21st April 2019
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

SNP and Lib Dems clash over constitutional future of Northern Isles

31 comments, , by , in News

The SNP and Liberal Democrats have clashed over the future of the Northern Isles should they reject independence and the rest of Scotland vote for it in a referendum.

Two Highlands and Islands MSPs today criticised isles MP Alistair Carmichael for saying it would be up to people in Shetland and Orkney to decide where their constitutional future lay.

Jean Urquhart and Mike MacKenzie claimed the islands would better off in an independent Scotland than under UK government rule.

Attempts earlier this year by isles MSP Tavish Scott to provoke debate on the constitutional position of the isles have so far fallen on stony ground, and the SNP registered a tiny number of votes for its two candidates in the elections to the SIC in May.

But weighing in, Mrs Urquhart said: “The days of London politicians telling us how things are going to be in Scotland are over – these comments only demonstrate just how much Westminster MPs live in cloud cuckoo-land.

“The people of Scotland elected an SNP government in overwhelming numbers at last year’s Scottish parliamentary elections and the SNP is totally committed to ensuring the people of the islands and throughout Scotland can have their say the referendum in 2014.

“Residents of the Northern Isles need only look east to our Nordic neighbours for a vision of the economic prosperity they will enjoy under independence.

“The Northern Isles, in common with much of Scotland, voted in favour of devolution in 1997. The 2001 Census shows that the percentage of people saying they are Scottish is greater in the islands than a number of mainland areas of Scotland. The option of ‘Other British’ and ‘Other’ was available; this highlights the attempts by Mr Carmichael to say the islands are not Scottish as little more than really desperate stuff.”

Mr MacKenzie added: “As an islander myself, I am a frequent visitor to Orkney and can empathise with Orkney issues. On my latest trip to Orkney I encountered many voters who wanted to have a full and frank conversation on the benefits of independence – something they are being deprived of by their Westminster representatives, whose first resort is to scaremongering, distraction and threat.

“I urge Alistair Carmichael and his Conservative cronies in Westminster to stop playing games and to have a mature and sensible discussion on the benefits that Scottish independence will have for all communities across the country.”

In his comments, made to the Herald newspaper, Mr Carmichael claimed the SNP had accelerated the process of centralisation of government.

“As the shape of our constitution is discussed, it is now right for the people of Orkney and Shetland to ask whether or not they could have more control of their own affairs as part of a devolved Scotland within the UK or as part of an independent Scotland,” he said.

“There has not been much discussion about the position of the Northern Isles post independence because few people in Orkney and Shetland favour separation. But if Scotland voted yes to separation and the process of consultation were to continue, then clearly people here would want to choose for themselves where their constitutional future lay.

“If that required a further referendum in the Northern Isles on our own position, then there would be nobody in Edinburgh who would have the right to deny us.”



  1. Andy Maclean

    I’d trust Edinburgh more than London to run the fisheries, oil and wider economy more than the right honourable gentlemen in London

  2. They were talking about keeping the Shetlands and Orkney with direct rule from London, not independence for the islands.

    It wouldn’t be in the Shetland or Orkney interests to let that happen.

    The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which the UK is a signatory specifies that a state controls the continental shelf and associated mineral and fishing rights up to 200 nautical miles (230 miles or 370 km) off its shores.

    When another state possesses an island within the continental shelf of this state, special rules apply. The continental shelf off the Atlantic coast is Scotland’s so Westminster wouldnt gain much by holding onto Shetland and Orkney.

    When an island belonging to one state sits on the continental shelf of another state, the islands are treated as enclaves. These enclaves only have a 12 mile EEZ. If Shetland and Orkney remain with the rUK then they will be islands owned by the rUK state that are situated within the Scottish states waters. In other words they will be “Enclaves” and entitled to only a 12 mile EEZ (unless less due to equidistance rules). None of the Oil and Gas is within this Exclusive Economic Zone so will remain within the Scottish States EEZ as it is currently.

    This matter was discussed in detail in a legal paper published by the European Journal of International Law: Prospective Anglo-Scottish Maritime Boundary Revisited

    This would mean that if the Shetlands and Orkneys stayed with the UK, they would not have any access to the oil and yet they would need supported by the rUK.

    Does anyone trust Westminster to offer that support when there is no access to oil?

