Work on ‘islands’ deal’ continues (Gary Robinson)

John Tulloch’s lack of understanding of the issues at play here appears only to be matched by the negativity of his latest epistle.

Our Islands Our Future has not, as he claims, been “absorbed” into anything. How could it be? It’s an entirely different thing that belongs to the three islands’ councils and remains as our vehicle to engage with all of our governments.

He goes on to ask what 400,000 mainland residents have to do with the new islands strategic group but the answer is simple: precisely nothing. The new group will focus on the islands’ council areas and the 17 per cent of Argyll and Bute, 4.4 per cent of Highland and 4.4 per cent of North Ayrshire residents who live on islands.

The scope of the “islands’ strategic group” doesn’t extend beyond islands. The clue is in the name.

I think the Minister for Transport and the Islands also makes it clear in his statement that any national islands plan will be tailored to individual circumstances and this is entirely in keeping with the concept of “islands proofing” that we have promoted. It’s highly likely that powers will be tailored or, better still, broad enough to recognise the different ambitions encountered across all of Scotland’s islands. It will also have to recognise the greater ability of island authorities, as opposed to authorities with islands, to hold and deploy devolved powers.

Mr Tulloch suggests that the islands’ councils might have a “major problem” but I don’t see it that way at all. Indeed, I think the work we’ve done, over the past three years or so, means that we have clearly defined proposals that should stand us in good stead going into the relatively short period to enact an islands’ bill.

If anything, the three councils joining this process might have a problem as they will need to set a blistering pace in order to catch up, and keep, up with this process.

That said OIOF has more than one string to its bow since work continues, in tandem with the islands’ bill, to promote an “islands’ deal” for the three islands’ councils; similar in concept to recent “city deals”.

Interestingly, I note Mr Tulloch’s repeated attempts to distance himself from the leadership of the “Wir Shetland” (not a political group) thingy. Wonder why?

Sadly, I’m unfamiliar with the Hotel Dalriada to which you refer but there is a Dalriada Guest House on Skye where there’s a bridge so you most definitely can leave.

Gary Robinson
SIC political leader
Town Hall,


Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • September 1st, 2016 8:02

    Gary, my letter was specifically about “significant local powers”.

    From Shetland News:

    “Robinson said the project (Islands Strategic Group) would act as “successor” to the islands area ministerial working group.

    “It’s going to be helpful as we work towards the national islands plan and indeed the islands bill,” he said.

    “Robinson, however, said SIC will work with government alongside Orkney and the Western Isles on developing an “islands deal”,… similar to (existing) city deals…”

    Two processes:

    1. The new Islands Strategic Group is “successor to the islands area ministerial working group” i.e. OIOF has lost exclusive ministerial access for national islands plan/Islands Bill purposes, effectively being “absorbed” into the Islands Strategic Group, where west coast politics will hold sway.

    2. The OIOF councils and Scottish government will work towards an “islands deal”,…(like)… existing “city deals” , separate from Islands Strategic Group.

    City deals are about economic growth, not new powers. In the 90-page document, “Scotland’s Agenda for Cities”, I found only a paragraph on “subsidiarity” on p26 and another on “willingness …to understand ambitions… beyond… existing powers…”, on p64.

    Sounds like new powers will come via the Islands Strategic Group with its west coast mainland agenda?

    • Gary Robinson

      • September 1st, 2016 13:58

      Lets be clear John, the aim is to bring significant local powers to the islands councils and our communities; on that we can surely agree.

      Where your position and mine diverge is in how we achieve those powers. You favour more of the tried and failed Shetland Movement approach where you demand everything you want and ultimately get nothing. While I support an incremental approach, more akin to the Aland example, which I believe has much more chance of being successful.

      Under your stewardship Wir Shetland backed the Liberal Democrats at the last election. Your choice; you didn’t have to support anyone. A tactical mistake perhaps since the Shetland Movement approach was once supported by the SNP when they stood aside in order to give John Goodlad a clear run in a general election. The Liberal Democrats did no such thing.

      To respond to your two bullet points:

      1. You’re right to say that we no longer have the exclusive access that we had as members of the IAMWG but our campaign has not been absorbed into anything. That’s an assumption too far on your part. I’ve already explained that the scope is islands only and that it’s likely that there will be some powers that can only be vested in the Islands Councils. Therefore I see the strategic group as a natural progression of, rather than a threat to, our work.

