The Three Isles (Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland) and British protected semi-autonomous British Overseas Status – Scotland to be Stripped of the Islands before any future independence referendum
The Labour and Lib/Dem parties, at the time some aspects of governance were devolved to Scotland in 1999, put in place a rigged electoral system designed to ensure a recurring coalition government preventing the SNP from ever gaining a majority of MSP’s. The blocking measure was considered necessary so as to render impossible any challenge to the authority of the Westminster government by an SNP majority government in Holyrood. In May 2011 SNP MSP’s gained the bulk of seats in Scotland (in an election landslide) and the SNP took up the reins of government in Scotland, for the first time unfettered by any need to include opposition Parties in a coalition. Labour and Lib/Dem coalition governments previously in office had been rejected by the electorate and were in total disarray.
In 2010 The minority SNP government was confronted with major changes at the Scottish Office following the election of a Tory/Lib/Dem government at Westminster. The coalition agreement signed off by Cameron and Clegg placed the UK governance of Scotland with the Lib/Dem Party in recognition of their assumed popularity in the Scottish Isles and border areas. The added problem for the Tories was that they only had Fluffy Mundell as an MP in Scotland and he was not on good terms with many senior members of the Scottish Conservative Party.
Clegg duly appointed mild mannered, Michael Moore (Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) to the post of Secretary of State for Scotland with Mundell as his deputy. Moore was well liked at Holyrood due to his preparedness to consult with and not dictate to the SNP government. But the relationship between Moore and Mundell was not good. They did their own thing, sharing nothing but an office. The Scottish public were alerted to the disunity at the Scottish Office as was the Scottish Government. The matter needed to be resolved without undue delay, but it was not until the Scottish Government announced firm plans, in 2013 to hold a referendum that there was change.
At Cameron’s insistence Moore was to be replaced as Secretary of State for Scotland with someone who would be prepared to get under the skin of Alex Salmond establishing firm control of Scotland, denying the Scots any room for manoeuvre in terms of a referendum. Alistair Carmichael (Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland) stepped forward and said he had the qualities needed to sort out Alex Salmond and the Nat’s and defeat them in any independence referendum. He took up the post in November 2013. Fluffy Mundell was in his element working with someone of like mind and character.
Despite many blocking measures and spoilers emanating from the Scottish Office, euphoria continued to sweep Scotland as the magnitude of the SNP victory gathered pace and the performance of the new SNP government continued to impress and Alex Salmond faced an ever increasing demand for a referendum leading to independence from the UK so that the nation would be able to decide its own future without the need to “bend the knee” to an increasingly incompetent and corrupt Westminster government. Alex Salmond accepted the will of the Scottish electorate and agreed a referendum would be held within the lifetime of the parliament.
Carmichael’s duties as Secretary of State for Scotland provided him with full access to cabinet briefing meetings at Westminster. This key source of information coupled with a new freedom to operate anywhere in Scotland allowed him to form judgements as the pace of referendum speculation increased.
At the beginning of 2014 the “Yes” campaign started to make inroads on a significant “No” majority and Cameron demanded that the Lib/Dems in Scotland improve their performance or step aside allowing the Tory Party to take control.
The reality of the predicament was not lost on Carmichael or his colleagues and they decided to step back and to limit their efforts to persuading Scottish Islanders to vote “No” allowing Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cameron and the Labour party take charge of the “No” campaign on the Scottish mainland.
From that revised strategy three right wing unionist campaign groups with strong Lib/Dem connections evolved: “Our Islands Our Future” – “For Argyll” – “Wir Shetland” (John Tulloch ex Shetlander, resident in Argyll is the prime mover of the latter two campaigns).
The Lib/Dem agenda for the islands is decided. Justifiably fearing rejection and destruction through the vote of the Scottish public the party is no longer Scottish. Instead they are working, together with Mundell and the Tory Party to remove The Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland from Scotland.
Tavish Scott, former leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland and MSP for Orkney and Shetland, called on the islands to loosen their ties with Scotland. He said that he was in favour of the islands forming a crown dependency in their own right, with a similar status to the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.
Encouraged by the aggressive direction of Mundell the “Three Isles” campaign is fast reaching a stage where attention will turn (excluding the Scottish government) to the provision of British protected semi-autonomous British Overseas Status to the “Three Isles” effectively removing them from Scotland.
The issue of sovereignty is for Westminster to decide since the “constitution” is reserved and the Holyrood government has no jurisdiction. The “Our Islands Our Future” negotiating group is in regular contact with Mundell and the Westminster government and will most likely be encouraged to request that a referendum be held to seek the views of the islanders.
A referendum was held on 18 September 2014. Scots voted to retain the status quo.