    Then there’s Law’s, policing, education and health – all of those would need to transfer to the English systems.

    I honestly cant see why this guy thinks this would be a good idea!

  3. ian tinkler

    Trust Salmond! The idiot who backed and formally congratulated RBS and Fred the Shred just before the nearly bankrupted the UK? Advocated we joined The Euro, copied The Celtic Tiger into utter ruin and his hell bent anti English/Westminster tribal xenophobic compulsive obsessive dogma. Rather castrate myself with a rusty tin can tan follow that man. More Shetlanders voted for me, a relative newcomer to Shetland, than one of the SNP candidates that truly tell its own story. As for Jean, what has she got to do with Shetland? Even Tavish the fence sitter out performs her, what a recommendation for the Nats in Shetland… UK countries are truly great United, look at the Olympic achievement, Scotland alone look at its football team, greatest spirit on earth, achievements? Well!!!!!

  4. Ron Stronach

    Ian you are on thin ice mentioning the Football team, so beware, all other matters I agree!

  5. Mike Grant

    Of course, Mr Carmichael has a vested interest in crawling to the Conservatives, since it is his once admirable party which collaborated with them and enabled them to attain power. I have always voted Liberal Democrat but never again.

  6. ian tinkler

    Scotland alone look at its football team, greatest spirit on earth, achievements? Well!!!!!

  7. Gordon Harmer

    We will be better off away from Salmond and his dictatorial policies, he does not listen to the Scottish electorate as a whole. So what chance do we have stuck all the way up here. He has conned a minority of the Scottish electorate with his free prescription sting. Who pays for these prescriptions? Because they have to be paid for by someone, that some one is you and me the Scottish tax payer. We may not pay directly for ours but we do in the long run, if we did pay for them think of the extra cash going into the health service as it does across the border and used to in Scotland.

    About half the population in England do pay the £7.40 for their prescription – or buy a quarterly or annual pre-paid certificate (PPC) for about £100 if the sums make sense for them – a policy that raises about £400m a year for the NHS (and did I hear “pays for 15,000 nurses”?) as well as dampens demand a bit, as pricing policies are designed to do.

    What kind of idiot builds a new bridge over the Firth of Forth and at the same time abolishes tolls on the old bridge. Then gives the contract for the steel to build it to foreign suppliers. Who’s paying for the new crossing? Every tax payer in Scotland and those who use it regularly are getting free passage over the crossing as a bribe to vote SNP (bigger fools them). Do we see concessions on this level on our trips to and from Aberdeen? No; and why, because we don’t vote SNP, and wisely so.

    If Soapy Salmond, by some miracle secured independence for Scotland, it would not be long before Scots are paying over £10 per prescription and similar to cross the Forth. Goodness knows what we will be paying to get ourselves and our freight to and from Aberdeen. I would sooner stay in a Shetland with Ian Tinkler as President and John Tulloch as Prime Minister.

  8. ian tinkler

    PS, Ron, I do not care much for the England team either. Load of prima donnas and wimps. The British Lions and the Barbarians, now you’re talking. UK ladies football team Rock on. They actually play for the game and more than just the cash also much more atractive to watch, or is that me being sexist?

  9. Sandy McMillan

    Gordon go back to the drawing board and have rethink of what you have just written, a couple of paragraphs of nothing but garbage, of course we will be better of with total control on this side of the border, the English have been trying to get rid of Scotland for years, it only since the NORTH SEA oil came along have the English or David Cameron and his half baked fairy cakes taken a interest in the affaires of Scotland, and as for Tavish Scott and Alistair Carmichael all they are worried about is there easy laid back way of life. the way forward is with the SNP lead by Alex Salmond,
    Sandy McMillan

  10. David Briggs

    Scott Minto points out why The Shetland and Orkney Isles would be most unwise to demand a referendum after Scotland achieves Independence.

    Would the populations of Shetland and Orkney cut their own throats and side with the English under the realities spelled out so succinctly in Scott’s contribution?,

    I think it’s very unlikely.

    I live in Orkney by the way.

  11. Kathy Greaves

    I find myself in total agreement with Gordon Harmer on this issue – more to the point I have not found anyone up here who is for devolution.

