18 March 2013

A reminder of the self serving character of international relations is provided by recent developments in the Scottish independence debate.  The Scottish Government, led by the Scottish National Party which as a parliamentary party over the last 45 years has campaigned for full separation from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, anticipates funding its aspirations as an independent state with royalties from North Sea Oil. Its campaign leading up to the 2014 referendum seems centred on the advantageous position for the Scots if those oil revenues are no longer gathered for use as a United Kingdom tax.

Not surprisingly Orkney and Shetland have once more raised their “prior rights”.  In the 1970s the SNP slogan was that “… It’s Scotland’s Oil”.  That largely disregarded the common response that, “… No. its Shetland’s oil…”

The Shetland Islands Council last week gave new life to that response. The Scottish Government may see oil revenues as the way to fund its separation from the rest of the United Kingdom, but Shetlanders don’t see themselves as part of Scotland in a fragmented Kingdom. “It’s not your oil Alex, it’s wir”  a former leader of the Lib Dems in Scotland proclaimed at that party’s conference over the weekend. He wants more powers  given to Orkney and Shetland when Scottish constitution issues are worked out later this year.  “Its time to seize the opportunity of Island home rule”.  If constitutional arrangements can recognise the re-establishment of Scottish sovereignty, the historic sovereignty of Shetland and Orkney, perhaps, should also be recognised. A suggestion is that a relationship similar to that which the Isle of Man has with the English Crown could evolve.

Orkney and Shetland became part of Scotland in 1468 as security for the dowry of a Danish princess who then married the King of the Scots. Perhaps the way forward now is to set up a settlements regime to which New Zealanders, practised in responding to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi will be able to contract their expertise!

But just as many Scots seek to undo the Union of the Crowns with England, so Shetlanders – whose nearest railway station is in Norway rather than Scotland –  may seek to undo their historic union with the Scots.

Which gives credence to the siphonaptera –  Big fleas have smaller fleas upon their backs to bite them, and smaller fleas have tinier fleas, and so ad infinitum….