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Join the debate!

THE INDEPENDENCE referendum reignited political debate in this country, not least in these islands.

But that debate did not stop on 18 September last year – never before have so many people become so engaged in how our public affairs are run. This can only be a good thing.

Having published all shades of opinion during the independence campaign, Shetland News is proud to launch Viewpoint - a regular opinion column covering local, national and international issues from an island perspective.

We would welcome contributions from right across the political and cultural spectrum, and hope to stimulate lively debate that will help shape Shetland’s future. Contributions can be sent as articles or letters to comment@shetnews.co.uk, or comments can be made at the foot of the page.

Editorial: HIAL car parking charges appear unjust

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GIVEN the public response last time, if you were feeling charitable you could almost forgive Sumburgh Airport operator Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) for skipping a public consultation on the introduction of car parking charges seven years on.

But if the publicity masterplan second time around was aimed at lessening the inevitable backlash, it is difficult to imagine many more counterproductive strategies.

Editorial: Tax reforms welcome amid Tory austerity - but SNP must act on ferries pledge

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LAST week’s draft budget from Scotland's finance secretary Derek Mackay was more notable locally for what it did not contain – fair ferry funding – than what it did. More on the infamous ferries pledge later. But what are the implications of the things it did contain?

Few would quibble with commitments on affordable housing and £600 million towards the ambitious aim of providing superfast broadband access to 100 per cent of homes by 2021.

Local Labour stalwarts say Scottish independence ‘inevitable’ following Brexit vote

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IN A momentous week in UK politics that saw Prime Minister Theresa May set the Brexit process in motion while the Scottish Parliament gave the SNP minority government a mandate to seek a second independence referendum, Shetland News asked two local observers what they made of it all.

Spirals of fire, conviviality & the vexed matter of shield-maidens: how an outsider sees UHA

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IN A feature article, first written for iScot magazine and reproduced here, journalist Zoe Weir offers an outsider’s perspective on the Lerwick Up Helly Aa.

Shetlanders do not like being put in a box. Not by cartologists, who tend to squeeze the Northern Isles into a peerie square just off Scotland. Not by historians, who still debate whether Vikings wiped out Shetland’s Pictish natives or assimilated with them. Not by political pundits, for Shetland is a law unto itself; and never more so than during their annual fire festival, Up Helly Aa. This unique spectacle claims Viking connections, but in truth was forged in Victorian times; to this day it retains a “no-women” rule hotly debated by islanders.

'Time to choose between Brexit & decades of Tory rule or a future controlled by ourselves'

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Iain Malcolmson.AS THE Scottish Parliament prepares to vote next week on whether to open negotiations with Westminster about a second independence referendum, local SNP member Iain Malcolmson – who joined the party following the September 2014 referendum – outlines why he believes “Brexit has changed everything”.

I grew up in the Thatcher years and as a reaction to her and her policies I have always been left of centre. I have always believed in fairness, equality and opportunity for all.

'Wait and see what type of Brexit we get'

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Geoffrey Hay.With Nicola Sturgeon seeking authority to stage a second Scottish independence referendum within two years and Theresa May steadfastly refusing to countenance such an idea, where does the constitutional impasse leave Shetland? Local chiropractor Geoffrey Hay, who takes an active interest in the political scene, offers his thoughts.

After the very surprising Brexit vote last year, yet another constitutional conundrum is to be foisted upon us with the SNP government demanding ‘indyref2’ in 2018 or 2019. Alex Salmond was obviously referring to hamsters when he said the 2014 referendum was a once in a lifetime opportunity…

Mixed views on prospect of second indyref

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NICOLA Sturgeon’s announcement that the SNP government is to seek permission for a second Scottish independence referendum in late 2018 or early 2019 has drawn a mixed response from politicians locally. 

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott voiced his frustration, saying Shetland had made its position “very clear” that it wished to remain in the European Union and part of the UK – both outcomes he wants to see happen. 

But he made clear that he laid the blame for the constitutional “mess” at the door of former Tory Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the EU referendum, rather than Sturgeon. 

Editorial: Standing up for liberal values

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THE FORTY or so individuals who turned out on the streets of Lerwick to express their solidarity with women and minorities who – quite understandably – fear for their future under the demagogic, newly-inaugurated US president deserve to be warmly commended.

It is heartening to see civic engagement of this sort, whether to do with local, national or global affairs.

That people in Lerwick took their place alongside 100,000 in London and millions more worldwide against a man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women might be a small gesture, but it is an important one.

Viewpoint: 'The tragedy of Brexit'

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Jane Mack.

TEN YEARS ago John and Jane Coutts, and their son Frank (now 21), moved from Fetlar to live in rural Spain.
Here, Jane responds to Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit speech from earlier this week and describes how her family's life has been hanging in the balance ever since a 52 per cent majority voted in favour of leaving the European Union.

We have been living and working in Spain since 2007, paying into the country's social security system and hopefully contributing economically and socially to the village where we live.

Opinion: ferry fares campaign vindicated

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Ferry fares campaigner Ryan Thomson - Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland NewsFOR YEARS now our ferry fares have been far too high. They have crept up considerably over the last decade or so, around 154 per cent since 2007 by my calculation, writes ferry fares campaigner Ryan Thomson.  Finally though, politicians are starting to recognise this high level of fares is entirely unacceptable.

First of all, a peerie bit of background as to why I felt a petition and campaign were necessary. Both Nicola Sturgeon on her visit to Shetland and Humza Yousaf shortly after being announced as transport and islands minister promised that a reduction in fares is required and will happen “sooner rather than later”. 

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