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Orkney Islands Explores Greater Autonomy Following Brexit, Raises Independence Possibility

by Sophia Chen
6 comments
autonomy

In a move that has captured international attention, officials from the Orkney Islands, a region in Scotland known for its Viking heritage and independent spirit, have voted to investigate avenues for increased autonomy and potential independence from what they perceive as neglectful U.K. governments.

The Orkney Islands Council’s decision to explore “alternative models of governance” for the archipelago, which boasts a population of 22,000, garnered significant media coverage across the globe. James Stockan, the council leader, sparked interest with his proposal, which mentioned the potential revival of Orkney’s “Nordic connections.” Historically, the islands were under Norwegian and Danish rule until 1472 when they were incorporated into the Scottish crown as part of Margaret of Denmark’s marriage dowry to King James III of Scotland.

Stockan clarified that the proposal did not intend for Orkney to join Norway but aimed to address the discrimination the community has faced from the Scottish and U.K. governments. Expressing his determination, Stockan asserted, “Enough is enough.” He urged the government to take their concerns seriously and emphasized the importance of exploring all available options.

A report accompanying Stockan’s motion suggested that Orkney should examine possibilities such as adopting a status similar to that of the Faroe Islands, a self-governing dependency of Denmark located between Scotland and Iceland. Another option involves following the model of Britain’s Crown Dependencies, including the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey.

Once a financially deprived region heavily reliant on the uncertain fishing industry, Orkney experienced economic growth after significant offshore oil reserves were discovered in the 1960s. The islands, situated approximately 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of mainland Scotland, have also witnessed the flourishing of wind power and tourism sectors.

However, Stockan argued that Orkney receives less support from the Scottish government compared to other island communities like Shetland or the Hebrides. He highlighted the urgent need for new ferries to maintain vital connections between the islands.

Duncan Tullock, another councilor, expressed his disillusionment with both the Scottish and U.K. governments, stating that Orkney was “living off crumbs.” He emphasized the repeated empty promises made to the community.

While achieving significant constitutional changes presents a considerable challenge, requiring referendums and legislation from both the Scottish and U.K. governments, the governments in Edinburgh and London currently clash over the Scottish administration’s aspiration to establish Scotland as an independent country separate from the United Kingdom.

The U.K. government maintains that there is “no mechanism” to alter Orkney’s status, and the Norwegian government considers the debate a “domestic and constitutional British matter” with no official stance.

Councilor David Dawson criticized some of the proposed ideas for Orkney as “daydreams,” particularly the notion of becoming a self-governing dependency of Norway, which he deemed “frankly bizarre.” He cited the U.K.’s tumultuous departure from the European Union, known as Brexit, as a cautionary tale about the risks of pursuing independent paths.

“Let me offer you a word of caution,” he remarked, “Brexit.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about autonomy

What is the motivation behind the Orkney Islands’ vote for exploring more autonomy?

The Orkney Islands are seeking greater autonomy due to what they perceive as neglect from both the Scottish and U.K. governments. They aim to counter the discrimination they feel has been directed towards their community and want their concerns to be taken seriously.

What are the proposed alternative models of governance for the Orkney Islands?

The Orkney Islands Council is considering various options, including exploring a status similar to the Faroe Islands, which is a self-governing dependency of Denmark. They are also considering emulating Britain’s Crown Dependencies, such as the Channel Islands. The focus is on finding governance models that provide more autonomy and fair treatment for the islands.

How has Orkney’s history influenced their desire for greater autonomy?

Orkney has a historical connection to Norway and Denmark, having been under their control for centuries until 1472. The mention of potentially restoring Orkney’s “Nordic connections” in the proposal highlights their historical ties and plays a role in shaping their desire for increased autonomy.

What challenges does Orkney face in achieving greater autonomy or independence?

Major constitutional changes, such as increased autonomy or independence, would require referendums and legislation from both the Scottish and U.K. governments. Additionally, the governments in Edinburgh and London currently have disagreements over Scotland’s aspirations for independence. These factors pose significant challenges to achieving the desired outcomes for the Orkney Islands.

How has Orkney’s economic situation influenced their push for more autonomy?

Once reliant on the fishing industry, Orkney experienced economic growth with the discovery of offshore oil reserves in the 1960s. The islands have also developed a thriving wind power industry and a growing tourism sector. However, they feel that they receive less support from the Scottish government compared to other island communities, and their need for infrastructure, such as new ferries, remains unmet. These factors contribute to their push for more autonomy to address their specific needs.

More about autonomy

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6 comments

jenny22 July 5, 2023 - 6:58 am

orkney islandz wantz more freedom? bout time! it’z their right. i hope they get what they want, they deserve it!

Reply
sam_wanderer July 5, 2023 - 10:39 am

orkney islands r thinkin of goin solo, huh? good luck 2 them. itz not gonna b ez, tho. need 2 convince both scotland n uk govt. maybe they can learn from brexit disaster, tho.

Reply
alex74 July 5, 2023 - 5:05 pm

wow, orkney island council voted 4 more autonomy! good 4 them. they got tired of the uk govt ignoring them, so they said, “enuff!” hope they find a way 2 govern themselves.

Reply
jenny22 July 6, 2023 - 3:07 pm

orkney islandz wantz more freedom? bout time! it’z their right. i hope they get what they want, they deserve it!

Reply
alex74 July 7, 2023 - 1:30 am

wow, orkney island council voted 4 more autonomy! good 4 them. they got tired of the uk govt ignoring them, so they said, “enuff!” hope they find a way 2 govern themselves.

Reply
sam_wanderer July 7, 2023 - 12:27 pm

orkney islands r thinkin of goin solo, huh? good luck 2 them. itz not gonna b ez, tho. need 2 convince both scotland n uk govt. maybe they can learn from brexit disaster, tho.

Reply

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