These are the policies we put forward at the AGM on 2nd Nov 2016
The SIC document “Shetland Input-Output Study/Regional Accounts 2010-11” states that the Shetland Regional gross domestic product was £485 million, and that the trade balance was £131 million. in 2010-11 Shetland generated a positive exchequer balance of £82 million.
In 2015 the Shetland fishing fleet caught £86.4 million worth of fish while an estimated total of £300 million was taken from Shetland waters. Under independence the Shetland fishing industry could be contributing a further £213 Million to the Shetland economy.
The UK average tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is 39%. Based on the 2010-2011 GDP of £485 million, an autonomous Shetland would raise in the order of £189 million in tax. When additional GDP from an expanded fishing fleet and the taxation that would be applied to workers on offshore installations within our EEZ, it is clear that an independent Shetland is financially viable.
The process of transitioning from being a part of the UK to an autonomous region with our own government will not happen overnight. An interim assembly will be required in order to draw up a constitution. The constitution will have to be ratified by referendum and only then will the first government be elected. Wir Shetland believe that BOT status is more desirable than full independence. Under BOT status the Queen would remain head of state and would appoint a governor, mainly for ceremonial purposes. The current SIC structure would form the core of the new government executive, but democratic oversight and control will be enhanced by the existing departments reporting directly to ministers. Each department will have a minister appointed and the minister will have direct management authority over the departments.
The current level of EU subsidy for agriculture in Shetland is at a level to be practically maintained by an autonomous Shetland, and even expanded. There is currently limited access to markets for agricultural production in Shetland, developing transport links directly to Norway and/or Denmark will bring additional markets for Shetland products. Wherever possible encouragement should be offered to develop value added products based on native Shetland produce. For exports to the EU, Shetland should be operated as a single producing region with tagging and tracking of livestock only required at export.
Wir Shetland aim to build biologically and economically sustainable fisheries, while optimising the socio-economic benefits for Shetland, overall. Fish stocks in Shetland waters are the property of the Shetland people. Condition and quantity of stocks shall be monitored through close cooperation between fishermen and the Scalloway fisheries college. Fish stocks will be managed not through the discredited and wasteful quota system but through a regulation of effort and technical measures.
Wir Shetland believes in a healthcare system that is universal and free at the point of use. There are a number of ways that an autonomous Shetland could deliver such a service. Most importantly we would be free from the restrictions of the NHS, able to negotiate pay and conditions that will attract the necessary GP’s Dentists, and Nurses that Shetland is currently so short of. More advanced services could be bought in from Scotland, Norway, Denmark or England allowing Shetland to obtain the best value care possible for our residents.
Wir Shetland believe that the high quality of primary education offered by the town and rural schools is one of Shetlands key assets. The teaching of mixed age classes leads to children who are able to care for their peers which overall contributes to the well-being of society as a whole. As such Wir Shetland is opposed to all and any school closures. An autonomous Shetland will require an expanded workforce and as such will need even more school places. The recent trend of declining population will be reversed and where possible schools that have recently been closed should be assessed for re-opening.
By working in partnership with local industry appropriate courses and apprenticeships will be provided through the local colleges.
University education will be subsidised through grant funding with students encouraged to study at universities in all our neighbouring countries.
Tourism & The Arts
Our unique heritage, wildlife and environment add greatly to the quality of life for the people of Shetland. They are key to our tourism business. As with agriculture, the Arts should be nurtured and encouraged in ways that contribute to the overall good of Shetland.
Wir Shetland believe an autonomous Shetland will be an attractive place to live and work. In 2015 Shetland was listed as the 10th (of 170) most prosperous region of the UK. Add to that the expanded economic benefits that will come from control of our own EEZ and it is likely we will see a high demand for immigration.
Wir Shetland have never viewed immigration control as a means to restrict overall numbers, but as a means to target immigration to the people who we need in order to benefit our economy the most. From doctors and dentists to catering staff, Shetland needs foreign workers, and will be likely to need even more when autonomous. Immigrants will be selected based on how well their skills match the local demand. After 5 years residency with full employment they will qualify to apply for citizenship.
Law and order
Shetland like most British Overseas Territories is too small to demand a permanent high court Serious crime is unusual and as such Shetland is likely to require assistance from the rest of the UK in order to deal with the most serious crimes. As with the NHS, services may be purchased from the rest of the UK or Scandinavia on a best value basis, but emphasis should be on rehabilitation and education along the Scandinavian model rather than the traditional UK punishment regime. The Norwegian prison island of Bastoey has a re-offending rate of 16% compared to 33% (2012-13) for Scotland as a whole.
The existing ferry link to Aberdeen and Orkney is a lifeline service and as such should be affordable for all. The concept of opening the route to competition should be investigated, and additional air and sea routes to our Scandinavian neighbors must be added in order to foster tourism links and open new markets to the east for Lamb, Fish, and Knitwear.
The current high quality of existing roads must be maintained and extended. The Norwegian example has shown that fixed links are the most economical model in the long term. Wherever the geological conditions allow fixed links should be offered to the islands. Fixed links will be subject to referendum in the affected communities. Rock removed during the construction of tunnels should be used to extend harbour and marina facilities in the affected islands.
In light of recent unwelcome developments in NATOs relationship with Russia, Shetland lies at a strategic position for the UK. As a BOT we would expect protection by the UK armed forces in return for access to the early warning radar at Saxa Vord. In the event of Scotland achieving independence, Shetland would become even more strategically important for the rest of the UK. Wir Shetland believe any expansion of UK defense activities in Shetland should be ratified by referendum.