I have added information providing a more detailed analysis of the difficulties presenting with the Lib/Dems, Mundell and the Tories approach to Scotland post the 2014 referendum.
17 June 2013: Island Councils declare a shared vision on the future of the Isles within Scotland
The three Councils of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles outlined their shared vision – that empowering the islands would bring many benefits, providing the tools to invest in local communities and drive sustainable economic growth. The following month Mr Salmond, in his Lerwick Declaration, announced the setting up of Ministerial Working Group to consider the case for greater powers put forward by the three councils.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJm-LT9exXg (our islands our future)
10 April 2014: Council leaders heartened by cross-party Westminster response
A pledge by Scottish Labour to devolve more powers to Scotland’s island communities has been welcomed by Council leaders from Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.
Speaking following meeting in the UK Parliament with the three Council leaders, Margaret Curran MP said: “The leaders of our Island Councils have made a strong case for why their communities should have more control over the decisions that affect their lives.
Devolution was never intended to concentrate power in Edinburgh – we need more power passed to communities across Scotland. Labour would put more power in the hands of Scotland’s island communities.
This will include power to develop renewable energy resources, to tackle unemployment, to take more control of economic development and to give the maximum possible power over the Crown Estates.
She also announced that a future Labour UK Government would maintain the Islands Desk in the Scotland Office and would also hold twice yearly summits with the Islands Council leaders. In attendance:
* Norman A MacDonald. (Convenor, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar).
* Steven Heddle. (Convenor, Orkney Islands Council).
* Margaret Curran MP. (Shadow Scottish Secretary).
* Gary Robinson. (Leader, Shetland Islands Council).
* Ian Davidson MP. (Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee).
During a busy round of meetings at Westminster over three days this week, talks on the “Our Islands Our Future” campaign were also held with:
* Alistair Carmichael MP. Secretary of State for Scotland.
* Danny Alexander MP. Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
* Ed Davey MP. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
* Lord Wallace of Tankerness QC. Advocate General for Scotland.
* David Lidington MP. Minister for Europe.
* Other senior politicians and Government officials.
Matters under discussion:
* Better representation in Europe
* Powers of the Crown Estate
* Island proofing (pro-active consideration of the special requirements of island communities during policy development by the UK Government.)
Speaking on behalf of the three councils, Councillor Heddle said: “We’re delighted that our campaign has received such a positive response from the Shadow Scottish Secretary. We had a very good meeting with Margaret Curran and Ian Davidson today, following on from a lengthy presentation of our case to the Scottish Affairs Committee.
We are very appreciative of the cross party support from both the Coalition and Labour at UK level, and the SNP and Labour in Scotland. We hope that our representations will translate into manifesto commitments from Labour, and specific measures in the Concordat we are developing with the Scotland Office, and in the Prospectus we are developing through the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group with the Scottish Government.
The breadth of support we have received and the large ministerial and officer commitment made by both governments in working with us offers us confidence that the approach we have taken in our campaign is appropriate and will genuinely enhance the futures of our islands.”
17 June 2014: First Minister announces response to Our Islands Our Future
The three Councils of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles outlined their shared vision for the future in the document “Our Islands Our Future”. It stated that empowering the islands would bring many benefits, providing the tools to invest in local communities and drive sustainable economic growth.
The following month Mr Salmond, in his Lerwick Declaration, announced the setting up of Ministerial Working Group to consider the case for greater powers put forward by the three councils. Today he unveiled the Scottish Government’s response.
At Orkney College today, the First Minister said: “Today’s prospectus is the most comprehensive package for empowering Scotland’s island communities that has been put forward by any Government.
It recognises the unique contribution that island communities make to modern Scotland, and also the distinctive needs and priorities they have. Most of all, though, it recognises that Scotland’s islands have huge potential – a wealth of culture and history; stunning landscapes; massive renewable energy resources; and a host of successful businesses in sectors such as food and drink, life sciences and tourism.
We are determined to work with the islands communities to unleash that potential and to create a sustainable and prosperous future. By doing so, we will honour the principles of subsidiarity and local decision-making at the heart of the Lerwick Declaration. And even more importantly, we will help to build wealthier and fairer island communities, as part of a wealthier and fairer Scotland.”
Convener of Orkney Islands Council Steven Heddle said: “The launch of Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities is a hugely significant milestone for the Our Islands Our Future campaign.
Over the past year we’ve taken a politically neutral stance in presenting the case for a stronger future for our islands. The Scottish Government has clearly been willing to consider, negotiate and respond positively to the arguments we’ve made. The detailed response to the campaign published today represents a comprehensive commitment to islands in general and our island groups in particular.
It establishes a framework for how our islands can be empowered and a bench mark for our engagement and relationship with government. There is now a far greater understanding of the unique nature and needs of our island communities and that in itself bodes well for our future.”
