Stewart meets SIC leaders and supports Our Islands campaign

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.”


Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • April 11th, 2014 22:19

    Once again, “Free beer, tomorrow” – maybe – AFTER the referendum!

    Nobody is going to fall for that!

  • Brian Smith

    • April 13th, 2014 14:10

    I am a Yes voter, but I don’t think it is sensible for Brian Nugent to complain about these developments. The Our Islands councillors have done quite well in their campaign – they have avoided fantasy of the Hill-Tulloch variety, and learned from the failures of the Shetland Movement. Brian should take these things in his stride.

    • John Tulloch

      • April 13th, 2014 23:31


      Setting aside, for now, your provocative comment about “fantasy”, I agree with you about Brian Nugent’s comment. He reportedly said:

      “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?”

      While I agree with him about Westminster, he might just as well ask the same question about Holyrood. All they’re doing is taking power away from the islands through continual centralisation.

    • John Tulloch

      • April 13th, 2014 23:53

      Going by what we hear, Brian, you can be forgiven for thinking the “Our Islands councillors have done quite well in their campaign”.

      After all, they’re being most cordially feted by the ministers and mandarins of both governments, the influential, ‘Yes’-supporting, Glasgow Herald has named them ‘Local Politicians of the Year’ and Scottish councils have created a brand new talking shop, the Scottish Provost Association, and made Malcolm Bell Vice President.

      And the councillors themselves are delighted to be closing in on the deal they asked for which, incidentally, “falls far short of independence”!

      Still, I don’t suppose many Shetlanders will even notice, most of them are too busy “sleepwalking” between foys an’ fitba’ matches – until 2016, that is, when they’ll get a rude awakening.

      “Roll their glory down the ages”, indeed! My foot!

  • Paul Irvine

    • April 13th, 2014 15:35

    It makes no sense for more powers to be devolved to this council they have shown repeatedly their lack of ability to manage things; the bridge, the school, the wind farm, the last chief executive, the continuing deficit. Given their track record there is a strong argument for taking powers away from them. Cost saving idea – follow Orkney and the western isles by reducing the number of representatives and spend the savings on something the community actually get value from like reinstating the public conveniences they have been closed.

  • Allen Fraser

    • April 14th, 2014 9:56

    At the end of all this Shetland (Orkney and the Western Isles) may well get ‘more powers’, but from wherever these ‘powers’ come they will come at a price.

    That price may well be a cut in the many subsides we enjoy. It may mean a cut in our representation(s) at Westminster to one MP for all the island groups and one MSP at Edinburgh for Shetland and Orkney.

    If the adjacent island groups of Shetland and Orkney get the same new devolved ‘powers and responsibilities’ then there is no need for them to be separate local authorities; they could be merged to become one. Perhaps not a bad idea at that; just think of the savings that could be made by joining local government posts, thus halving local government management numbers.

    • John Tulloch

      • April 14th, 2014 18:30

      There’s a marked lack of ambition there, Allen – Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark are adjacent to each other and none of their governments is “merged” with any of the others.

      I have the impression the SIC thinks Shetland will do very well out of the talks. There was a strong hint that Ed Davey will fork out for a submarine cable and, doubtless, Alex Salmond will offer the same – very exciting, that will solve all our financial problems!

      Of course, a great many Shetlanders are opposed to the Viking wind farm and have called for a referendum until they were ‘blue in the face’, yet, so far, none has been forthcoming.

      The referendum called for in the ‘Referenda on the Islands’ (ROTI) petition will have an option of outright independence, as well as the options to go with Scotland or rUK, in other words, the opportunity to veto the Westminster/Holyrood deals.

      If Shetland achieves, even Isle of Man, Faroe, Falklands self-governing status, there will be an election and people will be able to vote for ‘Tingliamentary’ candidates who, if elected, will have the power to stop the wind farm in its tracks.

      None of that will transpire as long as there is no local referendum. Wind farm opponents, if only for that reason, must support the ROTI petition.

      Sign it and get the referendum you’ve wanted all along but which they wouldn’t give you.

    • John Tulloch

      • April 15th, 2014 17:45

      I see the UK isn’t going to pay for wind farms in Ireland, after all, and yet the IPCC is calling for ever more wind farms to be built “to save the planet from climate catastrophe”?

      I wonder where they’re going to put them, then, they don’t seem very keen on offshore wind?

      I suppose submarine cables to the ‘Our Islands, Our Future’ island groups would ‘kill several birds with one stone’.

      Right enough, the Viking and Beatrice projects are still running, maybe they could pick up some of the slack for Scotland/UK if they went ahead?

      That would certainly be welcome news at SIC and Shetland Charitable Trust?

      Of course, we’d need a submarine cable, however, that could well be part of the ‘Our Islands, Our Future’ deals, as reports from the discussions hint.

      With Alistair Carmichael and Ed Davey so keen on the Shetland wind farm project, you never know. And of course, Alex Salmond will have to match their offer.

  • Thomas Robinson

    • April 14th, 2014 9:59

    If there is a No vote you won’t see unionist politicians who are not actually representatives of Shetland for dust.

    Salmond and the SNP will on the other hand be unable to ignore any promises they have made to Shetland if the vote is Yes.

    What to do is a “no brainer” for those who want a better deal for Shetland.

    • John Tulloch

      • April 14th, 2014 18:09


      You might not see much of SNP politicians following a ‘Yes’ vote but you’ll hear plenty about them – ducking and diving, taking back anything that the councils manage to squeeze out of them while they’ve got them in a bidding war, look no further than the stooshie about the housing support grant, which money the Scottish Government is still getting from London, even though London gave Shetland £10 as part of the final deal and Shetland are, at the very least, £20 million out of pocket.

      That’s if they manage to keep any of the promises they make now.

      The one sure way to look after Shetland’s interests is to help ensure the local referenda called for in the ‘Referenda on the Islands’ petition actually take place, by signing the petition at

      • John Tulloch

        • May 10th, 2014 19:04

        Now we hear the SNP are trying to centralise the allocation of EU money for the Highlands and Islands – and that’s without having won independence and before the ‘Our Islands, Our Future’ deal has been finalised.

        Still, I suppose they’ll make sure they get their submarine cable billions back, one way or another.

        Phew, imagine what they’ll be like if they win the referendum!

  • Laurence Banks

    • September 14th, 2014 14:33

    The Islands should apply for a similar status to those applicable to the Isle of Man, and the channel Islands all enjoy being in the UK but have total control of their own affairs.

    • Ali Inkster

      • September 14th, 2014 17:14

      All those islands are to the south of the Scottish border, coincidence! I think not. Edinburgh will never let go of control of these islands unless it if forced to. Vote NO for a chance at a better future clear o da lot o dem.


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