2007 - 2021



Later this year we’ll be publishing  a paper looking at how independence represents an opportunity to bring democracy closer to people – but also an opportunity to be a first step towards further deeper democracy. It follows on from the work of Finnish futures scholar Vuokko Jarva about a form of ‘Closer’ democracy that is more peer-to-peer more hands on and involved (more on this later). Which is why today was interesting.

Despite the failed and embarrassing efforts by Tavish Scott, Michael Kelly and Brian Wilson to suggest that there should be ‘home rule’ for Shetland, Strathclyde and the Western Isles (dis) respectively – assuming that somehow this would be a travesty for the (obviously) megalomaniac SNP and their dreaded leader Mad Eck.  Of course this narrative only makes sense if you have already convinced yourself that Alex Salmond, the SNP and anyone supporting independence are secret madmen.

Their collective notion was predicated on the idea that any one of these entities, feeling sufficiently alienated from the rest of Scotland would abandon ship. It’s kind of like the pub talk you get when someones says: ‘Well if Scotland can be independent what about Yorkshire/Fairmilehead” etc. It’s based also on a sort of self-hatred akin to “What is Scotland anyway!”.

In March this year the hapless Tavish declared (‘Home rule’ for Shetland? You’re on your own, Tavish Scott’) that the islands “are not going to be told what to do by the SNP, nor by any government”, adding that “this is the time to seize the opportunity for island home rule”. “Shetland can run its own administration. The Northern Isles can have their own government.”

Yes they can Tavish. Once again the virulent negativity of the No campaigners, trapped in a world of their own delusions has left them exposed.

Speaking after the Scottish Cabinet met in Shetland and discussed the issue, Mr Swinney said:

“Scotland’s island communities are an invaluable source of energy, creativity and talent. They are made up of people with rich and diverse backgrounds who all contribute to making Scotland as a nation flourish. One of the great advantages of the independence debate is the opportunity to reflect on the sort of Scotland we wish to see.

“Shetland, Orkney and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have already taken a lead in doing that. Our Islands – Our Future is an important initiative which we discussed at Cabinet this morning and I am pleased to confirm that the Scottish Government has agreed in principle, jointly with campaign leaders from the three island authorities, to convene a new ministerial working group to consider the issues it raises.”

The declaration will be set out in a speech in Lerwick by the First Minister, Alex Salmond, in which he said:

“We believe that the people who live and work in Scotland are best placed to make decisions about our future – the essence of self-determination, therefore we support subsidiarity and local decision making.

“It follows, therefore, that any government committed to that policy should listen to the views expressed across all of Scotland – as we are doing here in Lerwick and as we are doing in supporting greater community land ownership and the forthcoming Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.”

This was practical positive politics meeting mindless negativity. By putting self-determination as an idea squarely in the political debate Salmond and Swinney have brought the whole issue forward.


Comments (11)

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  1. It would help your cause if Shetland was on your map!

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Really? Why?

      1. Jim Fraser says:

        Oh come on, he has a point. It’s a bit nit-picky, but he has a point.

      2. bellacaledonia says:

        I’m sure he has a point but why be so literal? The piece isnt just about Shetland its about the idea of thinking beyond our usual understanding of what independence means. I could add a big picture of Shetland with a sign saying ‘Shetland’, would that be better? Why not engage with the actual subject?

  2. If the Scottish government agree to devolve the seabed to 6 miles, the revenues that currently go to the crown estate, then I can’t see how the uk government can match that since they’ve already refused to do the same for Scotland.
    This could all be a fortuitous turn of events for the yes campaign.

  3. DougtheDug says:

    Strange fact number one. Ardent Shetland nationalist Tavish is not in the Shetland National Party even though he’d have to start it to join it.

    I find it funny that one of the most ardent unionists in the Lib-Dems, and that’s an ardent unionist, is now trying to break up Scotland while berating Alex Salmond for trying to break up the UK.

    Then again, all this “Home Rule” for the isles is not about self-government for Shetland, Orkney or na h-Eileanan Siar but about putting a spanner in the Yes campaign with the ultimate aim of trying to partition Scotland if the Yes campaign wins. When Labour and the Lib-Dems ruled in Holyrood Tavish was strangely quiet about it Shetland Home Rule and Brian Wilson even campaigned against devolution for Scotland as a whole in 1979.

  4. picpac67 says:

    Supporting “subsidiarity and local decision-making” sounds fine, but the proof of the pudding …. It still means centralisation of major decision-making. A better proposition would be genuine re-distribution of power to the lowest practical level throughout Scotland – as in Switzerland, where the local municipalities have their own constitutions, local decision-making bodies and real direct democracy. The smallest canton in Switzerland has only 30,000 people, yet is fully self-governing. That kind of decentralisation is of course possible – and desirable – everywhere, especially where there are significant differences in culture, history, geography etc. The real question is: how much power would a Holyrood parliament and executive still claim for itself?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Of course you’re right picpac67 – decentralisation of decision-making is along way off. Bella would have it as you describe. However of course Switzerland is able to maintain its canton system, its neutrality and its tax laws (whether you agree with them or not) because it is a sovereign nation. Introducing the concept of ‘self-determination’ to the independence debate, and creating a precedent for decentralisation is, we think, significant. But you are right politicians need as always to be held to account (and judged) for what they DO, not just what they SAY.

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