Around 50 people came to Islesburgh last night for the launch on the Yes Shetland campaign in the run-up to next year’s referendum on Scottish independence.
Chaired by local staunch nationalist Brian Nugent, the meeting featured speeches by Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins, SNP education minister Mike Russell and Celia Fitzgerald, from Labour for Independence. All stressed their vision for a more egalitarian society, based broadly on the Scandinavian model.
Opening the proceedings, Ms Fitzgerald explained that the desire for independence was not solely the preserve of the SNP – there were people of all political persuasions in favour. In fact, she said, the SNP needed that support as it could not win the referendum on its own.
For her part, Ms Fitzgerald said she had watched the UK become a “more unequal and more unjust” society. And with the death of Robin Cook before the Iraq war “the last hope for an ethical foreign policy died”.
Her wish for independence was fuelled by “optimism” for the future and “anger” about inequality in the UK, in which oil wealth had been misused.
Her vision, Ms Fitzgerald said, was for fairness, equality and justice, keeping the NHS and welfare state and ensuring free education and health care for all. That, in keeping with the Scandinavian model, could mean higher taxes.
Mr Russell said the referendum, a “once in a lifetime opportunity” was “much bigger than party politics”, and not about voting SNP. He said people would vote with their heart and their head, and “each of us knows what needs to change”.
He questioned why an oil-rich country had become poorer, and said income from renewables should be invested for the common good.
Mr Russell said he realised years ago that Scotland was not going to get the government it chose, and mentioned that he had not been able to speak at the European Fisheries Council on the cod recovery plan, a topic relevant to him but not to the UK minister who did speak.
He said he wanted Scotland’s voice to be heard in the world and the work now was to find people who can be convinced.
Mr Jenkins said the Yes Scotland campaign, which was “grass roots based”, was the only one he had ever been involved in. It was “much bigger than politics”. Its three pillars, he said, were democracy, prosperity and fairness.
He said a lot of business people would welcome it, and would like to see “strong free market principles”. His belief was that decisions were best made by the people affected, and society should be fair
“It’s very important we care for one another and don’t leave people behind,” Mr Jenkins said. “That’s the kind of society we want.”
Now was the time to draw up a wish list for Scotland, he added, not to be tied to someone else’s agenda, and to ignore the scaremongering from the other side.
Mr Nugent said after the launch that from his point of view it had been “a great meeting” with a large turnout.
He said: “We had a very positive atmosphere and three good speeches. Anne Bain read out her brother Aly’s statement supporting independence and then we moved on to the question and answers where we had six or seven very good questions.
“Overall I think it was a terrific meeting. Now we intend to go to the Voe Show on Saturday and we hope to be at the future agricultural shows as well. Then we’ll look into whatever activities we might be doing into the future.”