Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael has said that people in Shetland have the right to “start a conversation” on having more autonomy in event of a heavy Shetland no vote and a narrow Scottish yes win.
Mr Carmichael, echoing his comments quoted in a Guardian newspaper article claimed that the SNP had ruled out any such status for Shetland, quoting the
Wee Blue Book that has been handed out to independence campaigners. The book apparently says that Shetland and Orkney are legally part of Scotland and no more entitled to their own referendum than other parts of Scotland.
Shetland and Orkney MP, Mr Carmichael said that it should be clear that he did not want such circumstances to arise – and the best way to avoid this was to vote no in the referendum.
He said that offering Shetland hope of greater autonomy did not contradict the argument of being “better together”, but that the isles should have the right of determining their own future if “there’s a genuine community need for this.”
“It’s about our right as a community to have that debate for ourselves,” said Mr Carmichael, who added that Shetland was geographically, culturally and historically different to the rest of Scotland.
When put to Mr Carmichael that the Gaelic speaking Western Isles could be held to be even culturally further from mainland Scotland, Mr Carmichael said, “that is their case to make.”
When asked if he would be willing to negotiate on “Team Scotland’s” behalf in event of a yes vote, Mr Carmichael said he did not welcome the use of the phrase
“Team Scotland” – coined by First Minister Alex Salmond and the yes campaign. It implied that only the nationalists were fighting Scotland’s corner while anyone else was on “team Westminster,” said Mr Carmichael.
“Who else would I be negotiating for? I am on team Scotland already,” he added. “Hopefully that’s all academic. The best thing for Scotland is to get a no vote tomorrow.”
Mr Carmichael would not be drawn on what the best currency option for Scotland would be in the event of a vote for independence, only that it would not be currency union. A new currency would be very risky and vulnerable to the markets and joining the Euro would take time.
“The best option is that we stay in the UK, That’s why Alex Salmond does not want to talk about plan B,” said Mr Carmichael before adding that “they [the options] are all deficient”.
Meanwhile Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said that a Scottish Parliament that recognises Shetland’s needs and retains the strength of the UK would be the best outcome of the independence referendum.
Mr Scott, who has held “ferry to the referendum” meetings “from Unst to Fair Isle and discussed independence with people the length and breadth of the islands”, said: “This is the biggest decision any of us will make. Independence is for ever. There is no way back if Scotland votes yes on Thursday.
“Instead of the risks and uncertainties of independence, I urge people to vote for a new Scottish Parliament that will have new tax and welfare powers. No thanks to independence means keeping the benefits of the UK.”
Mr Scott says he is concerned that seven years of nationalist government have removed many powers from Shetland as the SNP have centralised public services such as police, fire and European funding in the central belt.
He added: “Part of the nationalist campaign describes Shetland as an “enclave” and says we have no more right to decide what we want than Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. That shows what would happen if Scotland votes yes. We would be told to shut up and do as we are told by nationalist government.
“Islanders can be in no doubt that independence does nothing for Shetland. Just look at the record of seven years of nationalism. So instead of that people can vote for a positive future with a Scottish Parliament in the UK with new powers to enhance and improve island life. I urge everyone to vote and to reject separation by voting no thanks to independence.”