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Scottish Independence Debate / Government to respond to isles referenda petition

A SCOTTISH Parliament committee is to ask the SNP government for its response to a petition calling for referenda on independence for Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles.

The petition, set up by a group called Referenda on the Islands (ROTI), garnered 1,177 online signatures before being submitted to Holyrood.

It is seeking for polls on independence to be staged in the three islands groups one week after the 18 September referendum on Scottish independence.

Holyrood’s public petitions committee held a “preliminary consideration” of ROTI’s petition on Tuesday and has decided to seek the government’s views.

Committee chairman David Stewart, who is also a Labour list MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said he did not want to express a personal view on the petition at this stage because of his duty to represent the committee as a whole.

“What we’ve done is looked at the petition, and asked the government for its views,” he told Shetland News. “They will then write back and we will schedule the discussion for a meeting in the next few weeks.”

He added: “This is an issue for the Scottish Government – would they agree to it in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote?”

The poll has been criticised by local politicians including Shetland Islands Council leader Gary Robinson, who moved to distance the three islands’ joint “Our Islands, Our Future” campaign from that of those behind the petition.

But ROTI spokeswoman Catriona Murray said: “We have been overwhelmed by the level of support our petition received in the islands, and we warmly welcome the parliamentary committee’s decision that our petition is admissible.

“We are also delighted that the Scottish Government will have to state its view on the proposal in the near future.

Independent list MSP Jean Urquhart says the petition is "a piece of nonsense" and should be thrown out.

“Exactly the same principle applies to the island groups as applies to Scotland: it is up to residents to decide the status of where we live.”

Murray added: “Once the Scottish Government announces that the referenda will be held, we look forward to all positions being given a fair hearing. Islanders will then be able to decide our future in the only proper way – by referendum.”

But independent list MSP Jean Urquhart said she hoped the SNP, which she used to be a member of, would throw the petition out.

“Even those in any doubt about what might be the right way forward couldn’t possibly support this,” she said. “Even for those people in Shetland who might think they’d like independence for Shetland it doesn’t have a lot going for it.”

Urquhart said it would be “foolish” for Shetlanders to be asked to “vote blindly” on their constitutional future just days after the Scottish independence referendum.

“The great thing about folk in Shetland is that, once they get the bit between their teeth, who knows what kind of governance we’ll see… but there’s a real possibility of it changing.”

She added: “I hope the government just throw it [the petition] out – it’s a piece of nonsense.”