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Council / ‘Status quo is failing both island groups’, SIC councillor says ahead of Orkney motion

A SHETLAND councillor who was involved in the push to explore self-determination has wished his Orkney counterparts well ahead of a similar motion going in front of elected members in Kirkwall today (Tuesday).

Duncan Anderson, from the North Isles, said the Orkney Islands Council (OIC) motion due to be heard is similar to the one the SIC passed in 2020.

The OIC motion has been lodged by leader James Stockan, and it calls for the exploration of options for alternative models of governance that would provide greater fiscal security and economic opportunity for Orkney.

It goes further than the Shetland motion by stating that the investigations should look at “Nordic connections, Crown Dependencies and other options for greater subsidiarity and autonomy”.

SIC councillor Duncan Anderson.

This includes, for example, Faroe as a self-governing territory of Denmark, as well as the Isle of Man and the Falkland Islands.

In interviews Stockan has highlighted the cost of operating Orkney’s inter-island ferries.

“The funding we get from the Scottish Government is significantly less per head than Shetland and the Western Isles to run the same services – we can’t go on as we are,” he told the BBC.

Speaking on Monday, SIC councillor Anderson said he thinks some of the national media headlines around the Orkney are “a bit overblown” – as per what happened in the Shetland coverage.

“[I think it] perhaps overlooks the essence of why both councils feel this is worth looking at,” he added.

“The status quo is failing both island groups and has been for a long time.

“I will continue to push for progress on investigating Shetland’s future and I wish our Orcadian neighbours well in their efforts to do the same.”

SIC to explore ways of achieving self-determination after elected members back motion

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Orkney Islands Council voted back in 2017 to look at whether the islands could have greater autonomy.

The Orkney motion warns, however, about the workload for staff if it is passed.

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston, who is from Orkney, said he felt “talk of ‘re-joining Norway’ is more about generating media headlines than anything else”.

“Orkney Islands Council is right to highlight the funding issues our islands face; an issue I have been raising myself for over 20 years,” the Conservative MSP added.

“But this ongoing and damaging underfunding comes from Scottish Government ministers in Edinburgh.”

A spokesperson for the prime minister is reported as saying that “fundamentally we are stronger as one United Kingdom, we have no plans to change that”.

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