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Riddoch explores Scotland’s relationship with Europe

Lesley Riddoch during her previous visit to Shetland three years ago. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News
Lesley Riddoch during a previous visit to Shetland. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

SHETLAND autonomy and Scotland’s future post-Brexit were two of the topics which were discussed on Monday as writer and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch promoted her new book McSmorgasbord in the isles.

Around 25 people attended her first event at Mareel in Lerwick on Monday lunchtime, which was organised by the local Women for Independence group.

A planned talk later that evening at Mid Yell Hall, however, suffered from a lack of local advertising and saw Riddoch end up having a “good natter” in the pub instead due to the poor turn out.

Her final talk will take place at the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway on Tuesday at 8pm, although Northern Isles SNP election candidate Miriam Brett – who has featured alongside Riddoch – may not make it as she is appearing at BBC Radio Shetland’s election hustings in Lerwick which gets under way at 7pm.

McSmorgasbord, co-written with the late Paddy Bort, explores what “post-Brexit Scotland can learn from the Nordics”

Speaking to Shetland News on Tuesday, Riddoch said an independent Scotland could look into accessing the European Economic Area (EEA), like Norway and Iceland, or attempt to become an EU member.

The former option could allow Scotland to escape EU legislation like the Common Fisheries Policy, but it would still be part of the single market.

She said these issues have been ongoing in the Nordic countries for a number of decades.

“You can go up the way and embrace the North Atlanticness of us and our fishing possibilities and join the EEA, or you can look across the way at that pretty impressive line-up,” Riddoch said.

“If you were in a football team that’s a pretty good back row there – Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland – all of whom are keen EU supporters and want to change the EU to save little states. Some folk may say that is a thankless task, but it may be what saves the EU.”

Riddoch said the issue of Shetland independence reared its head at her Mareel talk, and in particular its relation to Faroe, which is owned by Denmark but has its own devolved parliament.

“There was a lot of interest in the views on that, whether people who support Scottish independence would support Shetlandic independence,” she said.

“It strikes me that if people really want to go for it, then you’d have to consider it. I think you’d need to have the same history of independent mindedness and the same relaxed mother state that Denmark has proved to be, for that to be a goer for a very small place like Shetland.

“I think if Scotland had been part of Denmark and not part of the UK, we would be in a very different state today, but we’d be in one where difference would be accommodated, not sort overridden, which tends to be the instinct from Westminster.”

Riddoch, meanwhile, sought to praise SNP candidate Brett, who is expected to form the main opposition to Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael on 8 June.

“I think she would be brilliant from a point of being able to speak of the many different interests in Shetland and Orkney, and also energise young people into the democratic process,” she said.

“I’ve seen her in action and she can speak to the younger population with a kind of energy and connection that I’ve hardly seen outside of Mhairi Black.”