Scotland Times

Sunday, Apr 14, 2024

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UK Island Orkney council to look at proposals to become territory of Norway

Seeking fairer funding and stronger autonomy, the Orkney Islands could change their status in the UK or even become a self-governing territory of Norway under new proposals.
The Orkney Islands, an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland, are set to deliberate on groundbreaking proposals that could redefine their status within the United Kingdom. The Orkney Islands Council will address a motion that explores the possibility of the islands becoming a self-governing territory of Norway, or adopting alternative governance models similar to Crown Dependencies.

James Stockan, the Council Leader, argues that the Orkney Islands have been subject to unjust funding arrangements under the present structure within the UK. Stockan expressed his concerns over the challenges the islands face, including an aging ferry fleet requiring replacement and an unfair distribution of government funds compared to neighboring islands. Stockan emphasized the dire need for transformation, as he believes the islands “can’t go on as we are.”

In his address to BBC Radio Scotland, Councillor Stockan highlighted the vast potential of the Orkney Islands, particularly due to its strategic location at the center of various wind energy projects. He accentuated the economic opportunities and urged fellow councillors to support the motion to secure greater financial stability and economic prospects for the island residents, known as Orcadians.

One of the governance models under consideration is akin to that of the Faroe Islands, which operates as a self-governing territory under Denmark. Furthermore, the motion proposes examining British Crown Dependencies such as Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man as potential governance paradigms.

However, Stockan underscored the necessity of extensive research and public consultation, acknowledging that this undertaking would demand substantial staff resources. He articulated the council’s determination to make decisions methodically rather than emotionally, stating, “We want to look at all the practical implications and then we'll evaluate the results. We are looking for the very best position for future generations and our place in the world.”

Additionally, Stockan proposed investigating a “Nordic connection” with Denmark, Norway, or Iceland. Orkney has a rich historical connection with these nations, having been under Norwegian and Danish control until 1472. The islands were used as collateral for the marriage dowry of Margaret of Denmark to King James III of Scotland.

Councillor Stockan emphasized the deep-seated cultural ties with the Nordic countries, mentioning that the people of Orkney often inquire about the prospects of re-establishing connections with Norway. “There is a huge affinity and a deep cultural relationship there. This is exactly the moment to explore what is possible,” he added.

In response to these developments, the UK government stated that it is committed to supporting communities, including Orkney, through a £2.2 billion initiative. However, the government made it clear that it has no plans to alter the current devolution settlement.

The Scottish government asserted its support for island communities and highlighted the funds allocated for the Orkney Islands Council for the year 2023-24.

The motion will be reviewed and debated by the Orkney Islands Council on Tuesday, opening the door to discussions that could usher in a new era of governance for the islands. This could potentially reshape not only the Orkney Islands’ future but also have broader implications for similar regions within the UK.
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