Nicola Sturgeon: SNP ‘won’t hesitate’ to tackle Scottish clusters
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The leaders of the Scottish islands both spoke out as a growth deal worth £335million alongside a 10-year plan for the isles’ economic development is released tonight. Under the deal announced by UK and Scottish ministers, the Islands Growth Deal will see an investment of £50million each from the Scottish and UK Governments and an anticipated £235million from project partners.
The 10-year plan also sets a target of creating up to 1,300 jobs and tackling the depopulation concerns facing many parts of the island archipelagos alongside the Western Isles.
Both island leaders told the Express today they were ready to “look at options” to gain more freedoms from the UK and Scottish Government claiming power has been restricted.
Cllr James Stockan, who runs Orkney Islands Council called for a form of devolution for Orkney to have more control.
Cllr Stockan added: “We are in a unique position as the Northern Gateway in this post-Brexit world.
“We have a unique place in the UK and our historic relationships were with the Nordics and we also look to the Arctic.
“Both Shetland and Orkney punch above their weight economically and have GDP much above the Scottish average.”
The independent politician also took aim at the SNP’s upcoming plans for a Scottish independence referendum and told the Express: “Orkney people see themselves as Internationalists, not nationalists.
“Self-determination is the position, we look for more devolved power.”
“Orkney had the strongest no vote in the country in the 2014 Scottish independence vote.”
Cllr Steven Coutts, leader of Shetland Islands Council, said: “I would see a transition happening, there has to be a broader discussion in the wider Shetland community.
“But there are some challenges in terms of the UK constitutional set up, it makes the conversations a little more complex.”
Colleague Malcolm Bell, Convenor of Shetland Islands Council said there was “too much centralisation” in the UK.
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Mr Bell recently oversaw a vote where island councillors voted 18 to two in favour of a motion to formally explore options “for achieving financial and political self-determination” from Scotland.
Speaking to the Express, he added the islands had “lost influence” to Holyrood and Westminster, adding: “We want to open up conservation.
“If you look across Europe, you will see many islands having self-determination.”
Mr Bell hinted the Shetland Islands could one day become like neighbouring Faroe Islands which have their own Government but remain part of Denmark.
He also hinted that the Islands could become like a Crown Dependency which is not part of the UK like Jersey or the Isle of Man.
Cllr Bell claimed the lack of freedom was “felt particularly in the Islands” because of their “geography”.
Mr Johnson is also due to visit Scotland before the election and a trip to the Shetland Isles could be on the cards.
Mr Coutts sent letters to the Prime Minister in a bid to discuss further self-determination of the isles.
Mr Johnson personally responded to the letter and said the UK Government is “keen to see power sit at the most appropriate level” including local government.
Mr Johnson added in his letter: “We take seriously the commitments made as part of the Smith Commission to further devolve power from Holyrood to communities across Scotland.”
In response, Minister of State for Scotland Iain Stewart said the growth deals “will strengthen the bond between all parties of the United Kingdom.”
He said: “We don’t want to see any break up of the United Kingdom.”
“Under the SNP, it has been quite a centralising one [in power terms], we want to give them the results.”
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