    Kathy Greaves

  12. ian tinkler

    I see absolutely no reason why Shetland and Orkney need to hobble themselves with either Westminster or Edinburgh. A Crown dependency allied to both must be the rational way forward. Dependant on the two for common needs but with our own interests and special needs put first. We are as, a population, wholly unique in culture to England, Scotland and Norway. Our needs are different and with intelligent and independent political leadership our future could be outstanding and extraordinary. It would just take a little political courage and vision, unfortunately Tavish to date has shown absolutely none!!! In the event of the breakup of the UK we must look to ourselves, not the political self-servers and exploiters down south. A plague on both their houses, self-serving idiots and buffoons.

  13. Ron Stronach

    If a Crown Dependency of the UK is the best option and I think it is, who is going to lead the rebellion? Certainly not the two MP’s for the region, certainly wont be the candidate that finished third in the Scottish election! Cant be the guy who everyone thinks is a calamity, so who?

    I’m getting worried, I’m agreeing with you too much, as I too believe the Ladies Football is much better than the men’s, simply because its more honest.
    They dont fall down as soon as someone looks at them, they get on with it, bravo Team GB.


  14. Gordon Harmer

    Sandy, you are one of the most vociferous opponents of the wind farm and you support Soapy Salmond; (WHAT). This man would have Shetland littered with wind turbines because it is the only way he is likely to fulfill his dream of 100% green energy. He does not care who he has to stand on to fulfill this ambition.

    Have you ever listened to him on First Ministers Questions he takes all the credit for anything good that comes Scotland’s way and blames Westminster for anything bad. That is why he has a pipe dream of staying in the pound so when an independent Scotland goes bust he can blame the Bank of England.

    Sandy he is a con merchant and you sir have been taken in hook line and sinker.

  15. Sandy McMillan

    Yes Gordon i have listened to The Scottish First Minister, I find him a very honest man, a good speaker he is the guy that will take Scotland and Shetland forward into a new wealthy era, not like that two numpties down in Westminster, both of them millionaires, they dont have a worry, just sit back Gordon and think what they have done to the people of the UK, made the poor poorer, the rich richer, is that really what you want, if so make for the sooth mooth, and keep going.
    Sandy McMillan

  16. Sandy McMillan

    Gordon, i forgot to mention the two numpties are David Cameron, and Nick Clegg although i would have thought you knew who i was meaning, or maybe not.
    Sandy McMillan

  17. Liam Calvin

    Interesting reading. I followed this story here – as a central belter, I’m interested in finding out to what extent Shetlanders are up for breaking away, and to what extent Carmichael is just troublemaking. My own take on it, for what it’s worth, is that I’m 100% behind the idea of self determination. Goverment has to be by consent, and you should have the right to choose the path you feel is right for you. However, I suspect that you will have a better chance of decentralisation and autonomy within Scotland than within the UK (in whatever form it might be in the future).

  18. Darren Johnson

    Sandy. should everybody that disagrees with you get on the boat and head Sooth?

    Typical Nationalist who can’t listen to any type of reasoned debate, blames everybody else for the woes of the country, takes credit when due to others and if you don’t agree with him well then you should pack your bags and find somewhere else to live.

    You are probably right when you say Salmond’s your man “that will take Scotland and Shetland forward into a new wealthy era”. He just going to do it by turning Shetland into a giant wind farm and cashing in on all the renewable’s subsidies the UK government will have to pay for.

  19. W Conroy

    I have to wonder what effect (if any) the outcome of a referendum would have on the subsidies for the windfarm. Is it not possible these could be stopped if Shetland were to vote for an independent Scotland or to be a crown dependency?

    Just a thought…

  20. Gordon Harmer

    Sandy, assuming Scotland keeps the oil and gas found in Scottish waters, an independent Scotland would at today’s prices gain roughly as much in taxes as it would lose in subsidies. The future looks much rougher, this is a stormy economic world, and an independent Scotland would be small and vulnerable in a big bad world. It would depend on oil for some 18% of its gross domestic product, making it subject to shifts in global oil prices and at the mercy of OPEC.

    Though high oil and gas prices have pushed up tax revenues, if they drop, production as well as income would plummet. North Sea production has been falling by about 6% a year for the past decade. Eventually the oil will run out entirely, then where will you and Salmond be. Scotland will be more vulnerable to other shocks.

