Orkney after alternative methods of governance and funding opportunities
Orkney Islands’ councilors have voted to investigate alternative methods of governance amid deep frustrations over funding and opportunities. Council leader James Stockan said the islands had been held down and accused the Scottish and UK governments of discrimination.
His motion led to media speculation that Orkney could leave the UK or become a self-governing territory of Norway or even Denmark. It was supported by 15 votes to six.
It means council officers have been asked to publish a report to Orkney’s chief executive on options of governance.
This includes looking at the Nordic connections of the archipelago and crown dependencies such as Jersey and Guernsey.
A further change which would see the revival of a consultative group on constitutional reform for the islands was accepted without the need for a vote.
Mr Stockan urged councilors to back his idea to find new ways to get greater financial security and economic opportunities for Orcadians.
Speaking to councilors on Tuesday, he said the motion was not about us joining Norway. He added: I say it’s time for government to take us seriously and I say it’s time for us to look at all the options we’ve got.
There is a far bigger suite of options here – this could even be that we could get our money direct from the Treasury in London and look after our own future.
We have been held down and we all know most of what I could say today in terms of discrimination against this community from governments. We all know how much less we get compared to other island groups.
Council leader James Stockan says Orkney does not get fair funding within the UK. Orkney Islands Council previously voted in 2017 to look at whether the islands could have greater autonomy. While councilors wanted to have a stronger voice, they did not back full independence for Orkney.
Currently, most of the island’s 21 councilors sit as independents – two are Greens.
Mr Stockan has said an ageing ferry fleet is among the issues being faced by islanders.
He previously told the BBC the situation was critical because the ferries, which are older than the Western Isles fleet, were beginning to fail.
His concerns were widely shared by other councilors, however some raised issues with self-governance, such as the cost of carrying out such investigations.
Cllr Steven Heddle also mentioned disadvantages including having to buy back the sea bed, and tuition fees for students wishing to study in Scotland.
He called Mr Stockan’s efforts politics of grievance and said that every council felt hard done by, citing roads in Edinburgh that were worse than Orkney’s despite the council having far more funding.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’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.
We have no plans to change the devolution settlement we are supporting Orkney with £50m to grow the economic prosperity of the Scottish islands, through the islands deal.
But the government’s position is that the UK is stronger united.
Orkney was previously held under Norwegian and Danish control until it became part of Scotland in 1472.