22nd July 2019
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Dubious feast awaiting? (John Tulloch)

, by , in Readers' Views

Our Islands, Our Future (OIOF), originally created to campaign for significant local powers for Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles councils, has reportedly been absorbed into the new, larger “islands strategic group” with three mainland councils (North Ayrshire, Highland and Argyll and Bute), to hammer out details of the forthcoming Scottish Islands Bill.

The total population of the original three OIOF island groups is about 70,000 whereas the new group, including the remaining islands, comprises half a million people, 80 per cent of whom live on the Scottish mainland.

Transport and islands minister Humza Yousaf says the group’s purpose is: “… the development of a national islands plan … to further empower Scottish islands … tailored specifically by those most affected … [accounting for the] … challenges … and opportunities of island life”?

Okay. But what do 400,000 mainland residents have to do with it?

And what does it mean for OIOF? Will local powers be “tailored” to different islands or will Shetland receive the same treatment as Tiree, or Colonsay?

If the Islands Bill is intended to deliver meaningful local powers to the OIOF councils in an untailored “one size fits all” way, the three mainland councils must be prepared to negotiate devolution of their own existing powers, along with other powers that they themselves will never enjoy, to both “their islands” and the OIOF councils. That is a big ask.

Such relatively large, powerful councils are unlikely to agree to a joint approach that disadvantages them. Unless they actually want rid of their islands (also unlikely) they will not willingly negotiate away powers at their own expense.

This presents a major problem for OIOF. If the Scottish government’s standard “one size fits all” approach prevails, Shetland will gain nothing of value from the Islands Bill and OIOF will be stuck fast in the process, pinioned by the deadweight of these elephantine mainland councils. Unable to progress, they cannot even escape, lest they lose out on such crumbs as may fall from the Bill.

Once the associated legislation has been passed that will be it. Future discussions will be channeled via this Islands Strategic Group, in which Shetland’s interests will serve merely to season the great soup of Hebridean and west coast politics.

Interestingly, the Wir Shetland submission (I hold no office) to the first consultation, last December, pointed out the irrelevance of the Islands Bill to Shetland’s needs. The submission stated: “The Islands Bill consultation is a Scottish Government initiative in response to the demands of the ‘Our Islands, Our Future’ (OIOF) island councils campaign which, by attempting to seek a ‘one size fits all’ solution for all Scottish islands, dilutes the special circumstances on which the OIOF campaign is predicated thus blunting and cushioning the impact of its arguments.”

Any other approach like, say, tailoring powers to recipients, or creating another island council for the Inner Hebrides, will require protracted consultations, negotiations and legislation – “Clink, clink, clank,” will go the OIOF can, kicked ever further down the road by Humza Yousaf.

However, the spectre at this dubious feast that no-one dares mention, is the potential creation of a national islands authority to administer the national islands plan, into which the SIC, OIC and CNES (Western Isles) will disappear, replaced by offices in Inverness, Oban and ironically, Largs.
Welcome to the Hotel Dalriada, Gary Robinson … you can check out but you can never leave!

John Tulloch


  1. Gordon Harmer

    Ironic you should mention “Hotel Dalriada” John, as there is a bar in Portabello Edinburgh called the “Dalriada”. Edinburgh is just where the Islands power is going to end up, centralisation, that is what is happening here. Three years of nothing from OIOF, now a mixing pot of authorities bunged together and ruled from Edinburgh. I think Gary Robinson should check out and never come back, he has let Shetland down.

    • Brian Smith

      Still anxious to know what Wir Shetland and Tavish Scott are preparing as an alternative …

      • Davie Gardner

        Whit – du means beyond Wir Shetland’s much voiced statement ‘Better aff rid o da lot o dem’ Brian? I think we’re a’ still waiting to hear more on the ‘alternative’ – and equally beyond the rhetoric on their Facebook page too for dat matter!!!

      • Gordon Harmer

        @ Davie Gardner, it is ” better aff clear o da lot o dem” not ” ‘Better aff rid o da lot o dem” and it is one mans catchphrase, one man who just happens to be a member of Wir Shetland. Lazy and simple politics Davie, I would have expected better of yourself. It would be no different if a sooth mooth journalist came to Shetland and took a photo of yourself and proclaimed this is a typical Shetlander. You and many others make uneducated statements like yours above, simply because you can find no intelligent way of undermining an organisation you just do not understand, or want to.