    In 2008 the British government (and its “millionairs”) had to bail out RBS and HBOS, Scotland’s two biggest banks. Could an independent Scotland have done this? I think not. Salmond has already selfishly rubbished suggestions that he should take a share of RBS’s £187 billion of toxic assets. At its peak, RBS’s balance sheet was 13 times Scottish gross domestic product. Edinburgh has stalled as a financial centre since, and will be near impossible to restart. There is a limit to how large a financial sector an independent Scotland, as a new, small economy could support.

    A new independent Scotland’s borrowing costs would almost certainly be higher because of no triple A credit rating. Its financial market would be small and worth little in actual cash. But Scotland’s biggest problem could be its currency. Soapy’s enthusiasm for the euro has fallen away, he wants Scotland to stick with the pound. That would mean entering a monetary union with no say in interest rates, a set-up that has proved so very disastrous for countries like Greece.

    One of Salmond’s biggest confidence tricks is to say that Scotland would enjoy automatic EU membership, European Commission lawyers are sceptical. Especially as Salmond has rejected the Euro

    An independent Scotland would hope to lure businesses through low corporation taxes, aggressive merchandising and a heap of industrial policies. Scotland would struggle to attract enough to pay for such a generous state. Scotland would not be the only one bidding for footloose global investment. One main competitor would be Britain, and they are cutting corporation taxes swiftly.

    Sandy your chip on your shoulder is impossible to price. But if you vote for independence you should do so in the knowledge that your country could end up as one of Europe’s vulnerable, marginal, and broke economies. Three hundred years ago, Edinburgh was named “Athens of the North”. It would be a shame if that name stuck again for less positive reasons.

    The United Nations Charter enshrines the right of peoples to self-determination, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also guarantees peoples’ right to change nationality; the UK is a signatory to both documents It is our constitutional right to be free of the dictatorial policies of the SNP. With the tenacity of the ZCC officials who stood up to the power of the oil companies we can go it alone. Sandy if you don’t like it you’re welcome to take a trip south on the north boat yourself, to be with your beloved leader.

  21. Sandy McMillan

    Darren, if Shetland were to get self rule, can you name who would be our leader, I am dead against VE, SSE, and the like who are involved with wind farms, wind farms will destroy Shetland, and by the way it is Shetlanders who are going to make it happen, 21 of them, when it comes to the sooth mooth if you dont like what Shetland offers then use the sooth mooth, I am a born and bred Shetlander been hear for 65 years.

  22. Sandy McMillan

    Gordon, just wit is do aiming for, you speak highly of the ZCC, It was Mr Ian Clark that did the work to get the best deal for Shetland, and the remainder of the ZCC members reaped the pleasure, now the SIC cant get rid of out money fast enough, I believe the SIC have made a huge error with the gas Giants TOTAL,

    TOTAL are laughing with all the gas out in the fields, if there was not a massive resourse of gas TOTAL would not be building a gas Terminal, Scotland and or Shetland has to get its independance from Westminster, or the same will happen with the gas as did the oil revenue,it is in a piggy bank down in Westminster, while Scotland struggles, the oil and gas is Scottish not English,
    Scotland is being robbed of what is theres, 90% of the Oil/ Gas wells are in Scottish waters, Gordon pray tell me what does Scotland get from England I will tell you nothing, Independance cannot make us any worse of than we are, Scotlands is a Nation that aims for the heights, the SNP led by Alex Salmond is the only party with the stomach to Govern Scotland.
    Sandy McMillan

  23. J S Robertson

    Sandy, “I am dead against VE, SSE, and the like who are involved with wind farms”.
    Yet du supports Alex Salmond, the worlds biggest advocate oh wind farms. So du is an SNP supporter afore du’s a born and bred Shetlander. Du has just sold dy homland doon da river because of dy alliance to Scotland’s Numptie Party.