Leader of Shetland Islands Council Gary Robinson, said: “We asserted at the outset of this process that the seas and the seabed around us are hugely important – both socially and economically – to our islands.
By implementing the measures contained in Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities we can maximise the opportunities presented by fisheries and aquaculture, and realise the full potential of marine renewable’s, while protecting our pristine environment.
Crown Estate powers and a share of the income generated from leasing agreements will allow us to support investment in our coastal communities and ensure that this has a lasting and sustainable impact.
By strengthening and embedding the County Council Acts’ powers, each of the Islands’ Councils will be better able to manage the diverse and sometimes conflicting demands on the marine environment.”
Leader of Comhairlenan Eilean Siar, Angus Campbell, said: “This is a historic day for our island communities. When we launched Our Islands Our Future a year ago we could not have anticipated the amount of interest and discussion we were going to generate.
This launch of the Scottish Government’s Prospectus is a product of those discussions and negotiations on a wide ranging list of subjects including the Crown Estate, Grid connections and the constitutional position of Island areas.
Working closely with the Scottish Government, we have set out an agenda for the way forward for our Islands. The Scottish Government has now put forward the proposals in Empowering Island Communities which I warmly welcome.
Of course, the work doesn’t stop here. Irrespective of the outcome of the Referendum in September there is much that can be achieved for Scotland’s islands and our on-going task, as always, will be to maximise the benefits for those who live in our Island communities.”
15 August 2014: Scottish independence: UK government sets out island powers proposals
The UK government has set out its plans to increase representation for Scotland’s islands if there is a “No” vote in the referendum.
It said legislation would ensure it takes account of island priorities. The Scotland Office would have a UK government dedicated islands representative and an oil and gas islands forum would assist decision-making in the sector.
The UK government said it had also committed to establish renewable energy transmission links to the islands.
Island-specific challenges for transport, postal services, digital connectivity and fuel poverty will receive closer consideration, and measures will be taken to strengthen the transparency and accountability of the Crown Estate, which manages Scotland’s seas and foreshore.
There will also be a dedicated point of contact within the UK’s representation to the EU.
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said the proposals would “strengthen the voice of our islands at the heart of the UK government”. He added: “It will mean their unique needs are considered across all UK government activity and legislation, tailoring our approach to ensure islands issues continue to get the attention they require.
That is good news for the councils and for the whole country and will improve the economy, connectivity and lives of people on our islands. It shows we are not only listening, but acting – and in doing so we are strengthening the UK.”
Angus Campbell, leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, welcomed the UK government’s response to the campaign. He added: “I am confident that as we approach the referendum, the island groups are in a much stronger position now with both the UK and Scottish governments than we were prior to the launch of Our Islands Our Future.”
Steven Heddle, convener of Orkney Islands Council, said: “Our intention throughout has been to secure a stronger future for our communities, regardless of the outcome of the referendum. I welcome this response to our representations.”
Gary Robinson, leader of Shetland Islands Council, said the statement “represents another important output from our campaign”.
15 August 2014: Empowering Scotland’s Island communities
In its Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities document, which was published in June, the Scottish government pledged to bring forward an Island’s Bill in the event of independence containing:
* A commitment to ensure island communities get all money generated from leasing the seabed.
* Islanders would also be given a stronger voice in Europe
* A new post of minister for island communities would be created.
Scottish Local Government Minister Derek Mackay said: “It is only with independence that the unique needs of islands can be recognised in a written constitution or that we will have the opportunity to ensure all island communities receive the net income from the adjacent inshore seabed, which currently passes through the Crown Estate to the Treasury.
The income could be used for a variety of projects ranging from harbour improvements to community tourism projects and individual councils will be responsible for administering their own fund, including determining how funds are spent, who will benefit and the level of benefit.
Our islands have huge potential in energy, tourism and life sciences, and we are determined to work with them to unleash that potential with the powers of independence, and honour the principles of subsidiarity and local decision-making that are at the heart of the Lerwick Declaration.”
18 August 2014: 10 point plan for Scottish islands
A framework between the UK Government and the 3 Scottish islands councils – the first agreement of its kind in the country – was launched today by Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael.
The “Our Islands” framework, established in response to the “Our Islands, Our Future” joint campaign, will embed the islands voice at the heart of the UK Government and reflect the priorities of those communities more closely in decision making and policy.
It follows extensive dialogue between the councils and the UK Government, and represents the most comprehensive examination of the Islands’ priorities in 30 years, since the 1984 Montgomery Commission.
Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles represent the most hard-to-reach parts of the United Kingdom and this geographical remoteness presents specific challenges to exploiting their economic and social potential in full.
