Waking up to the EU Referendum result last month was a nasty shock. It was neither what I expected or wanted. I wondered what the Orcadians would make of it, but on the surface they appeared remarkably sanguine, despite Orkney having a ‘Remain’ count marginally higher than Scotland overall (62%) and receiving very significant investment from EU energy research and other projects. Neil Oliver gets it exactly right when he declared revenly:
While the world falls apart, the Orkney Isles remain the same
While this is true on many levels, it is clear that Orcadians exhibit a broad spectrum of political views although, in general, there is a lack of innate allegiance to Scotland. Here is a Scottish perspective on the Orcadian question:
Should the Northern Isles be set adrift and returned to the control of Norway and thus save Scotland a fortune in transport subsidies?
From, Does Anyone Like Midges? and 99 other improbable Scottish questions
by Jim Hewitson, Black & White Publishing, 2006
Never has a truer word been spoken in jest, certainly from as distant as 10 years ago.
The “Northern Isles”, as TV weather forecasting folk like to call Orkney and Shetland, were recently excluded from the cheaper ferry fares scheme that benefited the Western Isles – an island chain that while not entirely geographically closer to mainland Scotland is recognised as being distinctly ‘more Scottish’. Is it any wonder that a majority of Orcadians and Shetlanders don’t consider themselves Scots?
This may have something to do with Orkney’s Norse roots. In my limited experience another reason why many Orcadians do not consider themselves to be part of Scotland is the high proportion of incomers – some originating from Scotland but probably the far greater number from England. Moreover, to the Orcadians (and presumably Shetlanders too), Edinburgh feels just as remote as Westminster. There have even been recent calls among the Orkney Islands Council and elsewhere locally to examine ways of Orkney gaining greater independence – an “Orkzit” if you will. In Orkney and Shetland the Brexit outcome has just thrown a huge spanner in the works, more than anywhere else in Scotland I have no doubt.