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News / BBC discussion programme ‘Any Questions?’ tackles local and national topics

Shetland's Any Questions? pane (left to right): Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie, journalist Jen Stout, host Chris Mason and Lord Lamont. Photo: Sarah Cooper for Shetland News.

SHETLAND Museum and Archives hosted BBC Radio 4’s topical news show Any Questions? on Friday night to a sold-out final show for host Chris Mason.

The political discussion show was originally planned for 30 March 2020 and was one of the first events to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Over two years later, the panel finally gathered in Lerwick and fielded questions from the audience covering political issues, Shetland’s relationship with the UK, Scotland’s addiction problems, and constitutional concerns.

Chris Mason hosted the show, stating this airing was “particularly memorable” as it would be his last time doing so before moving on to the political editor role at the BBC. His successor will be chosen in autumn and until then a series of guest hosts will take the helm.

The audience comprised of a mixture of public box office tickets, and representatives from Shetland Islands Council and various community groups.

Panellists included Conservative peer Lord Lamont of Lerwick, who formerly served as a MP for Kingston-Upon-Thames and as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1990-1993.

Scottish Labour Deputy Leader Jackie Baillie was also in attendance with Shetland journalist Jen Stout, who has spent the last few months reporting from Ukraine.

Maree Todd, SNP MSP for Caithness Sutherland and Ross, attended virtually after her flight from Inverness to Shetland failed to arrive due to poor weather conditions.

A packed Shetland Museum auditorium followed the discussion.

The popular news and current affairs show tackled issues raised by the audience. Bob English asked a question regarding the idea of Shetland becoming a crown dependency, discussing the potential for the isles to have greater autonomy. Stout observed: “Shetland is geographically different, and has different economy structures to the rest of Scotland.”

Todd said she was “not ideologically opposed” to the idea of an independent Shetland and added the best way for Shetland to achieve a more independent status would be in an independent Scotland.

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There are currently three crown dependencies in the UK that are self-governing states, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. Lamont raised the question: “If Shetland did become a crown dependency, which country would they belong to? Scotland or England?”

Topics also discussed included the ongoing rail strikes causing travel disruption across the UK, the current cost-of-living crisis and inflation, as well as Scotland’s ongoing drug problem, debating whether decriminalisation or legalisation was the way forward to tackle the issue.

They finished up with a light-hearted question from Jane Lewis, questioning the panel: “What is your favourite island?”

Stout chose her home, Fair Isle. Baillie followed with the same answer, admitting she was doing so to get an invite. Lamont picked Fetlar, and Todd chose the islands in Loch Maree in Wester Ross, after which she was named.

Lamont said he was happy to be returning to Lerwick, and added: “I’m delighted about the changes to the Lerwick Up Helly Aa too, now allowing women to participate.”

The Friday night show was broadcast live at 8pm, and is repeated on Saturday lunchtime from 1.10pm. It can be listened to again here.

Any Questions? has been running since 1948, and continues to have average listeners of around 1.9 million people weekly across the UK.

Earlier on Friday, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael blasted the BBC for snubbing Shetland’s Liberal Democrats representatives. Both Carmichael and Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart had not been asked to join the panel.

A BBC spokesperson said: “Any Questions? is broadcast 50 weeks of the year around the country and political parties get a fair representation throughout the year.”

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