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WITH Scotland’s independence referendum set for 18 September 2014, Shetland must consider the consequences of constitutional change for these islands.

There are major questions that require close examination and a thorough airing so that islanders at least reach an understanding, if not agreement, on where Shetland should stand regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

Would islanders feel more comfortable in an independent Scotland or would they prefer to remain within the UK?

Is this the time to negotiate more autonomy or even independence for the isles?

Northern isles MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur kick started the constitutional debate in March 2012 and have since added further fuel encouraging islanders to debate the issues.

Meanwhile, island council conveners have been meeting with government ministerd in London and Edinburgh to discuss how best to represent the views from the fringe.

Shetland News is offering these special debate pages as a platform to discuss a wide range of opinion on the issue.

You can participate by either:


 Join the debate! Please also visit our letters pages at http://www.shetnews.co.uk/letters/


Radical change impossible under Smith proposals

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Political activist Jen Stout.How, asks Shetland-born political activist Jen Stout, can a "settlement" in which 75 per cent taxation powers and 85 per cent welfare powers remain reserved to Westminster be described as ‘Home Rule’?

And yet that is the label that the Liberal Democrats have given to last week’s draft legislation for devolution of powers. David Cameron also pronounced it a “great day for Scotland” – but described the proposals as “the end of the road” for Scottish devolution. Yup, that’s it. Nothing more coming. And bear in mind these are only proposals, not legislation, so the breathless announcements of “vow delivered” are very misleading.

Lib Dems: more powers are 'good news' for isles

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Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael says the Smith Commission proposals are "built to last".NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has hailed legislation for further devolution of powers to Edinburgh as a “momentous day in delivering Home Rule for Scotland within a strong United Kingdom”.

 Following the cross-party Smith Commission’s work throughout the autumn, 44 draft clauses have now been proposed including handing power over income tax bands, some areas of welfare and employment programmes, borrowing and air passenger duty to Edinburgh.

Comment: limited geographically and politically?

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Shetland born writer Jordan Ogg now lives and works in Edinburgh.MONDAY saw the launch of The National, a new daily newspaper that promises to fly the flag for Scottish independence. It joins Shetland News and the Sunday Herald as Scotland's only news outlets to be supportive of the Yes campaign. Jordan Ogg reviews the first edition.

Sometimes I can forgive metropolitan media types when they forget that Shetland exists.

The isles are awfully far away, after all, and there's not much going on – apart from being home to one of Europe's largest oil terminals, one of the UK's most important fishing fleets, and one of Scotland's largest construction sites, the Total gas plant.

Urquhart: politicians must listen to the people

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Independent MSP Jean Urquhart.IT IS VITAL that the voices of ordinary people are heard during talks on greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, according to Highlands and Islands list MSP Jean Urquhart.

The pro-independence politician said she was “delighted” to read a comment from Lord Smith of Kelvin, who is chairing the Smith Commission on further devolution, stressing that “our people must have a say on extra powers”.

Urquhart said she was concerned that Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael “seems to be setting boundaries with regard to the devolution of more powers before the Smith Commission gathers in the crucial evidence of the people living in Scotland – including the voters of Orkney and Shetland”.

Scott: commission should reverse 'centralisation'

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Shetland MSP Tavish Scott.SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has called for “centralisation of powers” to Edinburgh to be reversed ahead of his first meeting with Lord Smith, who is chairing a commission on delivering more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

The former Liberal Democrat leader was due to meet Lord Smith in Edinburgh on Thursday having been appointed as one of his party’s two representatives on the Smith Commission. It was set up after the Scottish people rejected independence by a margin of 55-45 in last month’s referendum.

Scott said he wanted to see a “substantial package of new powers” to strengthen the parliament at Holyrood, along with seeing powers handed from Edinburgh to other parts of the country.

SIC continuing push for more powers

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SIC convener Malcolm Bell, leader Gary Robinson and chief executive Mark Boden at Lystina House today. Photo: ShetnewsSIC LEADER Gary Robinson is calling for power to raise some taxes locally to be handed back to councils during negotiations over Scotland’s constitutional future following the independence referendum.

Speaking after a full council meeting on Friday morning to discuss Shetland’s next moves following last month’s No vote, Robinson said he wanted the local authority to have control over non-domestic business rates and be given greater freedom over council tax.

Opinion: One way or another, change is coming

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Campaigner Louise Thomason is hopeful the renewed clamour for social justice will outlast the referendum campaign. Photo: ShetnewsWAKING up ten days ago to the news that Scotland had voted against independence felt like the worst kind of heartbreak, writes local Yes campaigner Louise Thomason.

For someone who had stumbled fairly accidentally into campaigning, the hurt came as a surprise. Perhaps that compounded the pain. While I obviously hoped it would happen, I had told myself that a Yes vote was probably unlikely, and had even spoken to friends and family of my ease with this.

