A Highland MSP has voiced support for the Our Islands Our Future campaign.
Labour’s David Stewart, together with his Lothian colleague Sarah Boyack MSP, met council leaders today to discuss the ongoing move for Shetland to gain more powers.
Mr Stewart said he believed various ideas, such as rolling public bodies like the council and health service under “one umbrella”, could be of real benefit.
He insisted devolution was a process which gave Scotland more powers and responsibilities.
He said September’s referendum was “absolutely crucial”, and insisted it was important people examined the arguments carefully before voting.
“This is obviously an absolutely crucial vote. It’s not like another election where you can elect someone for four or five years, and maybe change them again after that. A ‘yes’ vote is an absolute final vote. There will be no re-run. The yes campaigners only need to get lucky once.
“We … had a very successful meeting with your council leadership, the convener, leader and a number of senior councillors and officials, talking about Our Islands Our Future.
“Sarah Boyack, who is our front bencher on this issue, has really led the way within our party on adopting a number of proposals that would give a much stronger voice for the islands [campaign] post-referendum.
“One of the issues I raised was perhaps looking at having one public body in Shetland. So that would involve obviously health and local authority under one umbrella.
“I personally would also favour having some of the powers at HIE on economic development going to local authorities.
“We also looked at the proposals to have greater powers from the Crown Estate Commission going to Shetland. We don’t believe that devolution stops at Edinburgh. It’s vitally important there is a strong voice for Shetland post-referendum.
“It’s not about shiny independence versus boring status quo. There are already new powers coming through the Scottish Parliament through the Scotland Act. Labour itself had pushed the Calman Commission which led to the current Scotland Act proposals.
“New borrowing powers are also coming to the parliament. We need to have relevant powers for Shetland to make sure economic development and social justice are key factors for the future agenda for Scotland. We don’t need to change the constitution for that.”
He argued Labour had “led the way” in having a devolved parliament in 1999, and quoted Donald Dewar – widely held to be the “father of devolution” – as having described devolution as “a process, not an event”.
“I would wish to see continuing process of powers from Westminster to the Scottish parliament. There is widespread support for that.”
His comments came after Better Together activists handed out leaflets from a stall in Commercial Street.
Member George Jacobson said: “We’re very pleased to welcome Sarah Boyack and David Stewart up to Shetland to help us spread the word about the Better Together campaign. We feel both Shetland and Scotland would benefit greatly from being part of the UK. It’s really a case of getting the best of both worlds.”
However, chairman of pro-independence group Yes Shetland, Brian Nugent, said independence was the best way of gaining more powers for Scotland.
“Of course it makes sense for as many powers to be devolved down throughout the country as possible.
“The question would be if they [council leaders] are going to Westminster now, and Westminster has had however many years to give them powers, why are they only doing it now?
“With a possible independent Scotland this is a new situation. They [Westminster] have had the chance and an independent Scotland is a new situation.”