Wednesday, 30 September 2020
Friday, 18 September 2020
On Tuesday morning the Scottish Parliament's ECCLR, environmental, committee is being asked to approve a new government order transferring regulation of discharges from wellboats from Marine Scotland to SEPA. The stated reason is to simplify matters by reducing consents to just one.
Monday, 14 September 2020
The other day the Daily Express ran a story entitled “Sturgeon’s Nightmare” that the unwary might have thought referred to a massive outbreak of Coronavirus, but on closer inspection turned out to be about Orkney wanting to join Shetland in seeking independence. This followed reports that Shetland Islands Council had voted 18 to 2 to explore adopting a status similar to being a UK Crown Dependency. The leader of Orkney Council acknowledged, we were told, that his island would seek a similar solution.
I hadn’t come across the author, Richard Percival, before and googled him. He turned out not to be the professor at Sheffield University, but a freelance fellow based in Southampton, who has at the age of twentyfour gathered a BA (Hons) in journalism and a journalism diploma, his specialisms including “Nightlife”. I’m sure there's a lot of the latter in the Northern Islands, if you know where to find it. I wouldn’t normally mention a journalist’s qualifications, but regarding something as intrinsically complicated as island politics a little depth of local knowledge would add credibility. This, of course, damns me too, so I will confine this piece to “chiels that winna ding”.
First, regarding the demographics. Each island has a population of about 23,000, so together they would scarcely be viable with total independence. Think specialist hospital treatments etc, currently all flown to the mainland.
To get some idea of country sizes, the EU’s current twenty seven break down into a group of five biggies over 40 million, the next ten down to 7 million, five “Scotland sized” down to Croatia’s 4 million, then four smallies bordering Russia down to Estonia at 1.3 million and finally three tiddlers down to Malta, with just under 0.5 million. Orkney and Shetland combined would be one tenth of Malta. Remember that “too wee” jibe?
Second, oil, Scotland’s curse. Without it we’d have been free decades ago, Thatcher couldn’t have funded the unemployment and destruction of industry North and South; I could go on. Would it belong to an independent Northern Isles? In a word, No. There’s an authoritative article in the European Journal of International Law, accessible by the link below.
The author considers the position in the event of Shetland and/or Orkney deciding to secede from Scotland post independence or, more likely, to decide to belong to rUK. While not expressly discussed, the same logic applies to their linking up with, say, Norway.
International law runs on precedent and the matter has already been settled. Islands get special treatment. They don’t get half the ocean between them and the next land, rather the choices are between six and twelve miles from the coast. The case of the Channel Islands went to arbitration, at which France argued for six miles and lost. The best that could be hoped for would be the same, twelve miles again.
That all assumes that the good folk of Orkney and Shetland would trust a future rUK, quite possibly consisting simply of England, not doing another Thatcher with “their” oil.
Third, politics. As noted above, I don’t have local knowledge, so offer just some very basic facts.
Orkney and Shetland each have 23,000 residents and together form one Westminster constituency, with 34,000 registered electors, roughly three quarters. In December 2019 two thirds of them voted and the results were:
Lib Dem 45%, SNP 34%, Con 10%, Lab 7%, Brexit 4%.
Despite suspicions that Shetlanders may be closer to the Vikings in sentiment than Orcadians both islands voted pretty much the same in the 2016 Holyrood elections. Each island supported the Lib Dems 67% against the SNP’s 23%, the others sharing 10% among them. It looks as if of the 20% that later left the Lib Dems half went to the SNP.
That looks a hard nut to crack, but it represents views based on the current situation and perhaps also on misapprehensions about oil. And 79/90% for pro EU parties! Faced with a stark choice of belonging to Scotland or to someone else, a post Brexit Little England might not be too appealing to those remaining Lib Dems.
Wednesday, 9 September 2020
I was very lucky to study Jurisprudence for three years under Professor Sandy Anton, an international lawyer of terrifying intelligence, then to be sent off to study at the Hague Academy of International Law, as a result of which I am entitled, under that law, to describe myself as an “Attender” but not an “Alumnus”, having decided not to take the exam. Thereafter I was appointed to teach the subject, getting the vacancy left when John Smith went into politics. For the next thirteen years my working life was brightened up with twice weekly tutorial discussions and annual conferences hosted by the Association for Social and Legal Philosophy. I’m no expert, but have retained a lifelong interest and studied events over the decades since. The period runs from the United Kingdom’s entry into what became the EU to the current bùrach.
Monday, 7 September 2020
Tomorrow will see the fisheries discussion between “Lord” Frost and Monsieur Barnier resuming, with the two sides still as apart as ever. In anticipation of this two of the fishing industry bodies have put out the following, which I quote in full:
The statement is important for what it misses out, as much as for what is included. There is no mention whatever of the Scottish non-quota fleet, which includes perhaps a majority of vessels on the West coast, many of whom belong to other organisations, thus no reference to all the problems of validation and certification that arise, for example, if someone here wishes to continue exporting live prawns or lobsters to the EU.
Notably there is no mention of how the quota fleet is going to sell into Europe, where much of the product goes. This underlines what I have suggested before, the possibility that they have this sorted already with catches being landed directly from the supertrawlers concerned into ports within the EU.
Friday, 4 September 2020
I haven't written about fishing quota for a while, because basically nothing has been happening regarding the political hot potato of fishing rights after 31 December 2020.
Tuesday, 1 September 2020
The timing of the release of the latest, totally independent report from the consultants Ekosgen commissioned by Marine Scotland is almost as odd as the terms of the report itself. In the accompanying release we find the following: