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Council / ‘Will self-determination of Shetlanders be respected by the SNP?’ Rees-Mogg asks

The Conservative MP claims Shetland would be “one of the richest sets of islands almost anywhere in the world were able to have the oil revenues that would accrue to it”

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg. Photo: UK Parliament

SHETLAND Islands Council’s push to explore options for achieving political and financial self-determination was brought up in the House of Commons last week – with Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg questioning if the Scottish Government would have a “vote on independence” for the isles.

He also claimed Shetland would likely be one of the richest islands in the world if it took on revenue from oil assets around the isles.

Rees-Mogg suggested in parliament that Shetland was interested in looking at becoming a self-governing Crown dependency – like the Isle of Man, for example.

This is despite council leadership previously playing down national media reports that Shetland was seeking go “independent” from the UK or Scotland – with convener Malcolm Bell saying it was instead “all about looking at options for better ways of running our islands and for taking decisions closer to home”.

Rees-Mogg was responding to a comment from SNP MSP Richard Thomson, who said there was “rank hypocrisy” from the UK Government by asking people on their attitudes to the union – in a survey about Covid-19 – despite looking to deny a second Scottish independence referendum.

“When important communications have to be sent to the country at large around something such as Covid, it is important to understand how people feel and how they will respond to the messages,” Rees-Mogg said in response.

“The hon. Gentleman raises the question of governments listening. I recall that the Shetland Islands last September asked whether it could look at ways of having more independence, possibly including becoming a Crown dependency.

“As Lord President of the Council, I am particularly interested in that question of its becoming a Crown dependency, because that activity would then come through the Privy Council.

“Of course, the Shetland Islands would be one of the richest sets of islands almost anywhere in the world if it were able to have the oil revenues that would accrue to it. I wonder what the Scottish Government are doing in response to the Shetland Islands. They are so keen always to have votes and so on; perhaps they will have a vote on independence for Shetland.”

Thomson did not respond to the comments.

Councillors voted 18-2 in September last year in favour of exploring ways to achieve financial and political self-determination. Discussions are ongoing around the issue.

Earlier this year Shetland News revealed that prime minister Boris Johnson had responded to the council by saying the UK Government is “keen to see power sit at the most appropriate level”.

Scottish Government has also expressed its willingness to engage in talks with the council.