Wir Shetland outlines its hopes at first annual meeting

Wir Shetland outlined its vision for the isles if the pressure group succeeds in making Shetland a British Oversees Territory that will not be part of Scotland, or the EU.

James Titcomb (right) speaks to the small audience at Wir Shetland's first annual meeting. Also at the top table are Duncan Simpson (left) and Kathy Greaves. Photo: Peter Johnson
James Titcomb (right) speaks to the small audience at Wir Shetland’s first annual meeting. Also at the top table are Duncan Simpson (left) and Kathy Greaves. Photo: Peter Johnson

Speaking at the group’s first annual meeting in the Town Hall on Wednesday, chairman James Titcomb outlined a near utopian future where Shetland would be vastly wealthy and provide free health care to residents and adopt a rehabilitative rather than punitive approach to criminal offenders, among other aspirations.

Mr Titcomb charted the progress of Wir Shetland since its inception last October and for the first time put the broad brush strokes on the canvas of what the future of the islands would look like, according to Wir Shetland.

He reaffirmed the group’s objectives to “protect the long term interests of Shetlanders by achieving self-governing autonomy, in line with the democratic wishes of Shetland residents.”

He said that transitioning from a pressure group to a political party would be a “very difficult” task, and also revealed that the group hoped to put up five candidates for next year’s Shetland Islands Council elections, although that awaits confirmation.

If Shetland were to become a BOT – examples include Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands – the Queen would remain head of state and there would be a governor for ceremonial purposes. The SIC would remain, at least initially, as an executive body under much closer control from elected representatives. Services such as specialised policing, medical care and defence that were beyond the scope of a small island could be contracted in from Scotland, England or Scandinavia as required.


Mr Titcomb said that the United Nations backed the rights of “a people” to self-determination and the UK had “backed that right on numerous occasions”. In the event of a second Scottish referendum resulting in a “yes” vote, Shetland should have its own referendum to decide its future – a position that MSP Tavish Scott succeeded in winning the support of the Scottish Liberal Democrats for in his “Plan for the Isles”.

If Scotland split from the UK, an independent Shetland would prove invaluable to the rest of Britain, giving the isles a strong negotiating position on issues like control of the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone, including fishing and oil rights.

“The UK would be quite keen to work with us on overseas territory status because of access to waters – that would be the main point of contention between us and the UK,” he said.

But Mr Titcomb was disappointed that Mr Scott, who won Wir Shetland’s support in the Scottish Parliamentary elections, appears to have gone cold on the campaign and said that with hindsight Wir Shetland might have thought twice about endorsing him.

• More in tomorrow’s Shetland Times.


Add Your Comment
  • Ian Leask

    • December 21st, 2016 12:35

    Don’t know about anyone else, but I certainly could not vote in Favour of this as we will be a British Oversees Territory, no matter how its painted over, the thought of being connected or any part of the corrupt system that is Westminster makes me want to puke

    Its Full Independence for Shetland or I will take my Chances with Scotland

    I am Scottish and a Shetlander but I certainly aint Brittish!!

    • Duncan Simpson

      • December 21st, 2016 15:24

      Ian, currently BOT is seen by us as the preferred option but that is subject to change at any time. The ultimate aim is autonomy, the exact form is entirely up for debate.

      Shetland could be fully independent or could have some form of autonomy with an independent Scotland, this second option is not currently mentioned as an independent Scotland is still theoretical, if that were to change then the option would have to be considered.

  • David Spence

    • December 21st, 2016 14:56

    I may be wrong, but I am pretty convinced David Cameron’s visit to the islands 1 month before the last referendum as well as the only Conservative MSP, 2 weeks before the referendum, their agenda, had the people of Scotland voted for Independence but Shetland voted No, would be for Shetland to join up with Westminster, thus all the revenue from Sullom Voe, going straight towards Westminster and not Scotland?

    However, if there is a second referendum, I sincerely hope ‘ Wir Shetland ‘ does not side with Westminster, if a second visit should happen from Westminster via Theresa May, in trying to persuade Shetland to join forces with Westminster, again?

