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Shetland Islands vote to explore independence from Scotland

Written by on 11 September 2020

Shetland Islands Council has voted overwhelmingly in favour of looking into ways of obtaining financial and political independence from Scotland.

Councillors voted 18 to two in favour of the motion seeking “financial and political self-determination”.

Funding cuts and centralised decision-making by the Scottish National Party (SNP) were argued as reasons to explore independence.

Steven Coutts, the council leader, said “the status quo is not working” as “devolution and the Islands Act have not made any tangible difference to the quality of life”.

He added that the Scottish parliament also feels “remote” to Shetland, which has a population of 23,000.

Plans intend to look into the option of Shetland being governed as a Crown Dependency, similar to Jersey and the Isle of Man, rather than becoming an independent nation.

This would mean they would be able to retain the revenue from oil in their waters, something that would negatively impact on Scotland’s finance if the independence was obtained.

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The motion read: “We are concerned that this ongoing situation is seriously threatening the prosperity and even basic sustainability of Shetland as a community.”

Mr Coutts added that the level of funding provided for ferries “negatively impacts on Shetland and everyone of Shetland”, despite government funding of more than GBP15m over the last three years.

Any move for independence would require an island-wide referendum.

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Following the result, he said the council planned to speak to both the UK and Scottish governments next week regarding options Shetland has for achieving self-determination.

Mr Coutts added: “I hope they recognise the challenges of living in Shetland, like the high cost of living, but also the incredible opportunities political and financial self-determination could bring.”

In response to the result of the vote, islands minister Paul Wheelhouse said neither Shetland nor any other island council submitted any requests for further powers under the Additional Powers Request (Scotland) Regulations introduced last year.