23rd August 2019
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Forget the breast beating (Andy Holt)

If Danus Skene wishes to flagellate himself over his perception of the part his ancestors played in British colonial history (Spaekalation, The Shetland Times, 16th May) that of course is his right.

What he should not be allowed to get away with is presenting a “horrible histories” version of events in order to serve his political goals.

While there can be no denying that some terrible things were done in the process, great swathes of our former empire benefited hugely from the legacy of colonialism in the form of agricultural, industrial and entrepreneurial development, infrastructural improvement, democratic governance and the millions in aid given annually by succesive goverments from our taxes.

A legacy which sadly in many cases has been squandered by corruption on an industrial scale, nepotism, murderous tribalism, personality cults and religious fanaticism. To cover their tracks despots, like Mugabe in Zimbabwe, still routinely invoke colonialism as the source of their woes 60 years after we left.

Perhaps instead of breast beating and bleating about our guilt for our colonial past we should expend a little more energy confronting some of these leaders of our former colonial possessions with their atrocious behaviour towards their own people.

The suggestion that we dismantle the United Kingdom on the pretext of paying for past sins and as recognition of our supposed diminished influence in the world is frankly, risible.

Andy Holt

North House,

Papa Stour.



  1. Robert Sim

    Andy Holt should read this letter which by coincidence is published in today’s Herald:


  2. Andy Holt

    As advised by Robert Sim I read the letter in the Herald and as the correspondent suggests we did indeed set the borders in Iraq etc and were instrumental in creating the state of Israel. However my point stands. These things were done in the middle of the last century and earlier in the case of Iraq. How is this an excuse for the behaviour of the various participants in the present conflicts now? And what on earth has this to do with Scottish Independence? Scottish nationals, alongside the English, Welsh and Northern Irish, fought and died, legislated, explored and pioneered during the colonial project. How will Scotland separating herself from the United Kingdom solve any of these problems? Invoking post-colonial guilt is a smokescreen to cover the paucity of argument in favour of separation.

    • Robert Sim

      Thanks, Andy. The relevance is in the way in which the UK has continued to pursue a neo-colonial foreign policy (eg in Iraq) – attempting to be an ‘international policeman’ – and the fact, as the Herald letter points out, that we have an opportunity to develop a less confrontational foreign policy as an independent nation.

  3. Ali Inkster

    Since he is so opposed to colonialism and so keen to apologise and make amends maybe Danus would like to start with Scotlands very own overseas colonies. We await his apology with baited breath and will be delighted to hear his plans for throwing of the colonial yolk. Reparations for centuries of theft will be quite steep and maybe he could enlighten us as to the figure that Salmond has decided to pay us and over how long, so we can make plans for our freedom and future prosperity.

  4. Brian Smith

    Throwing the colonial yolk sounds really interesting.

    • Mike Grant

      Be serious, Brian. It’s no yolk.

  5. David Spence

    I would be more interested in Mr Aex Salmond standing up in the Scottish Parliament confessing that Scotland did not have sovereign rights to the islands of Orkney and Shetland…………..but with Sullom Voe bringing in around £12 billion a year into the UK economy, I doubt very much this will ever happen.

    It seems rather ironic that it takes an english man (despite what people may perceive of him) to have the guts and tenacity to actually bring this subject to the fore………since Shetlander’s themselves cannot be bothered or are too afraid of ‘ the establishment ‘……….and act like sheep (what irony) following their master……no questions asked………but I guess, by the way the Judge acted towards him, Alex Salmond will play the ‘ Ignorance is Bliss ‘ card to avoid any such confrontation………if time shall tell.

  6. Jonathan Wills

    Yes, I think Ali may be egging his argument somewhat… That’s the sort of mistake one can make when being so very angry about so very many things at once, I suppose.

    • John Tulloch

      Somebody once said, “He who is without sin, cast the first egg!”

      Rural schools, Viking Energy,… need I go on?

      • Ali Inkster

        Public toilets, ( the Hamnavoe ones I offered to keep open at my expense, but was refused) £20 million a year off the block grant, working with tesco to the detriment of rural shops, our islands no future, etc etc etc…..

      • John Tulloch

        Mebby someen at’s braaly weel up ita da Cooncil’ll tell wis whit wye da Hamnavoe lavy cudna be keepit oppm at somidder een’s expense?

  7. Ian Tinkler

    “we have an opportunity to develop a less confrontational foreign policy as an independent nation” Robert Sim, now whom once followed that line. Was that not Chamberlain towards Hitler in Munich ( Peace in our time.) Fits in well with Salmond’s love in towards Putin . Frightening how often history repeats itself!

