Shetland News Column


Shetland, Scotland and the UK are a year on from the independence referendum. Far from being the once in a lifetime event promised by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon the opposite has happened. The SNP act like they won. It is important to remember the actual result. More than 55% of Scots voted against separating Scotland from Wales, Northern Ireland and England. Here in Shetland more than 6 out of 10 voters said no thanks to independence. There was a huge turnout last September. More than 8 out of 10 people eligible to vote did. The result therefore was decisive. Yet sadly the SNP do not respect the verdict of the people.

On the anniversary of the vote, Scotland's First Minister chose not to bring the country together, but instead ferment the case for a further referendum. We now face the Quebec scenario. The separatists there did not accept the result of a vote that kept Quebec in Canada. That vote was much closer than Scotland's. So the Canadian people were put through years of uncertainty over their future until a second referendum. The same is now the case in Scotland. 

Why? The SNP do not want attention on their domestic record as a government. They have ruled Scotland for more than 8 years. So they have a record to defend. On schools, health and the disastrous imposition of a state police force. 

Instead the SNP turn attention to anyone else. The current deflection is on a proposed extension of Holyrood's powers. These new responsibilities including income tax, new welfare powers and enshrining the Scottish Parliament as a permanent feature. They are steps towards what I would like to see - a federal UK.

 Where the nations of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland figure out a coherent way of working together. A federal system creates a positive, unifying future for Scotland and the rest of the UK. It’s completely normal across the world for modern, complex democracies such as ours. It would be good for Scotland.

I am a member of a Parliamentary committee looking at these proposals for more power. We have worked together across parties to say that the UK Government must change its current proposals to deliver what the Smith Commission said. There are good things for Shetland. Devolving control of the seabed to the Islands. Making the Scottish Fisheries Minister the lead politician in the annual European Fisheries negotiations.

 The UK Government must implement what was agreed. That work is still unfinished and the Scottish Parliament and government are quite right to argue for the full implementation of that cross party agreement. But this debate has been hijacked by the SNP to become a condition that justifies a further independence vote.

Another independence vote was not the talk of the Walls Show Shed this weekend. Nor at the sale ring in the Lerwick Marts. Judging by the turnout at the Market Cross on Saturday few SNP members appear too bothered.

People just do not want another referendum. So the shrewd and strategic Nicola Sturgeon would bin this for a decade. It is increasingly clear that there are only two future courses for Scotland – independence or federalism – and that federalism is the only viable future for the UK.

Now is the time to make that case. 


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