The Orkney Islands is set to consider changing how it is governed, including exploring its “Nordic connections”.
The leader of the Orkney Islands Council (OIC) James Stockan has put forward a motion that says it is time for Orkney to discuss alternative forms of governance which could provide more economic opportunity.
It suggests this could include looking at crown dependencies such as Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.
“Nordic connections” are also put forward, with a report going before a council meeting this week mentioning the Faroe Islands – a self-governing territory of Denmark in the North Sea.
Orkney was under Norwegian and Danish control until 1472 when the islands were given to Scotland as part of Margaret of Denmark’s wedding dowry to King James III of Scotland.
Mr Stockan’s motion does not favour either option, with the officials’ report noting that any constitutional change would likely require a combination of petitions, referenda and legislation at Holyrood and Westminster.
The council leader told the BBC that Orkney is being “failed dreadfully” by governments in both Edinburgh and London, saying funding per head is less than Shetland and the Western Isles receive.
“We were part of the Norse kingdom for much longer than we were part of the United Kingdom,” he said.
“On the street in Orkney, people come up and say to me ‘when are we going to pay back the dowry, when are we going back to Norway’.
“There is a huge affinity and a huge deep cultural relationship there. This is exactly the moment to explore what is possible.”
But the Scottish Lib Dem MSP for Orkney, Liam McArthur, said he supported empowering island communities but warned there are dangers in “putting up barriers”.
“I am due to meet local councillors on Monday and will be interested to learn more about what is envisaged,” he said.
“There were similar proposals considered by OIC around the time of the last independence referendum and I am keen to understand how these would differ.
“Locally, I think islanders will also want to be reassured that this exercise won’t result in council resources being taken away from the day-to-day running of services at a time when these are under real pressure.”
But Downing Street rejected Mr Stockan’s suggestion the islands could loosen ties with the UK.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “First and foremost, there is no mechanism for the conferral of crown dependency or overseas territory status on any part of the UK.
“But fundamentally, we are stronger as one United Kingdom, we have no plans to change that.
“We’ve got no plans to change the devolution settlement. We are supporting Orkney already with £50m to grow the economic prosperity of the Scottish islands, through the islands deal,” the spokesperson added.
“But the Government’s position is that the UK is stronger united.”
Source : News. Sky