      • Gary Robinson

        I note Gordon’s disdain for people from the south. Perhaps Wir Shetland could build a wall… and make them pay for it…

      • Gordon Harmer

        Gary, the only disdain for people from the south that I show is for the very small minority who have come to Shetland and legally obtained a council house, gone on to buy it legally from the council and then operated a scam to obtain a second council house. These people then rent or have rented the first house they obtained to oil related companies for an over inflated rent thereby keeping young Shetland families both out of social and private rented accommodation. What really boils my blood is when someone who cares and finds this practice abhorrent, complains and offers evidence to the council leadership and nothing happens. Just for your information Gary I now live south but Shetland is in my heart and unlike some who are in power I want Shetland to thrive and not become a cash cow for the present Scottish government with the help of some in the council. Councillors who don’t have the anatomical requirements to sort out local anomaly’s which affect young Shetland families and Scottish anomaly’s which affect the whole of Shetland.

      • Duncan Simpson

        Gary Robinson have you really just stooped to the level of comparing 400+ Shetlanders to Donald Trump and his supporters simply because they have a different vision than you?

        Fine behavior from our elected leader. You may have personal issues with some of our members but that is no excuse to tar all with the same brush.

      • Ali Inkster

        Oh dear Gary, when I say “Better aff clear a da lot a dem” it is in reference to the useless incompetent and sometimes corrupt political types infesting the land. Not ordinary people. If you want to know better the kind of person it is directed at look in a mirror there will be one standing right there.

  2. ian tinkler

    I am so sorry you are still anxious, Brian Smith. Irrational anxiety states can often be caused by ignorance. Try the “Wir Shetland” Website, which may help allay your fears and ignorance. If that does not help, I know some excellent phycologists and stress councillors who may be of help. Really there is nothing to fear here, Shetlanders, having real autonomy and controlling their own destiny is nothing to be afraid of. Irrational anxiety is really sad, therapy should help.

    • ian tinkler

      Davie, I have genuine concerns for Brian. His inability to understand that Wir Shetland is no more linked to Tavish, Corbyn, Snippy or UKIP for that matter (Wir Ukip) would indicate he may some serious problems of irrationality. Then irrational feelings of anxiety he professes could indicate some serious condition may be inflicting itself upon him. That is why I suggested therapy. For an educated man to be so unable to understand the Wir Shetland website would indicate he may have some serious condition requiring professional help…

  3. Davie Gardner

    Thanks for putting me right on that major political and clearly uneducted misquote Gordon. Your response – along with Ian Tinkler’s to Brian Smith – does however serve to highlight another relatively common trait among some Wir Shetland members …..resorting to personal insults when someone takes an alternate view to yourselves.

    • Gordon Harmer

      Well Davie, I see you have learned one lesson at least, by saying “some Wir Shetland Members” instead of making all Wir Shetland members accountable for one’s catchphrase or insult. You have no idea how much it cheers me up when I help someone with their education ;-).

    • ian_tinkler

      Pots and kettles Davie Gardiner!! Now you try a constructive comment, that would be a first. I am however, contrary to your previous comments, glad to see you do now actually read and take note of my observations! That is a bit of a Volt face. Is that a Nationalist trait? No insult intended unless that cap fits you.

    • Brian Smith

      Trying again. What is Wir Shetland’s and Mr Scott’s strategy for achieving autonomy for Shetland?

      • George Pottinger

        Brian – The computing power available on ‘The Hitch=hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ established that the answer to the question of the Meaning of Life was ’42’. Enough computing power to answer your question? I would doubt it!

  4. ian tinkler

    O Dear me, Brian Smith, here we go again, Wir Shetland’s strategy can be found on their Website, Tavis, I am sure can speak for himself. Is that too hard for you to understand?

  5. ian tinkler

    Brian Smith, WIR SHETLAND is currently a multi-party campaign group dedicated to winning self-governing powers for Shetland.
    Our preferred approach is to involve local political parties in discussions aimed at achieving our goal. However, the option of registering as a political party will be considered if necessary.
    Tavish Scot is not currently a member of Wir Shetland