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Letters / Open letter to Lesley Riddoch

Hi Lesley,

This is an open letter to you, which I shall be sending to our local media in the hope that it is not censored.

My name is Stuart Hill. I have booked a ticket for the event Reflections on Self Determination – an Islands Perspective, which you will be presenting. So that you have a fully rounded picture, I would like to give you some background information you may not be aware of.

I have been active since 2004 trying to get the Scottish and UK governments to show how they derive their authority here in Shetland (and Orkney). I have been involved in court cases both civil and criminal at every level of the Scottish system, up to the Supreme Court in London and have found that none of them, when challenged, has been able to prove their jurisdiction by showing proof that Shetland is part of Scotland.

My work has been largely either ignored or ridiculed in the media, but nobody has proved me wrong – only an inconvenience.

As I have become more persistent, the courts’ treatment of me has become more extreme. I have twice received jail sentences when questioning jurisdiction and it has become commonplace for a sheriff to send me to police cells, apparently to intimidate me, before bringing me back to the court as if nothing had happened. The press representatives in court seem to accept this as normal.

My latest case arose when I declined to not submit a return of expenses after standing in the 2017 UK general election. That case has just finished after three years and over twenty hearings.

What should have been an open and shut case – there was no doubt I did not submit the return – became mired in the point blank refusal of the court to hear anything on the subject of its jurisdiction.

In the words of one sheriff: “In terms of the hierarchy, let me spell it out – I am the sheriff”. In other words, the whole authority of Scotland and the UK in Orkney and Shetland rests on the unquestionable word of that sheriff.

The most fundamental concept in any justice system is the maxim ‘Audi alteram partem’: ‘Hear the other side’. When that is abandoned, all that is left is show trials. My actions have exposed the lengths to which the judiciary will go to avoid hearing the question in open court.

Over the years I have been offered various explanations of the means by which authority has been established here. In 2011 the Crown offered a magazine article by our local archivist as ‘proof’. The Lord Chancellor said it’s because we pay taxes and send representatives to Parliament – something that would easily be remedied.

In the Orkney case, Sheriff McDonald says it’s because of the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, a piece of UK legislation. The truth is that nobody knows because it never happened. This is terribly inconvenient, but it has to be faced. Shetland cannot continue working on baseless presumptions.

I was described by one sheriff as ‘a stupid old man’ (for which he later apologised), but I hope I do not come across as some kind of crank. I am passionate about Shetland, but if we are to enter negotiations with the Scottish and UK governments, we need to know where we are starting from.

The first question to be asked of the other side is “Do you have what we are asking for?” If Scotland and the UK have real authority here, that is a question they should easily be able to answer. If not, we are asking them to give us something we already have.

Since the Shetland Islands Council is an organ of the Scottish Government, there is little chance of this question being asked. If it is not asked, any negotiations start with a presumption that relinquishes the rights of the Shetland people.

In Scots law, sovereignty is defined as ownership of the allodial (absolute) title. Because of Shetland’s history, the Crown has never acquired the allodial title. They don’t even pretend to own it. The allodial title belongs to the udal land owners, which means that, by definition, everyone owning a house or piece of land in Shetland is sovereign in their own right. If that sovereignty already exists, why do we need to ask anyone for permission? We should be asking by what right can anyone interfere in whatever we wish to do.

The Sovereign Nation of Shetland exists to preserve and promote the innate sovereignty of every legitimate Shetland land owner. For the purposes of equality, our policy is to give a token piece of land to anyone who is not currently an owner, to ensure nobody is excluded.

Shetland has endured 550 years of being treated as a cash cow by Scotland, England and latterly the UK. We have the people and the resources to stand proud on our own. We must not give away our rights in sham negotiations.

For the 1 December event, I understand there will be an opportunity for questions after the speakers have finished. In all due modesty, there is nobody who has devoted so much time and research into this question over the past sixteen years.

However, my genuine offers to help in these proposed negotiations have been ignored. I hope I will not be sidelined in the questions on the day.

I have written a book, Stolen Isles, which describes Shetland’s history from a legal standpoint. I have no legal training myself, but the foreword is written by a retired judge.

It shows that, not only did Shetland never legitimately become part of Scotland, but that it never could have. I shall be delighted to send you a copy if you will send me mailing details. I’m told it’s a pretty good read.

Stuart Hill