and resources that are warranted should be spent on the situation.
But Mr Hill said the planning authority was “irrelevant”. It is his openly stated intention to provoke the authorities into a confrontation as he seeks to prove that Shetland is not legally part of Scotland, the UK or the European Union. He maintains that Shetland is a crown dependency and has held that status since it was pawned by the King of Denmark in 1469 and it is a battle over which he is prepared to go to jail if necessary.
“The confrontation is something that I’m trying to set up,” he said. “There must be a confrontation at some point; whether that’s a physical or a legal confrontation I don’t know. If it was seen to be necessary to put me in prison for what I’m doing then that is part and parcel of the whole deal. There can never be any shame attached to going to prison for that kind of cause.
“The planning office here is part of what I regard as an illegal regime so it has no relevance to me. I have applied to the Forvik authorities for my planning permission, I got it almost immediately, very little red tape, so that’s good enough for me.”
Last week, Mr Hill was visited by a group of 13 kayakers from Israel and stamped their passports with the Forvik imprint and received an Israeli flag from them. He continues to receive media interest from all over the globe, the latest being for a forthcoming article in a Japanese newspaper, while there is also interest from a German television network and an American documentary-maker.
Later this year, Mr Hill plans to reveal further details of his plans for Forvik, which will include the creation of its own currency, stamps and possibly banking and registrations for companies and vehicles.
He added: “What I’m trying to do with the whole of this project is to illustrate what Shetland could do if it simply asserted the rights that already exist.
“Everything I’m doing on Forvik is in a microcosm what could happen in Shetland, if people just had the balls to assert the rights that we already have. They’re already there and we only go along with the existing regime because nobody questions it.
“I think the existing situation is kept in place by a relatively small number of people and it only needs a relatively small number of people to start thinking in a different direction for the whole of the population to follow.”