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Letters / Time to take back control

The political elite got a profound shock last Thursday. While they take stock, it is time for Shetland to take the initiative.

After the Brexit vote there has been talk of a new political landscape and structure. The politicians, in their distant bubble, got it wrong. In their arrogance, they forgot they were our representatives and thought they knew best.

Here in Shetland we have the ability and the potential to make a change. We are big enough to matter, but small enough to act as one.

With the UK having voted for Brexit and the Scottish government wanting independence and to stay in the EU, Shetland is presented with a massive opportunity.

The next stage of Brexit is all about legal issues and the inevitable compromise that goes with them.

Those negotiations and any that Scotland may engage in will make the assumption that Shetland is part of Scotland and that Shetland waters and seabed are a Scottish or UK resource.

The negotiators need to be aware that any such assumption will be challenged. Shetland has the potential to be centre stage in the process.

In this fluid situation, those involved in UK and Scottish negotiations with the EU need to be reminded that Shetland waters, sacrificed by Ted Heath in exchange for EEC membership, never belonged to either the UK or Scotland.

They have admitted it, but nevertheless continue with the tired old presumptions. Those presumptions now need to be tested – if they claim ownership, let them come forward with proof. Without proof, there is no legal claim.

I have been involved in court cases over the past few years at every level of the Scottish court system and even the Supreme Court. When challenged, none of those courts has been able to hear any proof that Shetland is part of Scotland – for the very simple reason that no such proof exists.

In 2013 The Sovereign Nation of Shetland made a formal claim to the allodial title (the supreme title) to the land and territorial waters of Shetland. That claim is not disputed by the UK or Scottish governments.

Such an apparently outlandish notion may have seemed to many like pie in the sky until last week, but now it becomes a political reality.

After Brexit, Shetland waters will no longer be an EU common resource and the common fisheries policy will be dead. Quotas will be no more unless we want them. Foreign boats will no longer have a right to fish in our waters.

The grotesque results of the CFP – one Dutch super trawler owning 23 per cent of the UK’s quota and 43 per cent being in foreign hands, while our fishermen face artificial restrictions and are forced to discard perfectly good fish – will be in the past.

Shetland waters belong to the sovereign people of Shetland and will be for their benefit.

Just as in Ted Heath’s day, this could all be lost in the negotiations to extricate the UK from the EU unless action is taken to prevent it. The fishing industry is still not very important to the UK and could again be used as a bargaining chip against our interest.

Shetland also needs to see more benefit from the oil in her waters. Although the oil is a Shetland resource, I do not advocate claiming all the tax revenue for ourselves.

In my view, a better approach would be for the money to come into a Shetland bank before being passed on as foreign aid to the UK (or wherever we wish to send it). It might have strings attached, preventing its use, for instance, for military purposes.

The political landscape is changing and we need to understand the power of our position. The people of Shetland have had the wool pulled over their eyes. Our innate sovereignty has never been taken away, only obscured from view.

Although we have a legal right to absolute ownership of our land and seas with no lord or superior, that right and all that goes with it will not be recognised unless we stand up for it.

Stuart Hill