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Orkney votes to explore ‘alternative rule’

Orkney votes to explore ‘alternative rule’

image source, Getty Images

photo caption,

There have been calls for Orkney to become part of Norway

Orkney councilors voted to investigate alternative ways of governing amid deep frustrations about funding and opportunity.

Council chairman James Stockan said the island had been “put under pressure” and accused the Scottish and UK governments of discrimination.

for him a movement This led to media speculation that Orkney could leave the United Kingdom or become an autonomous province of Norway.

He was supported by 15 votes to six.

This means that council officials have been asked to publish a report to the chief executive of Orkney on governance options.

This includes looking at the ‘Northern Links’ of the archipelago and Crown dependencies such as Jersey and Guernsey.

Another change that would lead to the revival of an advisory group on constitutional reform for the islands was passed without the need for a vote.

On Monday, the prime minister’s spokesperson dismissed the suggestion that the islands could ease up on its ties with the union.

Mr. Stockan urged council members to support his idea of ​​finding new ways to obtain greater financial security and economic opportunity for the Orcadians.

Speaking to council members on Tuesday, he said the proposal was “not about us joining Norway”.

He added, “I say it is time for the government to take us seriously and I say it is time for us to look at all the options we have.

“We’ve been pressured and we all know most of what I can say today in terms of discrimination against this community of governments. We all know how little we get compared to other island groups.”

photo caption,

Council chairman James Stockan says Orkney does not receive fair funding within the UK

While the councilors wanted to have a “stronger voice”, they did not support full independence for Orkney.

Currently, most of the island’s 21 council members sit as independents – two of whom are Greens.

Among the problems faced by islanders, Stockan said, is an aging ferry fleet.

He told the BBC earlier that the situation was “critical” because the older ferries of the Western Isles fleet were starting to break down.

His concerns were widely shared by other Council members, but some raised issues of self-governance, such as the cost of conducting such investigations.

Cllr Steven Heddle also mentioned disadvantages including having to buy back the seabed, and tuition fees for students wanting to study in Scotland.

Describing Stockan’s efforts as “grievance politics”, he said each council felt difficult, citing the roads in Edinburgh which were “worse” than the Orkney roads despite the council having much more funding.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson said: “First of all, there is no mechanism for conferring dependency on the Crown or Overseas Territory status on any part of the United Kingdom.

“But the government’s position is that the United Kingdom is stronger united.”

Orkney was formerly held under Norwegian and Danish control until it became part of Scotland in 1472.

The islands were used as collateral for the wedding dowry of Margaret of Denmark, future wife of King James III of Scotland.

The Scottish government said in 2023-24 that Orkney Islands Council would receive £89.7m to fund services, with a further £4.6m from the 10% council tax increase.

A spokesperson for the organization added that it was “committed to supporting the island communities”.

The Norwegian government declined to comment on the proposals.

Analysis by Adam Harkus, BBC Radio Orkney

Today’s vote wasn’t about Orkney becoming part of Norway, or any of the other headlines we’ve seen over recent days.

Instead, it was an opportunity for councilors to express their deep frustration at what they see as an unfair deal they got from the Scottish and UK governments, with council leader James Stockan saying the islands had been bungled by both.

Successful passing of the move is the first of many Orkney hurdlers gain a greater degree of independence.

Council officials will now be tasked with investigating the options, with Mr Stockan saying there was “nothing off the table” – including of course a much-publicized return to Norway or Denmark.

Reactions to the vote on the streets of Kirkwall were somewhat mixed.

Some don’t want to see any taxpayer money devoted to what one council member called “frankly bizarre fantasies.”

The eyes of the world’s media have been on Orkney these past few days.

It is now up to the Isles Council to capitalize on this interest.