      2. I have described an Islands Deal as being like a City Deal, or similar in concept to a City Deal but we don’t envisage a city deal for the islands so your comment is invalid.

      Sorry if I’ve let facts get in the way of one of your ripping yarns again John.

      • Duncan Simpson

        • September 2nd, 2016 0:34

        Gary, your faith in central Government is all well and good and I hope this “Island Proofing” strategy works out for us and other island groups.

        That being said, I still believe being at the whim of ministers in London and Edinburgh will always lead to problems for places such as Shetland. I cannot see an outcome from this which will do enough for us in the long term. We will have to fight tooth and nail for every little concession amidst a clamor of other voices.

        Wir Shetland is not “demanding” anything that is not Shetland’s by rights and we have always held the position that any autonomy deal would be a negotiation, not Shetland declaring UDI. There are many example of autonomous island groups, both within and without the UK framework, which work well. If you think the Scottish Government will “incrementally” allow us this status you are wrong, firstly it is not in their power to give as we are still part of the UK and secondly they have shown a track record of doing the complete opposite.

        I wish OIOF well but unless things change massively it is not enough.

  • ian_tinkler

    • September 1st, 2016 10:58

    Gary Robinson; SIC political leader! What exactly is a political leader. It appears to me to me, an SG political sycophant, is a more appropriate description . Just what does Shetland culture have in common with these other councils? Orkney, yes, but the Western Isles, Language?, Religion? Culture? political leanings? absolutely nothing apart from an encircling sea coastline as much as 500 miles distant from our shores. With regard to the 80% of mainland residents, they are not even islanders, your thoughts on that “political leader”.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • September 1st, 2016 13:27

    Three years of nothing from the OIOF initiative, is there any wonder when SNP MSPs waste time and money on infantile anti English rhetoric, instead of sorting out Scotland’s problems. Christine Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweddale and Lauderdale, wrote to Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis to challenge the decision to remove the Saltire from Scottish produce. What a waste of Scottish tax payers money; I could understand it if she had made a hooha about the yes brigade defacing the Saltire by sticking a yes in the middle of it.

    • Shuard Manson

      • September 2nd, 2016 2:41

      Have you started drinking again Gordon?

      • Gordon Harmer

        • September 2nd, 2016 11:17

        I never stopped Shuard, but if I had the SNP and their broken promises would have driven me back to it. I see you’r still on it too.

  • John Tulloch

    • September 1st, 2016 15:02

    Gary, I want you to succeed. Shetland Movement failed because they got involved in the Constitutional Convention, pretty much like you’re doing.

    You say your “islands deal is like a city deal” but you “don’t envisage a city deal”? Is this really the route for acquiring new powers? Sounds like a fresh start to me – “back down the big snake to Square 1”!

    Remember OIOF’s “joint mission statement”(2013)?
    Para9: “Opportunities… (for increased local powers)”: 

    1. Control of Sea Bed.
    2. Development of Fishery Management Plans/Schemes of Assistance.
    3. Effective development of world-class renewable energy resources.
    4. Support to agriculture, …(because of)… remoteness.
    5. Mainland/Island ferry services/inter-islands ferry services commissioned, funded, operated and controlled from the Islands.
    6. Potential changes to fiscal arrangements so islands benefit from exploitation of local resources.
    7. Recognition of status of Islands in the new Scottish Constitutional Settlement…. and within the European Union Governance Framework, … to enhance islands’ status and representation at EU level.
    8. Etc. ”

    We are in OIOF’s fourth year, one Scottish referendum and two elections on, with nothing to show. Which of the above aims will be realised from which of the two new negotiating groups – and when?

    • Brian Smith

      • September 1st, 2016 18:05

      What is the alternative being proposed by Wir Shetland and Mr Scott? Surely someone knows.

    • Steven Jarmson

      • September 1st, 2016 19:32

      My persistent question still remains unanswered, John you have touched on it there-
      Will the Islands Bill hand over futher fevolve the crown estate to local areas who like Shetland, as the Smith Commission said should happen?
      We don’t just want the money the seabed can make for Shetland, we want the powers to make the decisions about how best, for Shetland, to maximise that resource whether financially or otherwise.

      Is the SNP keeping the seabed so that once the Viking Wind Farm is up and running they can extend the number of turbines by using our seas?

      I doubt OIOF has achieved much more than spending locals council taxes on over prices trips to Scotland.

