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Scottish Independence Debate / Referendum: Let’s run our own affairs

Frustrated with the arguments between Yes and No in the independence referendum and disenchanted with Shetland Islands Council and its Our Islands Our Future campaign, Burra man Alistair Inkster argues Shetland should go it alone and urges everyone to sign the petition for an islands referendum.

Gary Robinson, please hand in your resignation without further delay and return from whence you came, for you have no business sitting on the council or any other position of public responsibility.

At the moment with lots of publicity and fanfare you are sitting at the table negotiating with Edinburgh and Westminster for further powers, and at the same time giving interviews saying “We won’t play the oil card”.

See BBC Scotland business editor Douglas Fraser’s article The Shetland Dividend here and listen to his programme here.

So in this game of political poker just what cards are you playing? Do you really understand the rules of the game? And if you do, are you trying to lose?

You were elected along with your colleagues to keep the schools open and preserve as much of the public services as possible.

Instead you are closing schools outside Lerwick and cutting services outside Lerwick, gritting, ferries etc.

Well you have failed miserably in your task while still wasting money preserving jobs in the very council offices where, on past performance of getting rid of the d some ead wood, it should be a simple matter of auditing every department.

There’s plenty of folk responsible for some very expensive cockups that could be sacked for a start.

Then there are the department heads who surround themselves with minions to inflate their own sense of self worth and of course their wages.

If you don’t have the required grit to make the decisions needed to do the job you were elected for then at least have the wit to realise what cards you take to the table doing a job that you took upon yourself.

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You’ve been dealt a royal flush, the other players know you have a royal flush, the pot is full, you hold the other players’ chits and because you say you’re not greedy you’ve folded your hand.

If you can’t bring yourself to make the cuts where they are needed then at least have the wit to realise you have been thrown a once in a lifetime chance to sort the unequal balance of payments and get the extra money to keep the schools open.

But no you go cap in hand begging for more responsibility. Well I say you’re not fit for the responsibility you have, you betrayed those that voted for you in the council election and now you are betraying every Shetlander alive today and yet to be born, you betray your ancestors and their descendants that left these isles for lack of opportunity and continue to do so today.

You have no more vision for our younger generation in this time that £BILLIONS are being taken from under our seas, than for them to make trinkets for the tourists and to provide top end home care for those tourists that decide to retire here after getting rid of their assets to their kids (or even a cat home in one case if rumours are to be believed).

Never mind that folk that have lived their whole lives in Shetland are left to cope because there is not enough carers or places in care.

Your great triumph of negotiating a settlement of the housing debt was an abject failure, but with all the mutual back slapping at the town hall has any of you twigged yet?

The debt was accrued building houses to accommodate the first oil boom, and now we are on the cusp of another we are going to have to build even more houses than those currently needed to clear the existing housing list.

Well let’s look at what you have achieved: Westminster who owed us £40 million and were at least making the interest payments have now settled for a quarter of the debt, and Edinburgh who snatched the interest payment for themselves, well they will hand over £10 million over the next few years for the express purpose of building houses.

I am a great believer in Shetland being able to run it’s own affairs, and I totally understand why folk are scared of giving the likes of you more control than you already have.

But I also know that most of the folk that stand for council would be blown away by the quality of candidates that would stand if they could actually make a difference.

There are a lot of very able people in Shetland, but it takes a lot for those folk with wit and ability to give up their jobs or business for the term of a council for the little financial reward.It is the money after all that will keep their families in house and home in uncertain times. You will always get a few, but when so much power is in the hands of 22 folk the few good men and women get worn down very quickly.

As an independent state the first thing any competent person would do would be to tie up the capital so no sticky fingered politician or civil servant in the future can plunder it handing out money to friends and family, or to buy votes.

The capital would be safe for all time, the interest would pay for every bridge, tunnel, school, ferry and air scheme and anything else we need now and for the future.

With independence we would be attracting folk here to live and work, our youngsters would no longer have to leave to get opportunities for they would be here.

Smaller island states than ours survive and thrive. Look at Faroe, they have gone from half our population to almost double. Why? Because they had the self belief to go for it to demand and get their rights as an independent nation.

Their kids don’t leave to go to uni, never to return. They return and help build a successful nation for their own and their families’ future. And they have done this with nothing more than control of their fishing industry, while ours has been decimated by Brussels, Westminster and Edinburgh.

As for Edinburgh or Westminster, even if they do have more competent folk to run things, and that is very much up for debate, why would they make the decisions that are right for us?

They will have 5 or 65 million plus voters far removed from us to keep happy. They can do with us what they like and justify it by this council signing some pathetic Our Islands Our Future agreement.

Even if you get a well meaning politician in either of those remote parliaments they will make their benevolent decision based on their perception of life here and that is most certainly not the same as the real thing.

Just look at Hugh’s Fish Fight for a perfect example of this: a well meaning celeb got lots of city folks (and more than a few of us, though I did say at the time I thought it could very well turn round and bite us in the arse) to back his campaign.

He came up here and went all over the UK talking to fishermen and even going to sea on local boats, and after all that the solution he hammered out with the EU for saving our fishing industry will be the final nail in the coffin for some of our boats.

Now to the petition for the isles. It is not asking for independence it is asking that we have our say, it is you saying you think you are capable and entitled to make the decision that will affect not only you but your descendants for all time.

It’s saying this is one decision that is too important to leave to folks hundreds of miles away or even to those we elected to run our local services.


The folk that started it are not the most active of campaigners; if they had put a copy in every shop in the three island groups the signatures would be in the thousands, if they had done more than get it online and sit back the numbers signing would be in the thousands.

As it stands with 1,250 signatures, it is the equivalent of over 60,000 signatures for a national issue. I did not organise it, but I would urge everybody to sign it because not in our lifetimes or at least while there’s oil under our seas will we get this chance again.

Ali Inkster
Burra Isle

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