• Elected members will debate the motion at 9th September meeting
• It claims prosperity and sustainability of community is under threat
Nine Shetland Islands Council members – including the political leader and convener – have signed a “notice of motion” urging the council to start considering ways for the isles to become autonomous.
The document rails against centralisation of decision making and cuts in public funding. It adds that Shetland’s “prosperity and even basic sustainability” is under threat.
Now is the right time to start “exploring options for achieving financial and political self-determination”, according to the signatories.
The dramatic motion states: “We believe that Shetland has the wherewithal to have a positive future.
However, in recent times we have seen more and more decision making being centralised and public funding being consistently reduced.
“We are concerned that this ongoing situation is seriously threatening the prosperity, and even basic sustainability, of Shetland as a community.
“In order to look at alternatives to ensure Shetland can reach and maintain its full potential, we, the undersigned, move that: The Shetland Islands Council formally begins exploring options for achieving
financial and political self-determination.”
It is signed by Steven Coutts, Duncan Anderson, Alastair Cooper, Andrea Manson, Malcolm Bell, George Smith, Ryan Thomson, Alec Priest, Emma Macdonald.
We can sit back and continue to see our ability to deliver community outcomes diminished, or we can do something about it.
Political leader Steven Coutts and North Isles councillor issued a statement announcing that the motion would be put before the full council meeting scheduled for Wednesday 9th September.
Mr Coutts said: ‘We are at a crossroads. We can sit back and continue to see our ability to deliver community outcomes diminished, or we can do something about it.
“Measures that should have helped have not. The Scottish Parliament approved the Islands Act in 2018, yet it has made no meaningful difference.
“We have some major economic opportunities in Shetland but also a significant inequality among our community to overcome.
“The recovery and renewal from Covid-19 will bring this into sharp focus and will be extremely challenging.
“We need all the political and financial levers we can muster, and it is right we begin work to explore how we achieve them. This motion is the first step in that process.”
… We are hopeful this could lead to an outcome where the powers and resources exist locally to address the many challenges we currently face.
Mr Anderson added: “It is no secret that some members of this council have been advocates of greater self-determination for Shetland for a long time.
“Indeed, three of us had it specified in our manifestos back in 2017. Our positions are clear but now we are delighted to see that many other councillors are now viewing this concept as a desirable, or even essential, route to ensuring the long-term sustainability and prosperity of the community of Shetland.
“It is clear to us that, in order to maximise Shetland’s potential, decision making must be more localised, and Shetland needs to be able to directly benefit from a fairer share of the vast revenues that flow out of these islands.
“To that end, work has been ongoing internally and we are pleased to be part of the Notice of Motion being presented to the full council on 9th September.
“If passed, this will be the first formal step for this council to explore the options around self-determination. It is early stages, but we are hopeful this could lead to an outcome where the powers and resources exist locally to address the many challenges we currently face.”
• More to follow with full coverage in Friday’s Shetland Times.