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.
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.