The Orkney Islands Are Tired of Getting 'Crumbs'

Council on Tuesday voted to study 'alternative models of governance'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 6, 2023 11:48 AM CDT
A Scottish Archipelago Votes to Explore Idea of Freedom
Sick of being ignored by far-away politicians, officials on Scotland’s remote Orkney Islands are mulling a drastic solution.   (AP Photo/Naomi Koppel, File)

Officials on the Orkney Islands, a corner of Scotland with Viking roots, voted Tuesday to explore ways of seeking more autonomy—or even independence—from neglectful UK governments. Journalists from across Britain and around the world tuned in remotely as Orkney Islands Council voted to study "alternative models of governance" for the archipelago, which has a population of 22,000. Any major constitutional change is a long shot, likely requiring a referendum and legislation by the Scottish and UK governments—who are themselves at loggerheads over the Scottish administration's ambition to make Scotland an independent country outside the United Kingdom, reports the AP.

The proposal from council leader James Stockan grabbed international headlines with its mention of potentially restoring Orkney's "Nordic connections." Orkney was under Norwegian and Danish control for centuries until 1472 when the islands were taken by the Scottish crown as part of Margaret of Denmark's wedding dowry to King James III of Scotland. Stockan said his proposal "is not about us joining Norway," but about countering the "discrimination that we've had against this community" from the Scottish and UK governments.

Stockan said Orkney gets less support from the Scottish government than other island communities in Shetland or the Hebrides and is desperately in need of new ferries to keep its many islands connected. Another councilor, Duncan Tullock, said Orkney was "living off crumbs. ... I've never been more disillusioned in my life with both the Scottish and the UK governments," he said. "We have had promise upon promise upon promise, every single one of them empty."

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A report accompanying Stockan's motion suggested Orkney should investigate options including a status like the Faeroe Islands, a self-governing dependency of Denmark that lies between Scotland and Iceland. Another option is emulating Britain's Crown Dependencies such as the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey. The UK government said there was "no mechanism" to change the status of Orkney, which sit about 10 miles north of mainland Scotland. The Norwegian government said the debate was "a domestic and constitutional British matter" on which it had no view.

(More Orkney Islands stories.)

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