    I would hope Wir Shetland, would focus more on the ‘ legitimate side of Scotland’s rule over the islands ‘ and whether or not Shetland could gain greater powers as a result of those so-called legitimate powers Scotland has over the islands?

    It would be interesting to find out if Denmark’s involvement would invoke Shetland greater to become independent from Scotland?

    Just because one has not questioned Scotland’s right over the islands, does not mean to say we should not………one never knows what greater good it may do?

    • i tinkler

      • December 21st, 2016 21:00

      David, Wir Shetland has never expressed a wish to join Westminster. Wir Shetland is for the people of Shetland, no more no less. Some politicians, SNP, Liberal and Tory and their supporters, will deride, make false statements and all kinds of disingenuous claims to try and destroy Wir Shetland. The simple fact is Wir Shetland is a democratic organization. Every member has an equal standing, whatever color creed, and place of birth. We do not, however, support the “status quo”, for some reason that terrifies some in “the establishment”.

    • Alec Priest

      • December 22nd, 2016 9:26

      Brian, I am fairly sure Shetland didn’t vote to remain part of the UK because David Cameron had a peerie visit, it was a much more complex decision. There were unanswered questions on currency, economy, EU membership to name a few. Not to mention the fact that a large proportion of Shetlands population consider themselves to be a Shetlander first and may not even like considering themselves Scottish or British, considering the centuries of harsh treatment from both parties, who could blame us?

      I agree with your comment “I would hope Wir Shetland, would focus more on the ‘legitimate side of Scotland’s rule over the islands’”. But as you are probably not aware, we do not need to prove or disprove anybody’s rule over us. As we are part of the United Nations, we have a right for self-autonomy as shown by Scotlands referendum. If there is enough support for the desire for becoming free from being rules from Westminster or Holyrood then Shetland needs is 50%+1 in our own referendum. Shetlands change for self-governance will most likely be plagued by the same fears as the Scottish referendum.

      Also the revenue from Sullom Voe is a small piece of a very big oil revenue pie, as more and more oil & gas developments in Shetlands EEZ is opting for FPSOs (Offshore production and loading), less and less of Shetlands resources are flowing through Shetland, and so Shetlands share of the revenue is minimised. If we were to become a self-autonomous territory (British/Scottish offshore territory or Full autonomy), a year or two of Shetland EEZ oil revenue would have an oil reserve so large we would never need to see any cuts again. But even without the oil revenue, Shetlands economy can more than manage. In 2010 the Shetland economy was £1.1Billion with a positive balance of £131 million, this is the latest statistics that I can find on government websites and a 2015 SSQC economic study on Shetlands Seafood sector shows the large increase in that industry since 2010.

      Most folk don’t know the economic benefits or chance for a fairer social society that a self-autonomous Shetland can offer. I would like to see Wir Shetland focusing on raising awareness, of the gold mine we are sitting but the chance to really improve peoples lives. It is not about cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world, it is to use the freedom to lead the way on societal fairness.

  • i tinkler

    • December 21st, 2016 15:07

    “the thought of being connected or any part of the corrupt system that is Westminster makes me want to puke”. Full autonomy has nothing to do with Westminster. Crown Dependancy does not mean Rule by Royal Decree either. British Overseas Territory, does not equate to Westminster rule. Perhaps your Nationalist sentiments and hatreds are clouding your judgments somewhat, Mr. Leask, such a vile sentiment you are expressing, very Nationalist.

  • David Spence

    • December 21st, 2016 21:38

    Scenario – If Scotland voted for independence in the second referendum, but Shetland voted No, and like the first referendum, Westminster came upto the islands to persuade Shetland to join England, Wales and Northern Ireland rather than Scotland.

    What would be the situation if Scotland objected to Shetland having allegiance to Westminster, and Westminster then asking Scotland to prove the Shetland Islands belonged to Scotland to justify Scotland taking Sovereign Rights rather than Westminster (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)?

