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Island referendum petition launched

| Written by Hans J Marter

ISLANDERS could be asked to vote in a second referendum in September should a Scottish parliament petition launched by a new campaign group be successful.

The Referenda On The Islands group (ROTI) wants local people to vote on the constitutional future of their individual island group one week after the Scottish independence referendum on 18 September.

If the petition is successful, islanders will be asked to choose between the following options:

1. Do you wish the island group become an independent country?
2. Do you wish the island group stay in Scotland?

Should a majority have voted for Scottish independence the week before then a third option will be added:

3. Do you wish the island group to leave Scotland and stay in the remainder of the UK?

The online petition has gone live on Tuesday at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/GettingInvolved/Petitions/islandgroups and had 27 signatories by late afternoon.

ROTI secretary Catriona Murray, based in Stornoway, said the group has 15 members in Shetland and had been working quietly in the background during the last three months.

She said they were working in parallel with the Our Islands – Our Future process, advocated by the three island councils, and were wholly supporting their position.

She added: "We believe that it is up to islanders to decide, and that now is the time to do so. Our own group includes supporters of all three options.

"We have no official contacts, but several of our members are either councillors or married to councillors.

"We also have contacts on a completely unofficial individual level with executives and with other councillors in all three island groups."

Reacting to the news, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said he welcomed that people were making use of the Scottish parliament's petitioning process.

"Once the referendum genie is out of the bottle people will realise that Shetlanders' views are very different from those held by central belt nationalists," he added.

Petitions concerning the Scottish islands don't need the normal 50,000 signatures to have their voices heard in the parliament.

ROTI therefore hopes that 1,000 signatures - about two per cent of the combined electorate of the three island groups - will be sufficient for the public petition committee to bid for parliamentary time.

"I don't think any of us will be surprised if we get 5,000 signatures, because everyone is aware that our identities and culture as islanders are very strong," she added