  24. Sandy McMillan

    J S Robertson, I am very glad to hear that you also are against the proposed Wind Farms on mainland Shetland, If Shetland does break away from the rest, who in your mind would be the best chappy to be in the hot seat, (what would he be called maybe, Govener,President, King, maybe a Queen who knows he may be a Dictator) I only support the SNP as they are the only Party with a policy to break away from Westminster, what Shetland desides is another story, but to attach Shetland to Westminster is not the way forward, we either go with the SNP, or go it alone.
    Sandy McMillan

  25. J S Robertson

    Boy boy Sandy do is a lad oh him, I could no care less aboot wind farms I wis quoting de. I joost care aboot Shetlands political future, an I tink nae body will vot fir da SNP and independence, if der all lik de. I duno kin what da politically correct folk will tink aboot de sayin he may be a Queen. Awnyway enyough oh dis rubbish I’ll hay ta go an roo me sheep.

  26. Sandy McMillan

    Weel Mr Robertson do gein on an roo de sheep, an il da wits rit fir Shetland, wid hit realy metter wider wir we Scotland or on wir ayn, as lang as we git awa fae yun eens ower da border, as lang as wir attached tae England, we ha nay hop o gitten on an makin Shetland a brighter an prosperous plice tae sta, Shetland his bein voted one o da happiest folk in da country, dats maybe cause we ken in twartre years weel ha wit we want, FREEDOM.
    Sandy McMillan

  27. Gordon Harmer

    Good moaning Sandy, I have never laughed so much at someone trying to write in the Shetland dialect. Are you absolutely certain you are a true bred Shetlander and not related to the french policeman, Officer Crabtree in “Alo-Alo”.
    As J S Robertson says, du is a lad oh him, nice one Sandy ha ha ha.

  28. How strange it is, that people in Scotand speak of Westminister as if it has some dark intentions towards Scotland. Lets be reminded that Scotland has MPs in Westminister, and they were elected their democratically by the populace of Scotland.

    In national terms, Westminister does not represent any one country in the Union, its represents all of them constituency by constituency. and not by countries.

    Other arguments I have seen seem to feel that the South East is little more than a conspiracy to grab the highest salaries at the expense of the Scots. The South East is affluent because it is the nearest part of the UK to Continental europe. No vote for indpendence can change that geographical fact, but I understand that currently 800,000 born in Scotland people currently live South of the border. They have illustrated that you have to move to where there are jobs available. Sitting back in Scotland and claiming its all a sinister plot is, to put it midly, codswallop

  29. Vernonya Yarker

    Looking back through some of the comments, it seems rather strange that some people blame their own parliamentary representatives for not representing the Shetlands. Surely to do that you are only blaming yourself ? The Shetlands and Orkneys are as free, as anybody else, to put up their own candidates for Westminister, and to reject those they do not like…………..The current MPs did not suddenly appear, they were voted in by the people of the Shetlands, if you don’t think they are doing their job well, then vote them out at the next election

  30. Vernonya Yarker

    Another interesting point is the EU membership question. Scotland has not signed up to the EU in its own right, so therefore there is no automatic succession into the EU. However, even it it were accepted, the realisation on the Continent is that the approached the introduction of the Euro all wrong. It should have been mandatory and centrally controlled and that is what the central core of the Euro is hoping to achieve. They would almost certainly require a new member to join the Euro, at which point ‘bang goes independence’. Those who control the purse strings also control the country .

    However, I do not suspect that Scotland would be faced with that problem. There are several separatist movements within EU countries. It would be unthinkable for Spain, for example, to give comfort to its own separatist factions and give them the impression that they could automatically join the EU if they were to be independent. In turn this would lead to the countries which have such internal problems to apply the veto to Scottish hope for entry.

    This leads to another interesting state of affairs. With Scotland out and the rest of the UK in, then customs and excise would have to applied to the borders, and duty paid on what would be foreign goods coming in from Scotland. Its pretty easy to speculate, in the cirumstances that companies, manufacturing goods in Scotland, would then find it more economical to relocate their manufacturing processes South of the border.

    I’m afraid that the SNP arguments are quite childlike and they tend to overlooked obstacles to independence and pretend they do not exist, and hope that the population at large will not notice them !

  31. Vernonya Yarker

    Andy Maclean. I think you are wrong an enclave would be a part of the state surrounded by water but also politically a part of the nearby land mass. In the case of the Shetlands, and Orkneys, if they were not in political union with Scotland their boundaries would be equi distance towards Scotland, but the full 200 mile economic boundary where they faced the open ocean. The method you suggest would be to project your boundaries through another state and out of the other side . tut tut


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