      • David Spence

        • September 3rd, 2016 0:09

        Steven, I very much doubt the Viking Energy Project will get off the ground. The project estimated cost has already increased by 21% and this is without the cost of an Interconnector Cable, which will cost considerably more than all the turbines, infrastructures etc etc put together.

        As for the SCT being an investor in the project (I would say more to do with self interest rather than helping Shetland, lets say) I would seriously look into this, and investigate why the SCT has wasted over £11 million of ‘ Shetlands Money ‘ into a project which by all accounts (excuse the pun) seems to be proving not to be a financial investment at all, and the cost of the project into, possibly, the billions rather than millions……………proving the return for the SCT is almost zero.

  • Suzy Jolly

    • September 1st, 2016 17:52

    “It’s highly likely …” – would that be the same as how a certain government in the past was going to do all they could regarding the cost of Shetland building houses back in the 1970s … only where was that in writing saying that particular Gov. would meet the cost and look how that one panned out?

    It’s also “highly likely” that the bill has to get through the Scottish Parliament and probably as “highly likely” that some parties will not vote for it. “highly likely” does not equal will.

  • David Spence

    • September 1st, 2016 23:18

    I think, widespread statement, it would be good to challenge Scotland to prove it has sovereign rights to the islands of Shetland……….rather than accepting the status quo of ‘ believing Scotland has sole and sovereign rights to the Shetland Islands ‘.

    I know it the typical Shetland way of doing nothing ‘ because we do not want to rock the boat attitude ‘ rather than Shetlander’s having a greater opportunity to challenge what Scotland says is theirs, despite having no proof, written or otherwise.

    Is the Shetland establishment too weak to ask Scotland to prove ownership of the islands or is the establishment more caring about their own needs rather than the people of Shetland or the islands themselves, and the potential of giving Shetland greater autonomy and possibly have more control of its own wealth creation???????

    As said though ‘ Us Shetlander’s are happy with the way things are……..we don’t want to rock the boat (challenge Scotland to prove its right to govern and control the islands) ‘.

    So Gary, please come with some evidence to prove Scotland/UK has sovereign rights over the islands.

  • John Tulloch

    • September 2nd, 2016 16:01

    Gary, you have chosen not to answer my above question. No surprises there.

    I have some other concerns, two of which are:

    1. The Islands Strategic Group (ISG) scope may well , as you say, “not extend beyond islands” but have you never heard of ‘blocking tactics’? The Islands Bill is a “Year One priority” – it will be enacted with whatever has been negotiated when the deadline arrives. The mainland councils will be able to obstruct progress if they wish and why would they not, there’s nothing in it for them, bar loss?

    So, which of OIOF’s original aims (see my above comment) do you anticipate being satisfactorily resolved in the Islands Bill?

    2. Two statements you made give rise to concern that OIOF/SIC have agreed to this regrouping without knowing what the new terms of reference will be:

    * “It’s highly likely that powers will be tailored…etc.” and

    * “It (ISG) will also have to recognise the different ability of island authorities, as opposed to authorities with islands, to hold and deploy devolved powers.”

    Does this mean OIOF/SIC have agreed to this regrouping while these crucial principles have yet to be confirmed?

  • John Tulloch

    • September 6th, 2016 19:05

    @Gary Robinson,

    The 2014 Smith Commission recommended control of the seabed be devolved to local/harbour authority control. However, following questioning of Holyrood civil servants by a parliamentary committee, today, MSP Tavish Scott said:

    “They gave no indication of when Shetland is likely to benefit from local decision-making over the seabed. In fact, they poured heaps of North Sea cold water over the concept of local devolution.”

    “….they poured heaps of …cold water over…..local devolution.” Well, well!

    May I remind you, again of OIOF’s “joint mission statement”(2013)?

    “Control of the sea bed” is No1 on OIOF’s list of aims.

    I repeat the question you omitted to answer, above:

    “We are now in OIOF’s fourth year, one Scottish referendum and two elections on, with nothing to show. Which of the above aims will be realised from which of the two new negotiating groups – and when?”

    And will “local control of the sea bed” be in the Islands Bill?

  • Gordon Harmer

    • September 7th, 2016 17:15

    Neither Gary or the council can do anything about local social housing allocation being abused, how on earth do you expect a favourable outcome from the OIOF debacle. If an unscrupulous individual can pull the wool over the councils eyes and be allocated a council house while they rent there own bought council house to an oil related company there is not much chance of overcoming the woolly pullovers of the Scottish government.

  • Brian Smith

    • September 29th, 2016 15:20

    Robert and Ali, you’re awful illogical.

