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Politics / MP backs councillors’ bid for ‘self-determination’

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael MP.Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael.

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael says he “very much welcomes” moves by nine Shetland councillors to explore options for more autonomy.

The Liberal Democrat said issues such as the imposition of a car parking charge at Sumburgh Airport by Scottish Government-owned HIAL was a “prime example” of centralisation being harmful for the isles.

A motion is set to be presented to the next meeting of the full Shetland Islands Council on 9 September calling on the local authority to explore the options for achieving “financial and political self-determination”.

It has been signed by leader Steven Coutts and convener Malcolm Bell alongside main committee chairs Alastair Cooper, Emma Macdonald George Smith and Ryan Thomson.

Also behind the motion are councillors Andrea Manson, Duncan Anderson and Alec Priest, who were the initial driving force behind the plans.

The motion needs the support of the council chamber to be passed.

Speaking in response to the news, which was revealed on Monday, Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael welcomed the development.

He took aim at the Scottish Government for failing to live up to its “rhetoric” over issues like island-proofing.

“I very much welcome this initiative and will be keen as always to work with colleagues in SIC to make this happen,” Carmichael said.

“As a general rule the further a decision is made from the people affected by it, then the more likely it is to be a bad decision.

“To pick two examples at random – the decision to impose car parking charges at Sumburgh and the proposal to centralise air traffic control in Inverness – both prime examples of where the inexorable process of centralisation has been bad for the isles.

“They demonstrate why a move of this sort is necessary.

“The so-called Islands Bill and the process of islands proofing have failed because the Scottish Government’s actions have not matched their rhetoric.”

In the 2014 Scottish independence referendum Shetland voted 63.7 per cent in favour of remaining in the UK, which was above the national average.

Two years later Shetland also voted to remain in the EU, with 56.5 per cent of voters against Brexit.