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SIC - Free Tyre Check - 22 Nov 2019

Scottish Independence Debate / Opinion: Grief, relief and feet to the fire

The Shetland flag above the Union Jack flying on referendum day in Northmavine reflecting the view of two thirds of island voters.

There is a strange mixture of disappointment and relief in the wake of Scotland’s decision to vote No to independence.

Those who worked hard to persuade the undecided to vote Yes with hope in their hearts for a brighter and fairer future are grieving the outcome.

Those who warned of the dangers and feared the consequences of independence are not so much celebrating as breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Shetland’s vote was as many predicted, though Yes voters had allowed themselves to imagine they would gain more than 40 per cent in the isles.

Nationally the Yes vote failed to match the campaign’s optimistic expectations as folk opted for the supposed security of the status quo.

Many will think that what Scotland, and Shetland have achieved, is the best possible outcome – a majority that protects us from the risks and upheaval of breaking away from the United Kingdom, while forcing Westminster to take the need for change seriously.

For once Tavish Scott and Jean Urquhart agree with each other on something – that if Westminster fails to deliver on its promises of devolving more powers then Scotland will be back in the ballot booths within a few years to repeat Thursday’s experience.

It’s possible that Scotland could have done the rest of the UK a favour by forcing it to wake up to the near universal demand for more decision making to be made at a local level, whether that be in the major cities or in the outlying regions and nations.

It has also awakened a new generation of young people to the possibilities of creating a better society. The momentum they have generated will not end with this referendum, though what avenues it will go down remains to be seen.

Alistair Carmichael says a new federal UK is inevitable, though that path appears fraught with complexity and is unlikely to bring the changes that many hoped for with independence, especially the removal of nuclear weapons from the Clyde.

Meanwhile the SNP, the Scottish Greens and Scottish Socialists have seen an astonishing surge in membership since the results came in, ensuring the demand for big changes in Scotland is not going to go away.

As for Shetland, the campaign has had one important achievement in bringing the three Scottish island groups together to demand special consideration for their unique circumstances.

There has been much talk of “holding feet to the fire” these past few weeks.

While Scotland keeps the pressure on the three main UK parties to deliver on their vow, the islands will be making their own demands.

Firstly that the Scottish secretary honours his promises in the Framework for the Islands, as he says he is already doing.

Secondly, that the Scottish government honours some of the pledges it made to the Our Islands, Our Future campaign. Why should there not be an islands minister in Holyrood regardless of the outcome of the referendum?

Thirdly, local councils need to have more powers to raise money themselves so Shetland has an alternative to its constant cost cutting agenda.

Why is the richest local authority area in Scotland with an economy booming like never before having to close schools and cut public services? It simply does not make sense.