Tavish to represent LibDems in devolution talks

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Shetland MSP Tavish Scott.TAVISH Scott has been selected to participate in the upcoming cross-party talks on more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

The local MSP will join party colleague and former secretary of state for Scotland, Michael Moore, to represent Scottish Liberal Democrats on Lord Smith of Kelvin's cross-party talks on more powers.

He said: "I am naturally very happy to have been selected to take part in these negotiations. We as a party were the first out the blocks with our plans for more powers, with Sir Menzies Campbell's proposals for home rule in a federal UK published back in 2012.

'To stop stone dead now would be outrageous'

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Highlands and Islands list MSP Jean Urquhart at the referendum count at Clickimin on Thursday night. Photo: Hans J Marter/ShetNewsHIGHLANDS and Islands list MSP Jean Urquhart has hailed an “extraordinary” awakening of political interest within Shetland during the independence referendum campaign.

Just shy of 10,000 islanders voted No, compared to nearly 5,700 who said Yes, a result broadly expected in the Liberal Democrat stronghold, on a turnout of more than 84 per cent.

SIC to 'strike while iron is hot' to gain influence

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Gary Robinson is eager to ensure the UK and Scottish Governments honour their pledges to Shetland.SHETLAND Islands Council is determined to press home its case for more powers from both Westminster and Holyrood following last week’s referendum on Scottish independence.

That is the message from the local authority's political leader Gary Robinson, who said many of the series of pledges aimed at providing Scotland’s islands with greater representation could still be delivered following Thursday’s No Vote.

Opinion: Grief, relief and feet to the fire

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The Shetland flag above the Union Jack flying on referendum day in Northmavine reflecting the view of two thirds of island voters. There is a strange mixture of disappointment and relief in the wake of Scotland’s decision to vote No to independence.

Those who worked hard to persuade the undecided to vote Yes with hope in their hearts for a brighter and fairer future are grieving the outcome.

Carmichael: a federal UK is inevitable

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Alistair Carmichael MPALISTAIR Carmichael, the secretary of state for Scotland and northern isles MP, has said Thursday’s independence referendum has put the UK on the road to becoming a federal state within the next few years.

Less than 24 hours after the Scottish electorate voted 55-45 against independence, Carmichael told Shetland News that new powers to raise taxes and distribute welfare would be devolved to the Scottish Parliament after the general election next May.

This, he said, would unlock the key to a federal UK as it would create a constitutional imbalance between Scotland and the rest of Britain that would have to be addressed.

LIVE: Scottish referendum count

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TODAY Shetland and the rest of Scotland decides on the nation's future. Voting began at 7am and continues until 10pm when the counting will commence. Shetland News will bring you live updates as the evening progresses towards the final count, which is expected between 1.30am and 2am.

Please send us any photos of referendum day in the isles and we will try to publish as many as possible. Best e-mail to use is news@shetnews.co.uk

11.15am - Independent highlands and islands list MSP Jean Urquhart says that despite the outcome of the referendum, Britain has changed.

Carmichael says Shetland could go it alone

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Scottish secretary and northern isles MP Alistair CarmichaelNORTHERN isles MP and Scottish secretary of state Alistair Carmichael, in a surprise last minute intervention, has warned Shetland could split from an independent Scotland if the isles vote no.

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper Carmichael said if Scotland votes narrowly for independence, but there is a strong No vote in the isles, it would start “a conversation” on the options open to Shetland.

These options, he said, could include turning Shetland into a self-governing crown dependency like the Isle of Man, or seeking the kind of autonomy Faroe enjoys under Denmark.

Shetland News says Yes to independence

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Shetland has been blessed with good fortune for the past 40 years.

Thanks to the efforts of our far-sighted MP Jo Grimond in the 1970s, we were granted an Act of Parliament that paved the way for the SIC to negotiate a landmark deal with the oil industry.

Opinion: Wake up from this independence fairy tale

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Shetland News columnist Genevieve White argues the case for a No vote at Thursday's referendum - Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland NewsSomething strange has happened to our independence debate over the past few months. What started out as a rational discussion has become fanciful, writes Genevieve White.

Increasingly, we are living within the pages of a fairy tale: one in which Scotland takes on the role of wronged heroine. England, on the other hand, is cast in various unattractive roles ranging from abusive partner to evil witch capable of casting a 300 year enchantment with a casual flick of her wand.

In all the Yes rhetoric, the most fantastic element of all is the fairy tale magic mirror, which distorts reality and shows us only what we want to see. We have become collectively mesmerised by the reflection shown to us and we are now in possession of a highly idealised vision of our true selves.

Referendum likely to see high turnout in isles

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Shetland's returning officer Jan Riise. Photo: ShetnewsMORE THAN 18,000 islanders have registered to vote in Thursday’s Scottish independence referendum – the highest tally for any poll in 20 years.

A total of 18,515 people in Shetland are registered for a vote in which, for the first time, 16 and 17 year olds are entitled to take part.

