A new “plan for the islands” aimed at combating Scottish government decisions has been put forward by Shetland’s MSP.
Tavish Scott has endorsed a “real debate” on Shetland’s future, and has praised Wir Shetland as a way of combating “endless centralisation” of the Scottish government.
He has called on the isles to determine its own future in the event of a second Scottish independence should the UK pull out from Europe.
His comments were made during a speech at the party’s Scottish conference in Edinburgh.
“On 5th May, Shetland can vote for rule from Edinburgh. Or to explore what is in the islands’ best interests. We need a real debate about what is the best constitutional future for Shetland. One thing is for sure, the SNP will not give us that. After nine years of nationalist government they offer jam tomorrow, in the hope that it will keep us quiet. I am sure Wir Shetland will not keep quiet, and nor will I.”
He said the UK and Scotland were still “far too centralised” in the way power is shared. He described the Smith Commission as a step forward, but insisted there was a need to be “more radical”.
“Passing powers to island communities. The islands have their own unique challenges. Islanders know best how to address these.
“I sat on the Smith Commission, alongside my friend, Mike Moore. I argued for the management of the seabed around the islands not just to be devolved to Edinburgh, but to pass to islands control. I strongly believe these management powers should pass to the Lerwick Port Authority and to Shetland Islands Council.”
Mr Scott said a plan on broadband and mobile phone coverage for the islands was badly needed.
He highlighted concerns from constituent Steven Spence, who has become frustrated by the continuing slow speed of coverage in Unst.
“The islands need a new approach that installs fast broadband at the most isolated croft. Not population driven targets that concentrate on where most people live. This approach fails all of us who live more than a mile from our telephone exchange,” Mr Scott told the conference.
The MSP has also levelled criticism at the Scottish government for its role in the distribution of subsidies to farmers and crofters. Still only 40 per cent of producers in Scotland who were due to receive their payments by the end of January have done so. This week it emerged delays were also expected in payments under the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme.
“The SNP has spent an unbelievable £178 million on a computer to make just 14,000 payments. It has failed. The agriculture minister does not command the confidence of the industry. So Scotland’s First Minister should step in, take charge, and sort out this shambles. This is her government, her shambles and her responsibility to resolve it. Crofters and farmers expect nothing less.”
He has also criticised the “disastrous creation” of Police Scotland, and slammed the Scottish government for its “centralisation” approach.
“The SNP have forgotten the value of community policing and replaced it with targets designed for the central belt. All Shetland’s outlying police stations have closed. A police presence in Whalsay or Yell, is an occasional event.”
He also accused many nationalists of, like the Tories, wanting Britain to exit the EU in the forthcoming European referendum.
Brexit, he said, meant a second vote on Scottish independence.
“So once again, the Tories and the SNP are hand in hand. This week they combined to oppose tax changes at Holyrood. They voted against £475 million for our schools.
“Enough is enough. I have canvassed a lot of doors across the islands already. The mood is for decisions that affect us to be taken by us.”
He added: “It is this endless centralisation, the arrogance of a central belt government, who always know best, that has encouraged the formation of Wir Shetland. They represent a wide group of islanders who want self-determination for Shetland.
“I have visited the Isle of Man. There is little they decide there that Shetland could not determine.
“So if the UK withdraws from the EU, and the SNP force a second independence referendum, Shetland should have the right to decide where we want to be. The way this country is going that might be back to Norway. But at the very least we want the chance to explore an opt-out of our own.”