Editorial: The Old Rock 08.04.2011

The Scottish Parliament is very limited in its powers. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is of course at the heart of the debate between Nationalists and Unionists. But during an economic crisis exacerbated by high commodity prices, a critical period for the fishing industry and a more general political malaise which has many causes, there is a danger that expectations about what can be achieved by MSPs at Holyrood will be heightened.

Take fishing as an example. No-one in Shetland needs to be reminded that the EU-operated Common Fisheries Policy is the sole determinant of sea fishing effort locally. The most the constituency’s MSP, and MP for that matter, can do is lobby the fisheries com­missioner, commission staff and MEPs, either directly or through the Scottish and UK fisheries ministers (who are themselves little more than lobbyists).

But with CFP reforms currently under discussion it would be nice to hear what all the candidates would advocate to ease the burden on the local industry while ensuring sustainable fisheries. Regional control is the mantra of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and Shetland Fishermen’s Association. But how would that manifest itself? Ought there to be devolution of political control as well?

As Labour and the Liberal Democrats found out this week, searching questions will be asked about any pledge that demands significant funding from the public purse. We’d all like superfast broadband, jobs for the young, council tax breaks etc. But how will it be paid for? Can candidates be honest about this?

:: :: :: :: Dispecta est Thule, Thule is seen through the gloom. So said the Roman writer Tacitus. So says Lerwick’s heraldry. The bar of that name will no longer be seen through the gloom because the neon “T” sign that hangs above the door is in breach of planning regulations, according to the council and now the Scottish government. How petty.


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