I have been in favour of the idea of Shetland self-governance for a long time and I am encouraged by the ever-growing support our campaign has received in the days since the public launch.
With our Facebook page at 845 likes (as of Monday) it is heartening to see that many Shetlanders are at least open to exploring the idea of autonomy.
I wholeheartedly believe this is the best way forward for the isles and as such I was happy to be elected to the position of membership secretary at Wednesday’s inaugural general meeting.
A comment by Da Whitrit in last week’s Shetland Times called this an “attempt to turn in on ourselves”. Another said it could leave the isles in a “fragile and isolated position”.
I disagree with both of these assertions. Shetland, as it has always done, relies greatly on exporting produce around the world.
It was the case in the days of the Hanseatic League and it is the case now in the era of globalisation. No-one is advocating that we change this.
We are not campaigning for a complete divorce from the UK. I believe, with autonomy, we will be free to develop industry in the isles and our exports will greatly increase. Shetland has always been fragile and isolated; fragile because any catastrophe to the fishing industry is a catastrophe for Shetland and isolated because of our remote location and our lack of influence in how the country is run.
What we are campaigning for here is choice. We want the people of Shetland to have a choice in how their islands are governed. Most people would agree that the current set up is not working particularly well.
Rulings passed down from Brussels/London/Edinburgh often have unforeseen negative effects here. Shetland remains relatively well off but this is in spite of all these tiers of central government not because of it.
I am a firm believer in the idea that the further removed from the end result of their decisions the decision makers are, the less effective and more potentially damaging those decisions become.
This remoteness from the outcome of their actions can be social, political or geographical. In Shetland’s case in relation to the EU, UK government and Scottish government it is often all three factors.
We are not suggesting all these powers be handed to the SIC. We believe that if the campaign is successful Shetland would set up a new government.
The SIC would form the starting point for this new structure but would be adapted to suit.
We could utilise ideas which work well from other self-governing island groups and set up a fair, accountable democracy which, due to its small size, would be nimble and very adaptable to change – unlike the current UK system.
Shetland is often overlooked by the rest of the country. This is a real chance for us to take control of our own future and make these islands a better place to live for all of us.
I am glad that a growing number of people see this for the opportunity it is and are supporting the campaign – there may never be a better time than the present.