By JOHN ROBERTSON
THREE Shetland residents have bought land and full citizenship of the renegade micro-nation Forvik, joining the hundreds of people around the globe who paid for honorary citizenship.
The creator of the so-called Crown dependency off Papa Stour, Stuart Hill, also hopes to add international support soon in the form of official recognition of its status from one or possibly two sovereign nations, one of which is South American.
Mr Hill said such endorsement would be “a massive step forward” in his constitutional campaign to prove Shetland cannot legally be kept within the UK. “It makes the whole thing real in the eyes of the world,” he told The Shetland Times.
Meanwhile, the forces of law in the UK still appear reluctant to act over Forvik for fear of bringing on the potentially momentous confrontation in the courts that Mr Hill openly desires. “I want to get them in court – this is the main thing,” he said.
He aims to force the UK state to prove Forvik, and Shetland, are held legally by Scotland and the UK. He claims there is no evidence Shetland was transferred from Danish/Norwegian ownership after it was pawned to the King of Scotland nearly 540 years ago.
The closest to confrontation so far has been a visit from what Mr Hill said was a sheriff officer and his assistant, inquiring about his deliberate withholding of around £1,600 in VAT that he owes HM Customs & Excise from a dormant company.
Bizarrely, the sheriff officer who turned up at Mr Hill’s home in Ocraquoy, Cunningsburgh, was Allison Duncan, who is also Mr Hill’s SIC councillor. Mr Hill was not in, however, and the officers did not try to seek him out in Forvik.
Mr Hill said: “They’re threatening to take things away, bankrupt me and all that kind of stuff.” He
now awaits their inevitable return, although Mr Duncan was away on holiday this week.
It is known that other authorities are watching while Mr Hill deliberately breaches their rules and regulations, including the SIC planning department and Scottish Natural Heritage but he has heard not a thing so far.
“They’re running scared. I really don’t think that they want a confrontation. They won’t want to confront me on any constitutional issues. I’m just poking until I get a reaction.”
The government issued a statement the day Forvik was created, declaring it to be part of Shetland, which is subject to UK legislation. Mr Hill has said that he will drop the Crown dependency claim if and when the UK government “can provide a credible date on which Shetland became part of Scotland”.
On a practical level, the first problem the state apparatus faces is organising a site inspection to a remote holm with no harbour in a treacherous tidal sound.
Mr Hill was hard at work in Forvik for two days this week trying to get his arch-shaped open-plan house built before winter. The floor area measures 16.4 square feet and is ready for the frames to be fitted to create the walls and roof. Plywood sheets will be added before turf goes on top. A fishing net will anchor the seven-foot-high structure to the ground. He intends building a porch on one end and a conservatory on the other, which will provide some solar heating.
Until the house is ready, home is a new family-sized tent surrounded by green plastic screening to provide a windbreak. He has “fridges” buried in the ground to keep food cool and on Monday night he sat and enjoyed his first glass of red wine in the island.
Above him on a flagpole the Forvik flag stands proud even when there is no wind – it is made of paper stiffly laminated with resin.
He was forced to vacate the island on Tuesday evening when a stiffening wind made his boat vulnerable at its moorings. Trips in and out have become a bit safer thanks to his new 10 horsepower main outboard along with his second-hand 5hp. “I feel a good deal safer than I did with my 30-year-old Yamaha two-stroke.”
Although interest from the media and internet-surfers has waned greatly in recent weeks, Mr Hill is still doing some business with reporters and film crews. One is due out to Forvik next week with celeb-presenter Martin Clunes for a forthcoming ITV series about the Scottish coast.
His recruitment of three locally resident citizens may help add some credibility to his cause among islanders, many of whom express derision rather than any support for the campaigning Englishman.
Only people living in Shetland can gain land-owning citizenship of the 1.5 acre holm, which entitles the holder to the right to vote on Forvik’s affairs, share its profits and decide how its income should be spent.
Mr Hill is preserving the anonymity of his first three disciples but pressed on their identity, he said one was a born-and-bred Shetlander; the others are incomers. The Shetlander had actually been among the first people to back the Forvik concept when it came into being last month but his application got caught up in the media mayhem which engulfed Mr Hill in the ensuing weeks.
He had paid the original cost of a land-owning citizenship – five Forvik gulden (£360) – but that was later reduced to two gulden (£120). When Mr Hill offered the man a refund of the extra £240 he told him to keep it as a donation.
Mr Hill admits he has fallen behind in issuing documents to those 100 non-Shetland residents who bought honorary citizenships at a cost of around £60. He said they should be ready to go by the end of this week and there will be Forvik passports available to buy also.
He has been seeking official recognition from recognised countries and is “quite hopeful” of gaining a first international ally who can see the logic of his position regarding Forvik and Shetland. “That will be a big step forward if I can do that. I’ve got no end of offers from micro-nations and people that don’t really mean much.”