Monday, 7 November 2011

Why has Shetland never gone for independence?

Shetland, along with Orkney, became part of Scotland in 1469, when they were pawned to the Scottish crown, believe it or not, as part of a dowry payment from the king of Norway and Denmark to James III of Scotland. The agreement made was that once the full dowry was paid the islands would be returned to Denmark, and until that time Norse laws would remain in place. The dowry never was repaid and Scotland, surprisingly, never made any fuss about it.

Over the next few centuries Denmark appealed to the crown but got nowhere and Norse law ended in 1611 but, and one thing in particular should be remembered, Denmark has never renounced its claim for the isles.

Following the Act of Union between Scotland and England in 1707, at a time when many islanders still spoke the native Norn as their first language, the vast majority of Shetlanders were forced into serfdom. The people were cruelly exploited by their new Scottish landlords until the end of the 19th century.

This somewhat tainted history explains not only the antipathy towards Scotland, which has continued into the 21st century, but also the persistent nostalgia of a romantic, Nordic past, which is continues to be apparent in the Viking festivals of Up Helly Aa, held around the isles each winter.

So, what do the Shetlandic people feel that they are? Do they feel that they are Scottish? I don't think so, not with the history of serfdom to Scotland. Do they feel part of the UK? Again, I don't think so, with all that oil in our water and all of its financial benefits being taken 'doon sooth.'

Shetland Island Council has started to develop another ambitious energy project. The world's largest, community-owned wind farm is set to be built here in Shetland. There will be approximately two hundred huge windmills generating electricity and supplying twenty-five per cent of the power required by Scotland. Scotland will have to pay for this, providing a major financial boost for the Isles. We can look after ourselves.

Remember, Scotland received Shetland as a pawn, nothing more and she has not yet been paid for, that does not make her part of Scotland.

And if Denmark should pay her debt, will we let her take over? That is up to the people but I think that after the lesson that Scotland taught us, I can read the answer written in the oil and in the wind.