THIS week’s news of the deportation of workers from three well-loved Shetland restaurants is a clear example of why further autonomy for the islands should be welcome (‘Eleven arrested in raids on isles takeaways’, SN 11/7/16)
Whatever narrative may be employed by those against immigration elsewhere in the United Kingdom, almost none of it applies to Shetland. Unlike most of the mainland, demand for labour outstrips supply. Public services, particularly in rural areas, are threatened by the loss of critical mass, not by funds being stretched by excessive demand.
Having this year supported an Indian-born friend through the process of attaining indefinite leave to remain, I have seen close up the callous and uncaring approach the UK Home Office has to those wishing to live here.
Applicants must jump through hoop after flaming hoop in a system clearly designed to intimidate and discourage. Only two groups benefit from this approach: those wealthy enough to employ a specialist immigration lawyer, and those desperate enough to risk the consequences of cheating the system.
Plenty of developed nations place less stringent demands upon those who wish to live and work there. Most are not sun-shy islands ferociously whipped on either side by a North Sea and Atlantic Ocean that would wish nothing more than to be united as one.
I am of the view that all of Scotland might benefit from a more welcoming approach to immigration. However, I recognise the challenges imposed by a shared land border with England. This does not apply to Shetland. There is no reason different laws, recognising the unique demands of the isles, could not be practically applied.
I am doubtful that the increasingly right wing Wir Shetland is as interested in this sort of approach. While I have seen little discussion among them of immigration, it’s most outspoken supporters made clear their disdain for small businesses in the isles with their reaction to another news story last week.
The news article (‘EU exit: local firm partly relocates to Ireland’, SN 5/7/16) focused on the distinct challenges faced post-Brexit by a specialist company operating from Lunna House, was quickly jumped on by angry commentators.
Readers would have been hard pushed to find one of these abusers who has not spoken publicly in favour of Wir Shetland. At least two have held positions on its committee. The unspoken sentiment of many of the comments was eventually spelled out: This company wouldn’t be missed if they were forced to leave.
Further comments focused on how unfair it was that the article had been published at all. Supporters of a group that has had multiple front page spreads of The Shetland Times, many of them among the abusive trolls afforded almost unmoderated freedom to shout down any dissenting voice in its online comments, were suddenly upset about a “complicit media”, biased against them.
As the small, free-to-read and online-only publication that had dared to publish the article, Shetland News was accused of being a corrupt EU stooge.
I support further autonomy and local powers for Shetland, as I suspect many others would, but I will not lend my support to it under a Wir Shetland banner upon which these angry men appear to have so much influence.
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