Home rule talks

THE UK Cabinet discussed giving assurances to Shetland that devolution would not affect the isles’ oil fund or rate support grant in 1978 after MP Jo Grimond and councillors demanded an opt-out if islanders voted against home rule in the 1979 referendum, it emerged this week.

In papers released by the National Archives at Kew, it was revealed the then Scottish Secretary Bruce Millan was confronted with demands for a “Faroese” solution whereby Shetland would have home rule subject to Westminster, not Edinburgh.

The then Trade and Industry Secretary John Smith suggested the islanders’ demands should be met because that would be less damaging than having to arrange direct rule from Westminster.

In the end, the discussions proved academic because although a majority of Scots supported devolution the referendum was lost because the tally failed to pass the required 40 per cent of voters. Shetlanders voted by more than two-to-one against: 5,466 no and 2,020 yes.


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