Faroe & Shetland – A Comparison

By Duncan Simpson




• Small island group between the North Atlantic and the Norwegian Sea (Area: 1,399km2). • Small island group between the North Atlantic and the North Sea (Area: 1,466km2)
• 17 inhabited islands • 16 inhabited islands
• Main industries are fishing and aquaculture. Low unemployment with many employed in public sector. • Main industries are fishing and aquaculture. Low unemployment with many employed in public sector.
• Scandinavian with a proud Norse history. • Retains much of its Scandinavian heritage and traditions despite being annexed by Scottish Crown centuries ago
• Extremely challenging weather with storms and low temperatures throughout the year. • Similar, if slightly warmer, climate.
• Stunning scenery and a haven for wildlife. • Stunning scenery and a haven for wildlife.


• 100% mobile coverage provided by Faroese Telecom with 4G coverage in many areas. • Extremely patchy coverage with many ‘not spots’ which has barely improved since the advent of mobile phones.
• Vast network of tunnels and bridges linking most islands together including 19 tunnels (totalling over 40km) with another 5 (totalling 36km) in development. Added to this are three bridges and seven ferry crossings. • No fixed links other than a few very short bridges. Poor transport links causing severe damage to fragile communities. Tunnels deemed to be too expensive.
• Faroese owned airline (Atlantic Airways) provides affordable air links to a range of cities. • Private sector owned and operated airline with Government subsidy. Much criticised in recent years for poor service and high cost
• Highly developed digital network providing high quality internet services to the whole of Faroe. An example of how well it can be done in remote locations. • Huge variations in digital service level across the isles with some communities having speeds little better than dial up. BT has received massive Government subsidies to provide better broadband but has failed in the most rural regions.
• Fully autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark with its own Government responsible for local affairs. Exempt from the EU and free to make their own deals regarding trade and commerce. Full control over taxation. • No significant autonomy within the United Kingdom or Scotland. Treated the same as any other Council area despite our unique circumstances and challenges. Frequently disadvantaged by rules, regulations and funding formulae incompatible with Shetland’s situation. No control over taxation.
• No significant revenue from Oil and Gas and no oil fund. • Has contributed billions to the UK treasury since the discovery of North Sea oil. Retains the remnants of an oil fund which is under threat of being frittered away to cover shortfalls in Government funding.

With similar challenges to us, no revenue from oil and gas and being MORE isolated how is it that the Faroese people seem so much better served than ourselves? The answer is because they run their own affairs, the Government there will look after Faroese interests first and actively develop ALL of the islands. Given our similar circumstances, why could something similar not work for Shetland?


porkeri-4-2004Image by Erik_Christensen – Creative commons share alike attribution licence