Shetland could opt to leave an independent Scotland, Carmichael says

Esther Addley, The Guardian, 2014.09.18

In an interview with the Guardian, Alistair Carmichael said if the islands were to vote strongly “no” but the Scottish national vote was a narrow yes, then a “conversation about Shetland’s position and the options that might be open to it” would begin.

The Lib Dem MP, who represents Orkney and Shetland in Westminster and has been secretary of state for Scotland in the coalition government since last October, said those options might include the islands modelling themselves on the Isle of Man, which is a self-governing Crown dependency, or on the Faroe Islands, which are an autonomous country within the Danish realm.


There was a rare display of political unity outside the Bank of Scotland on Lerwick’s Commercial Street [Lerwick, The Shetlands] on Wednesday, with representatives of Labour, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats standing side by side behind the Better Together stall.

“We do have plenty of other issues we could discuss among ourselves, but on this we are a partnership,” said Maurice Mullay, who chairs the local Conservative Association.

“It will be a No vote quite solidly in Shetland, I’m quite sure of that,” says Mullay. “The Yes campaign have certainly built things up and we have been a bit more modest. Shetlanders might not be as voluble, but they are still fixed in their views.”

Theo Nicolson, the local Lib Dem chairman, describes himself as “Shetland, and then British”. And Scottish? A long pause. Only because his mother was Scottish, he concedes. “We’re so different here in Shetland. Our history, we were part of Norway of course and we’ve always had a strong Norse background. We don’t have the tartan culture here.”

His strong sense of Britishness comes from his father and grandfather who fought in the two wars, something that is important to many older islanders, he says.

Much has been made about how an independent Scotland could model itself on Norway, which sought its independence from Sweden and later invested its huge oil revenues wisely. What did a group of five Norwegian teenagers – newly landed on Wednesday morning in Lerwick after sailing from western Norway as part of a gap year programme – think about that suggestion? “In Norway we are talking about quitting oil because it’s running out, and also because of the environment,” said Lise Carlsen wryly.

And what were their impressions of Shetland, where they would spend less than 24 hours before sailing back to Bergen on Wednesday night? Was it at all like Norway? “It’s more British of course,” said Jacob B Jorgensen. “In Norway we have wooden houses but here they are made of brick.”

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