    • Robert Sim

      Two can play at that game, Ian. Who once (or more than once) did not follow that line? Was it not Tony Blair helping to invade Iraq on false pretences?

      What are you actually suggesting anyway with your comment on Putin – that an independent Scotland should immediately declare war on Russia?

  8. Rachel Buchan

    Eggcellent discussion. Sorry, couldn’t help myself!!….

  9. ian tinkler

    Saddam Hussein or Adolph Hitler?. Nitrogen Mustard or Zyclon-B?. Halabja or Belson?. Robert Sim, choose your words with care, you may regard this “Just a game two can play”, however “a less confrontational foreign policy” would have left both these evil man in power. Also so many more evil regimes, Taliban, Galtiere ect. Maybe that’s OK with you and the NATS, thank God the UK (Blair) took a stand. As for your comment, “an independent Scotland should immediately declare war on Russia? Grow up, this is not really very funny, dictators are not just jokes, ask a free Ukrainian or the families of those whom have died as a result of Putin’s invasive policies!

    • Robert Sim

      Ian, you clearly misunderstand me – I wasn’t joking. I was being deadly serious. The history lessons and use of hindsight in your posts on this topic are all very interesting but, looking forward, how do you actually advocate an independent Scotland conducts its foreign policy?

  10. David Spence

    Yes, I think it is rich of politicians and royalty to make complaints about Putin, when we are ourselves (ok, being a poodle (Blair) to the USA (Bush)) illegally invaded 2 countries on the pretence we were, allegedly, doing good but in actual fact, just expanding american imperialism so as they, the USA, could benefit economically at the cost of many thousands of lives being lost (Iraqi’s, Afghans as well as British soldiers).

    It seems very disturbing that the country which put into power the tyrant which ruled Iraq since 1979 and where the it was making billions in selling arms to not only Iraq but also Iran in their 8 year conflict, put into power and kept in power the Taliban, keeps in power a regime that persecutes the Palestinians should have the audacity and cheek to preach morals against Putin when its foreign policy has been responsible for the deaths of millions since 1945. Some people may praise, even worship (like the vile Tories) the USA, but when it comes to a countries dirty washing, the USA is up there on the top of the pile.

  11. ian tinkler

    Robert Sim, I do not advocate for an Independent Scotland, as for a foreign policy that is not my privilege to do. Now just look at Alex advocating full membership of NATO, nuclear weapons and all! That means entry of Trident Subs into any Scottish port, including Lerwick with no questions asked. Enough said?

  12. Danus Skene

    I am glad to have stirred all this up with the original Spaekalation article. It’s what the column is for. But I do wish for a more graceful conversation!

    Can I go back to the beginning? Andy, I don’t beat myself up. The point at this stage is not about the evils or achievements — there were both — of British imperialism. The need, and the relevance to the referendum, is to recognise that it didn’t just happen, but is still happening. In an age when there can be no reason for one state determining the future of another, that must stop.

    The feeling I was trying to convey is that “Britain” is not a country. It is a multinational empire which has proved in recent years to be incapable of escaping from inherent imperial attitudes and behaviour. In September, we can end that, and go a long way towards allowing the other British nations to do the same. That is not about the sins of the fathers, but about hopes for the children.

    Ali, since you ask, it happens to be my view that Shetland, along with Ulster, was near enough the first of James VI’s imperial projects. Solution?… progressively greater autonomy, with Åland as the clearest model. This should include fiscal autonomy that gives Shetland rights to income from our resources. The immediate issue is that Shetland is right now a Scottish local authority, and has been since a century before the Act of Union — let’s leave the earls’ period out of it. Autonomy is thus for negotiation with Scotland, whether Scotland is itself independent or not. Much easier with an independent Scotland. The door is open.

    • Ali Inkster

      Progressively greater autonomy will that progression last long enough for the oil revenues to be taken by edinburgh or long enough for eck to sacrifice our fishing industry on the EU alter. Why not full autonomy now? Much easier with an independent Scotland? lets just lay our cards on the table now and let the people of Shetland decide if sending £5.5 billion +/- south and getting £70 million back is worth it.

  13. ian tinkler

    “The feeling I was trying to convey is that “Britain” is not a country. It is a multinational empire which has proved in recent years to be incapable of escaping from inherent imperial attitudes and behaviour” Please Danus Skene , this is just your own somewhat prejudiced view and feeling. Do not insult everyone’s intelligence by stating it as if it was a matter of fact. Now you have made a statement, just reference your point with proof, no more bull and here say, just try and add proof to your fanciful opinions. Especially the phrase “in recent years to be incapable of escaping from inherent imperial attitudes and behaviour”
    It is so good to blog a recent candidate in the SIC elections whom actually got less votes than me, quite an achievement for yourself and the SNP.


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