COUNCIL leader Gary Robinson says he will be “surprised” if the UK Government offers nothing in relation to Crown Estate income when it publishes a concordat outlining how it might devolve more powers to Shetland.
He was speaking at Wednesday’s Full Council meeting in the wake of a pledge from Scottish first minister Alex Salmond to hand over all net profit from the seabed around the islands if there is a ‘Yes’ vote in September’s independence referendum.
The Westminster coalition is expected to unveil its counter offer to the three Scottish island groups later this summer.
Council chief executive Mark Boden said the prospectus unveiled by the SNP last month was a “quite remarkable achievement” for the Our Islands, Our Future campaign alongside Orkney and the Western Isles.
Boden said it opened the door for dialogue on matters including the possibility of community benefit from the salmon farming and oil and gas industries, as well as talks on internal and external ferry services.
Councillors commended the campaign’s achievements to date, with Jonathan Wills hailing it a “political triumph” – though Drew Ratter said he favoured “a further campaign for control and ownership by coastal communities of their coastal waters”.
Robinson said the campaign had pushed “hard for control over the seabed up to 12 miles” and that “may yet come if we pursue a [government] act for the islands”.
Ratter also felt it was “a real shame” that no attempt was made to “play the oil card” in relation to the campaign. “I was waiting for somebody to do that and nobody ever did,” he said.
But Robinson said there had been arguments about whether “it’s wir oil” for 40 years and “if we’d engaged in that type of discussion [with government] we’d still be sitting here talking today”.
• Meanwhile a spokeswoman for the group campaigning for referenda on independence for Scotland’s islands in September has accused the SNP Government of giving an “evasive and cowardly” response.
The Holyrood administration responded to a petition signed by over 1,000 people by saying it was clear that Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles were “much valued parts of Scotland and have been so for many centuries, including prior to the Treaty of Union in 1707” and “that would continue in the event of independence”.
In April council leader Gary Robinson questioned the ROTI campaign’s credibility, adding he had “not detected much in the way of support for it” within Shetland.
But Catriona Murray of Referenda on the Islands (ROTI) said: “We expect a government to show leadership. But here we get the opposite: evasion, misdirection and cowardice.”
She also claimed the SNP’s prospectus to empower island communities “went down like a damp squib”.
Murray added that the government response implied ROTI’s call for referenda to be staged within a week of the 18 September poll on Scottish independence would be impractical.
“If they want to quibble with our proposed date for the referenda, let them do so. Let them suggest an alternative date. In reality, referenda could easily be held on the islands in September. Just ask people in Venice or Hong Kong. Or do they want us to?”