Tuesday, April 8, 2014

If Scotland Secedes Should Shetland Skidaddle?

this blogpost I wrote over two years ago has apparently helped ignite a secession movement in Shetland...oops
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If Scotland leaves the UK in 2014, it would make a lot of sense for the Shetland Islands to secede from Scotland. An Independent Shetland would have roughly the same population as the Faroe Islands but it would be much wealthier as most of the UK's North Sea oil reserves would lie within Shetland's territorial waters. Shetland's bonds to Scotland are tenuous. Until the fifteenth century Shetland was part of the Kingdom of Norway and the last of the Norn speakers did not die out until late in the nineteenth century. Shetland is closer to the regional Norwegian capital Bergen than it is to Edinburgh (if my estimate on Google maps is correct); Norway you'll recall is the only country in Europe which has weathered the recent financial storms with aplomb because of its vast Government Pension Fund which will have assets close to a trillion dollars by 2019. Shetland would be foolish to join Scotland which will probably have a great deal of difficulty making ends meet, like Ireland (or God save us, Northern Ireland). Independence or some sort of reunion with Norway would make much more sense culturally and especially economically. 
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And of course as Shetland goes so presumably does Orkney. And it wasn't that long ago that the entire Western Isles were part of the Kingdom of Norway either. Kintyre used to be part of the Scottish-Irish kingdom of Dalriada and why shouldn't the Gaeltacht in the north and west have its own country rather than be dominated by Scots speaking lowlanders? The UK government is already looking at the idea of declaring part of former Dalriadan land as UK sovereign base territory... It all gets rather complicated doesn't it? Look, I'm not saying that the Scots shouldn't vote for independence this year but once the secession box is open who knows what might come out of it. If the Shetlanders have any sense they'll keep that lovely North Sea oil for themselves.
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But then again maybe some long term thinking would help. Nationalism is a vulgar eighteenth century phenomenon and its sinister stepchild jingoism came along in the nineteenth century just in time to wreak havoc in the twentieth. I believe that a few centuries from now nation states and nationalism will seem like a curious and utterly pointless phase in the history of mankind and all those people who died for the honour of nations will be mourned anew as victims of an ugly meme invented in post Renaissance Europe that sadly went on to infect the entire world. We'll see.
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April 2014 update: apparently the referendum being mooted in the Shetland Islands will include 3 options: staying with Scotland if Scotland secedes, remaining with the UK if Scotland secedes, independence...According to The Independent there are even plans to include an option for reunification with Norway.  I say again...once the secession genie comes out of the bottle who knows what else will come out...