    • ian_tinkler

      • September 29th, 2016 17:01

      There has to be something very sad when educated clowns can only find the reading matter of others worthy of critical comment. Just judge others by their results and contributions to society. Brian Smith, Gary Robinson!! enough said.

  • John Tulloch

    • September 29th, 2016 18:11

    Gary Robinson.

    Don’t forget to tell Humza Yousaf all about your trip to that “world class country”, Faroe.

    The SG is treating SIC/OIOF like beggars, by comparison.

    Dare we lippen that any single one of its original 2013 aims (See list below) will be satisfied by the forthcoming Islands Bill (Faroe has them all)?

    1. Control of Sea Bed.
    2. Development of Fishery Management Plans/Schemes of Assistance.
    3. Effective development of world-class renewable energy resources.
    4. Support to agriculture, …(because of)… remoteness.
    5. Mainland/Island ferry services/inter-islands ferry services commissioned, funded, operated and controlled from the Islands.
    6. Potential changes to fiscal arrangements so islands benefit from exploitation of local resources.
    7. Recognition of status of Islands in the new Scottish Constitutional Settlement…. and within the European Union Governance Framework, … to enhance islands’ status and representation at EU level.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 4th, 2016 20:09

    Just ask yourself this, Why does Gary Robinson not speak out about the clear lie from the SNP, “WE PROMISE TO CUT FARES FOR LIFELINE FERRY SERVICES.” As the political leader of the SIC, why the silence? Is he perchance so in bed with Nippy and the SNP that a groveling silence is all he is capable of?

  • Gary Robinson

    • October 6th, 2016 11:33

    John, You’re lagging behind again. A discussion has already been had with the Scottish Government following our visit to Faroe.

    Ian, If you have any evidence that suggests the Scottish Government was going to cut fares this year or by any other fixed date then I’d love to see it. My understanding was that this was a manifesto commitment that would be delivered in the lifetime of this parliament.

    • John Tulloch

      • October 6th, 2016 14:41

      Very good, Gary, I trust you told Mr Yousaf all about Faroe?

      So that’s now 14 summits, plus 2 elections and 2 referenda, well into OIOF’s 4th year, and still you are unable to answer which, if any, of OIOF’s original aims will be satisfied? Crown Estates/sea bed? Fishing? Crofting?

      And why do tunnels need to be “national policy”? That’s more centralisation you’re volunteering for, I thought OIOF was expressing a desire for more local powers, not less?

      The Faroese didn’t need tunnels to be Danish national policy, did they?

  • ian_tinkler

    • October 6th, 2016 13:06

    The SNP have had nine years to offer people in the northern isles a fair deal on ferry fares. They have failed to act .“WE PROMISE TO CUT FARES FOR LIFELINE FERRY SERVICES.” was their most recent promise Now nothing until 2018, if we are lucky. Are you OK with that Gary Robinson? I note your groveling silence and lack of criticism about the SNPs failure to act now. So does most of Shetland!

  • David Spence

    • October 7th, 2016 10:42

    I would not be surprised if Serco raised their prices at the same percentage rate (if not slightly higher) as the cut on the ‘ ferry fares ‘ prior to 2018, then introduce the cut and boast they are providing a cheaper service, and satisfying the SNP at the same time. In other words ‘ Business as usual ‘.

    As the saying is ‘ You’ll never meet a honest business person ‘ lol

    • Ali Inkster

      • October 7th, 2016 19:41

      Yet again you cast aspersions on the honesty of everyone in business. imagine the outcry should someone else claim that you can’t trust unmarried middle aged men living near schools.

  • John Tulloch

    • October 8th, 2016 11:26

    Well, Gary Robinson,

    Aren’t you going to enlighten us why you are volunteering the centralisation of road tunnels to “national policy”?

    This is flat-out counter to OIOF’s original stated aims for increased local powers, which included:

    “Sustainable transport: effective transport links to maximise Island resources, ….;”

    It has been shown that not only are road tunnels the best way to “maximise island resources” and transform islanders’ lifestyles, they are also cheaper. And once installed, they are much cheaper to run and are thus “sustainable” – for 100-odd years!

    Even extending “sustainability” to include CO2 and other exhaust emissions, it has been shown that ferrying cars emits far more pollution than driving the same distance.

    The Faroese manage fine without Denmark interfering, so why are you volunteering to have our road tunnels centralised?

    Are you sure you aren’t just “kicking the ball into the long grass”?


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