Letters / ‘True Shetlander’?

Without getting into the ins and outs of the Lerwick Up Helly Aa debate, one of the most disturbing aspects that I notice crop up each year is a tendency to imply that people’s backgrounds determine whether their opinions are equally valid.

It is common to see references to being a ‘true Shetlander’; implications that people who hold a certain view are less than full members of the community; or at its most extreme, I know someone who was once told to ‘get back on the ferry where you came from’ simply for expressing an opinion.


(As someone raised in Shetland with a local surname and centuries of Shetland ancestry, but also with an English-born parent and, sadly, I can’t fluently speak dialect, I’m never sure if I’m enough of a ‘true Shetlander’ to be allowed an opinion. Perhaps someone can let me know).

In my view, if someone lives in Shetland, has made it their home and is part of their community – they are a Shetlander, regardless of where they were born or how many generations of ancestry they have. To imply otherwise goes down a very dark path of demanding cultural purity before someone is allowed to contribute to public life.

Everyone is entitled to their views, but can we please discuss and debate these on the merits of the views themselves, rather than the background of the people expressing them?

Mathew Nicolson