Thank you, Gordon Thomson for your and Shetland Labour Party’s interest in Wir Shetland.
Wir Shetland is a new multi-party organization – two weeks old – aiming for self-governing powers for Shetland, which seeks to unite Shetlanders in support of that aim.
It follows that party-political solutions to hypothetical future issues would be inappropriate.
Detailed policies and costings, necessarily invoking party-political values, would be meaningless and divisive and would dilute our main message, which is a demand for constitutional change.
Once change is achieved, whichever local parties remain may contest elections, advising electors of their own specific proposals.
Keeping the horse in front of the cart, our immediate priority is to establish Wir Shetland on the local political scene. Without strong foundations pontificating about the policies of a hypothetical future government would be a waste of time.
The associated figures are too complex to describe here however I would refer you to the SIC’s Shetland Input-Output Study/Regional Accounts 2010-2011, a 7-yearly in-depth study of the Shetland economy, for detailed economic data.
Excluding increased revenue, which would accrue from oil and fishing and assuming the same tax take as 2010, a Shetland government’s finances would come out roughly the same as now – you keep the tax and lose central government funding. So there should be no problem funding existing local services, even with no gains.
Also, the more cuts in government funding, the more positive the tax/funding balance becomes in Shetland’s favour.
Bearing in mind that the aim is British Overseas Territory status, or similar, defence would be the responsibility of the parent state, currently, the UK.
There will be plenty to change early on without changing the provision of services performing acceptably and existing functions of the health, education and emergency services listed could continue to be contracted from the existing provider until such time as the democratically-elected government saw fit to change them.
The crucial immediate change would be the introduction of true local accountability and a joint services arrangement for reporting local emergencies is also envisaged.
Pension arrangements would be part of the change negotiations and in future, the business of the elected government, as would tax powers and policy, respectively.
However the purpose of our campaign is for Shetlanders to become better off, not worse off and any deal must be ratified by local referendum, by which time the requisite information should be available.
It’s also hard to imagine voters accepting a deal that Wir Shetland felt unable to recommend.
When Britain joined the Common Market in 1973, control of Shetland’s legendary fishing grounds was lost and the only apparent way to regain it is to leave the EU, as Greenland did in 1985.
Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Faroe are all outside the EU and have full control of their fishing grounds yet they enjoy EU
benefits of free access to markets, free movement of capital and labour, etc.
As a BOT or similar, Shetland could enjoy all of these EU advantages via the UK’s membership and regain control of our fishing grounds.
Should the UK ever leave the EU it would have similar benefits as Norway and Iceland. Shetland, as a UK territory, would be entitled to those benefits.
Even after forty years of oil exploitation, Shetland still has great wealth of natural resources, including fishing. The most recent study reported a balance of trade surplus of £130 million (2010-11) and some crude but very conservative calculations indicate the new government would enjoy well over £150 million pa more revenue than the SIC has now.
Should Shetland win self-governing status the debates will change from ones about cuts to ones on how we should spend our increased revenue, wisely.
Shetland’s position commanding the oilfields and strategic seas and skies of the northern North Sea and large swathes of the North Atlantic, is of great economic and military importance, underpinning a prosperous future for Shetland as a self-governing territory.
Of course, all our estimates and claims must be substantiated and the next SIC economic study is due in 2017. There would be no point in “over-egging the pudding” now, only to look foolish later on, which is why our assumptions for revenue estimates were so cautious and why we are reiterating that caution now.
I trust you will find nothing “jingoisitic” in our approach and we shall be pleased to discuss any aspects with you more fully, either in person or by electronic means.
Chair, Wir Shetland.