Tory leader visits to find ‘Friends of the Union’
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has been in the isles to gather support for Friends of the Union, an organisation that argues for Scotland to be kept in the UK.
Ms Davidson said around 12 people had come forward in Shetland who were willing to get involved in the pro-union campaign ahead of the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014.
She has already staged similar visits across Scotland, where she said she had been “bowled over” by support from over 50,000 people.
Ms Davidson insisted many people had serious concerns about the prospect of Scottish independence, particularly on issues such as 16-year olds voting, and defence.
Many she had spoken to, she said, saw fishing as a key local issue as an area of concern.
“It was being looked at through the viewfinder of the European Union, and how could a Scotland with a reduced footprint at the table be able to shout the corner for local fishermen?”
Ms Davidson highlighted the debate in recent times over whether the isles could “opt out” of independence should folk here vote “no” while the rest of Scotland supports the SNP’s referendum.
“[People here] do have a different voice, and I think what has been really marked has been the SNP’s unease when they have been questioned about whether Orkney and Shetland will have an opt-out, if they vote no.
“They haven’t been prepared for it. They’ve not wanted to engage at that level. And I think that people across Scotland have to recognise that there is a different position for Orkney and Shetland.
“I am slightly worried that the SNP is not even willing to consider that there should be a special status for Shetland and Orkney, because I think they are special.”
Ms Davidson said she hoped the question over an opt out would never become a reality. She was encouraged by recent polls which had supported retaining the union.
“First and foremost I hope that [the opt out] doesn’t happen. I’m looking at all the polling and research that’s been done this year, as well as talking to people all over the country, and the appetite for independence is not there at the moment.”