The 3 islands councils are unique in Scotland in serving only island communities, and this framework recognises they have chosen to adopt a collective position in dealing with the UK Government on certain matters.
It provides the basis for joint working between the UK Government and Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles on a range of priorities. They include a 10 point plan for the islands:
* Islands proofing: These are new arrangements to scrutinise UK Government policy and legislation to ensure they take account of islands priorities.
* Economic benefits: A new Islands Working Group will be supported by a dedicated position in the Scotland Office and have its agenda set by the islands, covering priorities like Islands Innovation Zones, construction costs and community benefit.
* A new Oil and Gas Islands forum: The framework recognises the islands are vital to meeting the UK’s energy needs. The UK Government is committed to work with the Islands Councils to assist strategic decision-making on future priorities for the oil and gas industry. This will allow the councils to work more closely with the UK Government and industry.
* Renewable energy: The framework includes a firm UK Government commitment to the Renewable Energy Delivery Forum, focussed on getting transmission links to the islands. The UK Government also shares the 3 Islands Councils’ ambitions for deployment of renewable energy and for research and development activity, and we will ensure that obstacles to securing the necessary infrastructure are tackled effectively.
* The framework recognises the island groups face particular challenges in the areas of transport, postal services, digital connectivity and fuel poverty. The UK Government will work with the councils on these areas, as detailed in the document.
* Transport: This includes seeking an extension to the Air Discount Scheme and a commitment to consider fiscal measures to support transport connectivity with the island groups.
* Postal services: The UK Government is committed to working with retailers, consumer groups and enforcers to ensure parcel delivery charges to remote regions are fair and transparent, in line with the UK statement of principles for parcel deliveries.
* Connectivity: Digital connectivity is of great importance to local inhabitants and businesses on the islands, requiring subsidy from both the UK and Scottish Governments to overcome the geographical and commercial challenges in delivery of these services. The UK Government is committed to fund the Mobile Infrastructure Project, working to provide improved mobile coverage in areas of the UK which are most difficult to reach, aiming to address market failures in these areas. The UK Government is also committed to providing parity of minimum service level between the UK mainland and islands areas by delivering standard broadband of at least 2Mbps to all premises in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles. Working closely with the communications industry, the UK Government is committed to fund research to identify new technologies to support delivery of superfast broadband services to the most difficult to reach areas of the UK. The UK Government will also work collaboratively with the three Islands Councils, as well as the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, to identify how these technologies can be implemented in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.
* Crown Estate: The framework also contains measures to strengthen the transparency and accountability of the Crown Estate.
* EU and representation on government bodies: A dedicated point of contact to offer advice and guidance to the islands within the UK Representation to the EU. The framework includes increased island representation on other government bodies, including the Scottish Business Board.
Today’s announcement is a landmark for the relationship between the UK Government and OUR island communities in Scotland. It builds on a great deal of good work in the past and will strengthen the voice of our islands at the heart of the UK government.
It will mean their unique needs are considered across all UK Government activity and legislation, tailoring our approach to ensure islands issues continue to get the attention they require.
That is good news for the councils and for the whole of the UK and will improve the economy, connectivity and lives of people on our islands. It shows we are not only listening, but acting and in doing so we are strengthening the 3 Isles and their place in the UK.
This is the start of the next part of our journey together, giving us a strong framework which will be reviewed and built on further in the future.
Cllr Angus Campbell, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: It is to be welcomed that the UK Government has responded to the “Our Islands Our Future” campaign with this framework agreement and this opens up avenues for much work in the future.
I particularly welcome the commitment to “Island proofing” in legislation and to a formal process of dialogue through an “annual summit” between Island Councils and the UK Government where strategic matters of importance to Island communities will be taken forward.
Island desks – in Brussels and London – is also very welcome as are the other areas of direct communication with the Island Councils including the Islands Working Group which will drive forward work on key economic, social and other priorities. I am confident that as we approach the Referendum the Island groups are in a much stronger position now with both the UK and Scottish Governments than we were prior to the launch of “Our Islands Our Future.”
Steven Heddle, Convener of Orkney Islands Council, said: Today’s announcement follows almost a year of dialogue with the UK Government over issues within its powers that are of great importance to the islands.
Our intention throughout has been to secure a stronger future for our communities, regardless of the outcome of the Referendum. As Convener of the Council, I welcome this response to our representations.
As well as outlining specific measures, it importantly establishes a channel for continuing dialogue with the Westminster Government in the event of a No vote.
Gary Robinson, Leader of Shetland Islands Council, said: At the outset of the “Our Islands Our Future” campaign, we said that we wanted to engage with both the Scottish and UK Governments, and for that to lead to published statements of intent.
I welcome today’s launch and feel that it represents another important output from our campaign.