    I know it may be hypothetical scenario, but it could become reality if the forces at play really wanted to take control of the islands…………..and you never know, may be (hopefully) Denmark would get directly involved to prove Scotland and Westminster wrong entirely????

  • ian_tinkler

    • December 22nd, 2016 10:49

    David, Alec Priest:s letter should give you your answer. ” If there is enough support for the desire for becoming free from being rules from Westminster or Holyrood then Shetland needs is 50%+1 in our own referendum. Shetlandes rights ”.We are part of the United Nations, we have a right for self-autonomy. That is international Law and so enshrined.

  • John Tulloch

    • December 22nd, 2016 11:49

    The reason there is £300 million in the reserve fund is partly council spending cuts and partly, record stock market highs. Alas, what goes up can also come down and it would be foolish to spend reserve fund capital – the “family silver” – on services that should be paid for from government funding. Reserve fund interest can be used to supplement that.

    This council has done well at financial management and it’s a shame that further cuts will be needed. The SNP Scottish government cut councils’ funding while enjoying a funding increase itself and allows COSLA to manipulate funding allocation in favour of densely populated areas. This year brings yet another big cut and if the council fails to act responsibly, the reserve fund will shrink, providing progressively less income each year.

    Autonomy won’t be coming next week so the job of local campaigners is not to oppose cuts per se, but rather, to ensure that SIC empires and hobby horses are not spared while irrevocable damage is wreaked on vulnerable communities via e.g. school closures and island transport links.

  • Alan Skinner

    • December 22nd, 2016 13:20

    Both the Council and Shetland Charitable Trust have been the beneficiaries of extremely fair winds in the stock market this year, and their investment managers have frankly been lucky rather than particularly skilful. All of the main events of the year (Brexit, Trump etc) should have knocked markets badly. The only thing that has sustained markets is “weight of money” i.e. with interest rates so low, there is nothing else to do with the money. I am not aware of any manager who forecast current market levels for end 2016. I would strongly suggest that SIC and SCT should take some of their considerable profits, reduce their vulnerability to market exposure, and spend the profits over the next few years on what Shetland obviously needs. A “top-slice” of 25% would provide a cash pot of £75m for SIC and £50m for SCT. It would be a great shame to see a market reversal reduce Shetland’s apparent wealth. It is always difficult to “time” markets, but I see real risk ahead.

    • Christopher Johnston

      • December 22nd, 2016 23:37

      Alan, combining a 25% spend with a drop in markets (which will occur as it always has) could cause a 50% drop in both funds. That seems very risky.
      Think of each fund as a pensioner living on the income. One oft-used advice is to limit annual spending to 4% of the pension balance. Applying that principle, the SIC could spend £12 million and the SCT £8 million in 2017.
      Trust and pension managers have tended to over-estimate the returns they can produce year upon year. The largest US pension fund recently lowered its target to 7% and may have to reduce from there. This fund has £250 billion in investments and hires the best investors money can buy. SIC and SCT may wish to set their targets somewhat lower.

      • David Spence

        • December 24th, 2016 13:53

        What I find very disturbing Christopher, is our present banking system, and the massive control it has over all forms of the economy.

        The 2008/2009 so-called Banking Crisis demonstrated ‘ market forces ‘ are not a suitable way in which the banking system should be based on. However, as many people do think, the Banking Crisis was created by the banking system itself as a consequence of such a system putting greed and profit ahead of any risks which arise within such a system.

        It also demonstrated, as history has proven, the Banking System has far too much power and influence within Western Economic Societies , and yet we still allow them to have control over many aspects of what makes up our society.

        I believe the Banking System has been designed in such a way, that it does have total control of the economy, our political system and a culture of slave labour working all their lives to pay off a debt they owe to the bank, despite the bank having zero money in their safe using a system that, literally, makes money out of fresh air.

        This type of a economic system must be changed radically.

      • i tinkler

        • December 26th, 2016 14:07

        An autonomous Shetland could control its own banking system, David Spence. Our own Shetland rules and regulations for banks and manipulative bankers. Just like Iceland, allowing bankers to be prosecuted as common criminals and the corrupt go to prison. Not a bad idea for the control of all those in Public office who show corrupt practice.

