‘The message is clear’: councillors pass self-determination motion

A motion seeking “self-determination” for the isles has been passed by councillors.

Shetland Islands Council will now formally begin to explore options “for achieving political and financial self-determination”.

Political leader Steven Coutts’ motion was carried overwhelmingly by 18 to two votes, despite vocal opposition from councillors Stephen Leask and Ian Scott.

Passing the motion was a mandate for exploring options rather than for any specific action, a point reiterated by many of the councillors present both in the chamber and remotely.

“The message is clear. We are exploring options,” said Mr Coutts, in his closing speech.

Earlier in the meeting, Mr Coutts argued that the council was still discussing the same issues years later, including ferry funding. Remote decision making did not work, according to Mr Coutts.

The council leader said he was “really positive about the opportunities that do exist in Shetland”, referencing the “massive potential” in the isles.

Mr Coutts said they needed to grasp these opportunities “in a way that ensures everyone in our community can thrive”.

Lerwick councillor Mr Leask said it was “not the time and place” to be discussing the motion.

“I believe in democracy not dictatorship,” added Mr Leask, who argued “the people of Shetland should be consulted” and that the ballot box was the right place for that.

Councillor Ryan Thomson spoke of “myths around this motion”, adding that this motion was exploring options and any decisions “will be made at the ballot box”.

“It is there in black and white and abundantly clear to those who read it,” said Mr Thomson.

Mr Scott railed against the motion and said there was “no appetite for a resurrection of the Shetland Movement and its allies”.

Emma Macdonald said she was not sure how to follow up Mr Scott’s speech, but added she was “always looking forward to the future” and encouraged others “to think about future generations” and the impact the council’s actions would have on them.

“Shetland has never really been all that comfortable with the status quo,” said Alastair Cooper, citing historical comparisons and saying today (Wednesday) was a similar opportunity.

SNP councillor Robbie McGregor said councillors might be surprised that he would be supporting the motion and said: “I sincerely hope all options will be considered.”

North Isles representative Alec Priest remembered the opening of the Scottish parliament building in 2004 and said: “I thoroughly believe devolution was never meant to stop at Holyrood.”

Despite eventually deciding to support the motion, Lerwick councillor Amanda Hawick said she worried about its timing, given Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

Her concerns about officials’ time being used on exploring options were earlier voiced by Mr Scott. 

On the timing queries, Duncan Anderson said “for something like this you can never have a perfect time”, adding that if councillors waited it would never happen.

Davie Sandison argued against conflating exploring self-determination with autonomy: “I do not believe it is the only option.”

Shetland North councillor Andrea Manson called the motion the “first tiny step to what might be a long process”.


Add Your Comment
  • Brian Smith

    • September 9th, 2020 18:21

    Councillor Thomson asks: “Can anyone say we have not witnessed a complete erosion of local democracy since devolution?”
    What on earth does he mean?

    • James J Paton

      • September 10th, 2020 10:33

      Dear Brian,

      It is very unfortunate that ‘political’ calls are coming now for more autonomy( third time lucky?) from the ‘elite’, prior to any community consultation at all. Very typical of the vas5 majority of SIC elected member elitist, cabal behaviour,

      There has clearly never been any appetite for more autonomy in Shetland, the history by electoral outcomes shows us that.

      That said it would be interesting, if not a good idea 5o have a full public ( not Council) exploration of the issues and a variation of or full on Faroese model.

      I assume you have no objection to automony per se, as long as we get a system of governance that is a huge improvement on the current system i.e. where Council employees could stand without giving up thier jobs, just be ‘seconded’ whilst elected, with for example exclusion from education policy decision-making that directly would have a direct beneficial effect.

    • Peter Hamilton

      • September 10th, 2020 11:32

      I recently heard on BBC Radio 4 of a new term currently in use in the Republic of Ireland. Flagshaggers is used to apply to people who wrap themselves in their flag at every turn. How lucky it is Shetlanders can now indulge so themselves.

    • Brian Smith

      • September 11th, 2020 7:45

      Surprise, surprise: the Mail and Telegraph are covering this non-story today as one in the eye for the SNP.

      • Stuart Hannay

        • September 11th, 2020 11:58

        I know. Cue thousands of “one in the eye for wee Krankie” comments.’ I suppose it’s a sign that the UK press is getting jittery about the strengthening independence movement?


    • September 11th, 2020 18:27

    A motion was passed to EXPLORE’ the idea. How did that translate into seeking Self determination? ‘Passing the motion was a mandate for exploring options rather than for any specific action, a point reiterated by many of the councillors present both in the chamber and remotely’.

  • ali Inkster

    • September 11th, 2020 23:18

    Same old names claiming Shetlanders can’t take care of ourselves. Funny how they think scotland will be great if it had self determination but of course they need Shetlands resources to pay for edinburghs dreams.
    I have every faith that Shetlanders young and old will make just a big a success of independence that Faeroe has.
    Pity the comrades have such a low opinion of Shetland and wir folk.
    But never leet da dinosaurs a new dawn is breaking at last, and wir young folk can look forward to an exciting and prosperous future freed from colonial shackles.


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