Shetland’s returning officer Jan Riise said that, as well as around 600 in that age group, there were an additional 2-300 voters who “we’d not normally have on the electoral roll at this time”.

Brett becomes a leading light in Yes movement

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Miriam Brett, 23, from Bressay, has played a major role in the Common Weal and Generation Yes movements during the referendum campaign. Photo: Simon BakerAMID THE clamour of voices competing to be heard in the Scottish independence debate, the tones of those belonging to Yes-supporting young people have been the most vibrant, writes Jordan Ogg.

One such voice belongs to a 23-year-old Shetlander from Bressay, Miriam Brett. A recent graduate of international politics from Stirling University, she has emerged as a leading light in the constellation of grassroots movements gathered around the Yes campaign.

Yes campaigners host Lerwick street party

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LOCAL artists campaigning for a Yes vote in next week’s independence referendum are staging a street party in Lerwick town centre on Saturday afternoon.

National Collective Shetland is hosting the event, which comes five days before the long-awaited referendum, between 1pm and 5pm. 

It will feature music from artists including Chloe Robertson, Magnus Stout and friends, Kirsty North, Marie Williamson and more.

How will Shetland vote on referendum day?

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Shetland's unionist vote is being squeezed as the referendum debate nears voting day. Photo ShetnewsDURING her a 24 hour visit to Shetland last week, deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon opened a Yes Shetland shop in Lerwick that pro-independence campaigners had raised almost £1,800 through crowd funding to rent and equip until the referendum is over.

When it opened, two doors away, Cindy’s Hair Stylist responded by putting up two Union Jacks in the window.

“Don’t quote me,” the manageress said, before declaring her staunch stand for a No vote on 18 September.

Wilson: No vote is best for isles exporters

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Better Together: former UK trade minister Brian Wilson and Shetland MSP Tavish Scott.  Photo: Shetnews/Neil RiddellFORMER Labour trade and energy minister Brian Wilson used a visit to Shetland yesterday to urge islanders to vote No in the independence referendum.

Wilson, who has retired from politics but now works as a business ambassador for the UK, appeared at a public event with local MSP Tavish Scott at Lerwick Town Hall on Wednesday night.

After visiting two of the isles’ biggest firms, Shetland Catch and Ocean Kinetics, Wilson told Shetland News he sensed that “if everywhere in Scotland is like Shetland, it would be a good result” for Better Together.

Referendum Q&A with ex Labour minister

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FORMER Labour trade minister Brian Wilson will share a platform with local MSP Tavish Scott tomorrow night to take questions on the Scottish independence referendum.

The Better Together campaigner will also meet local businesses before staging a Q&A session with members of the public.

Yes case 'full of contradictions', says Carmichael

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Isles MP and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael says he is "straining every sinew" to achieve a No vote. Photo: ShetnewsISLES MP Alistair Carmichael has sought to dampen reports that he will resign as a UK government minister and join the Scottish negotiating team in the event of a Yes vote.

The Scotsman reported on Thursday that he would leave his position as Scottish Secretary if Scotland rejects the union in next month’s referendum.

He was quoted as saying he would join the Scottish negotiation team “if I was asked to”, and admitting it would be “difficult to see how you could fit into a cabinet which was at that point on its way to becoming part of a foreign country”.

But Carmichael said he had merely stated he would “cross that bridge when I come to it”, and affirmed that he was focused 100 per cent on securing a No vote.

Sturgeon shines after bickering BBC debate

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BBC Radio Shetland's John Johnston chairs the BBC referendum debate with Brian Smith and Jean Urquhart (right) for Yes and Tavish Scott and Susan Bowie for No. Photo ShetnewsWEDNESDAY night saw two of the biggest events in Shetland ahead of the independence referendum as BBC Radio Shetland hosted their long awaited Yes/No debate and the SNP brought deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon north to address islanders on her nationwide tour. Pete Bevington attended both events and gives his verdict.

It must have been one of the most out of the ordinary evenings of political debate that Shetland has ever witnessed.

By strange coincidence BBC Radio Shetland and the SNP had both chosen 27 August as their big night in Lerwick for the final build up to the referendum.

Sturgeon: isles oil fund sets template for Scotland

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Deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon, with SNP list MSP Mike Mackenzie, outside Islesburgh on Wednesday morning. Photo: ShetnewsAN INDEPENDENT Scotland should follow Shetland’s example and create an oil fund to benefit future generations, Nicola Sturgeon has said during a visit to the islands.

The deputy first minister arrived in Shetland off the north boat on Wednesday morning to carry out a series of speaking engagements. Her visit comes just over three weeks before the 18 September referendum.

Sturgeon described the Labour and Tory governments’ failure to create an oil fund in the 1970s and 1980s – something Shetland’s politicians had the foresight to do – as a “mistake of monumental proportions”.

Coinciding with her visit, isles MSP Tavish Scott has announced that this autumn he will seek to enshrine many of the powers the SNP is offering to Scotland's islands in law should there be a No vote.

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