      • Christopher Johnston

        • December 26th, 2016 15:59

        @ David Spence
        You wrote, “This type of a economic system must be changed radically.”
        Exactly what change do you advocate and how might this change benefit citizens in general and the Shetland trusts in particular?

      • David Spence

        • December 27th, 2016 22:39

        Well Christopher, I cannot, as such, come up with an alternative, but needless to say, this does not mean I approve of the present system or that criticism is rendered mute.

        Broadly speaking, you only have to look at recent history (within the past 120 years or so) to see the people (institutions) which have made huge profits from war and conflict has been the banking system and the weapons industry. There have been more people killed in conflict and war in the last 120 years than have been over the past 2,000 years.

        Technology has played a part in this, as recent history has proven with the collateral damage to property, but more so, the mass killing of human beings.

        A certain countries Foreign Policy has been designed and created to support this countries Banking System, as history has proven, war and conflict is big money. Where profits in the form of loans (rebuilding a country) as well as the weapons industry (building up a countries defence system after the country has been rebuilt) are the main objective. The present conflict (gone drastically wrong) in Iraq and Afghanistan highlighting this, after a false flag operation.

  • Johan Adamson

    • December 23rd, 2016 8:55

    Austerity isn’t working, its not creating jobs or wealth, it’s just penalising the poor and needy

  • Alan Skinner

    • December 27th, 2016 12:30

    Christopher Johnston – I obviously did not make my point sufficiently clearly. I was not advocating a “25% spend”, but the creation of a cash pot to enable both SIC and SCT to be more flexible in their spending, and not constrained by an investment manager’s ability to generate income. The old idea of keeping capital and income separate is rather old-fashioned in the wealth management world of the 21st century, for the very simple reason that it is very difficult to generate adequate income without taking excessive risk. Of course, you still need to keep them separate for tax purposes, but you need to view wealth in a much more dynamic way.
    Wealth is a state of mind, rather than an absolute. For example, if you won tonight’s lottery, you would feel pretty wealthy, but don’t go into an estate agent in Mayfair or Belgravia or you will feel very poor. Shetland is not poor. We are actually pretty wealthy, in comparative terms, and we should get away from this feeling of austerity that is dragging us all down. Taking advantage of fortuitous capital gains is actually good wealth management, rather than frivolity.

    • Christopher Johnston

      • December 27th, 2016 19:57

      Alan, you wrote, “The old idea of keeping capital and income separate is rather old-fashioned in the wealth management world of the 21st century, for the very simple reason that it is very difficult to generate adequate income without taking excessive risk.” I disagree, as I am retired and living off my investments in what you call an old-fashioned manner. I made about 6% return this year and limit my spending to 4%, so I build up capital for the day when (not if) the next recession comes.

      If the SIC and SCT took the 25% top-slice you recommend, they would be under pressure to quickly spend it. Then the next recession comes (they seem to come lately every 8 years so we may be overdue), the capital drops by a large percentage, and they would be in a very tight spot. In my mind it is better to spend a little every year than spend a lot one year and regret it.

  • Johan Adamson

    • December 28th, 2016 11:15

    If some of this 25% was spent on the community, say to part finance tunnels to the isles, the benefits might far outweigh the gamble on investing outwith the isles (especially if there is a market reversal) , but it is much harder to count and much more long term; but the reversal of depopulation, the jobs created in the construction industry, tolls collected, increase in property values, increase in tourism (cos you are not restricted by space on a ferry or ferry times), decrease in SIC ferry costs might all play a part in making a massive investment gain.

    I don’t think we should be so quick to judge previous councils and their spending as they most likely had laudable aims in mind (and this probably also includes the VE investment). We should at least have a plan, no one is suggesting spending it all. We must invest locally or there will be no one left to benefit from this money in the future. We will just be sitting in the counting house counting the money and what is the point of that? I promise I have spent time thinking about the pointlessness of being an Accountant.


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