British islands 'consider breaking away and joining Norway' amid fury at Scottish government and Westminster

3 July 2023, 08:00

The Orkney Islands are weighing up joining Norway
The Orkney Islands are weighing up joining Norway. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Orkney is weighing up leaving the UK and becoming part of Norway after blasting both the British and Scottish governments for "failing" it.

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The islands' council leader said it does not get fair funding and a motion calling for consideration of "alternative forms of governance" will be debated this week.

One option is to join Norway as a self-governing territory, while James Stockan said it could also become part of Denmark in a similar way to the Faroe Island thanks to the area's Nordic history.

Another idea is to become a Crown Dependency, like Jersey, or one of the overseas territory.

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Mr Stockan singled out the ferry services running between mainland Scotland and its islands.

"We are really struggling at the moment, we have to replace the whole ferry fleet which is older than the CalMac fleet," he said.

Orkney is considering whether it should break away from the UK
Orkney is considering whether it should break away from the UK. Picture: Alamy
James Stockan hit out at the government in Scotland and Westminster
James Stockan hit out at the government in Scotland and Westminster. Picture: Orkney Council

"We are denied the things that other areas get like RET (Road Equivalent Tariff) for ferry fares.

"And the funding we get from the Scottish government is significantly less per head than Shetland and the Western Isles to run the same services - we can't go on as we are."

The motion will be discussed on Tuesday.

Mr Stockan told the BBC that the islands have contributed through the oil in the North Sea but the "dividend" given back to the area is insufficient.

But a British government spokesperson said the Scottish islands were getting £50m out of the £2.2bn levelling up funds handed out to communities.

Councillors previously approved a look at securing extra powers but did not support independence.

Orkney will debate becoming an overseas territory
Orkney will debate becoming an overseas territory. Picture: Alamy

Orkney was held by Norway and Denmark before joining Scotland in 1472 as part of the dowry of Margaret of Denmark, who went on to marry James III.

"We were part of the Norse kingdom for much longer than we were part of the United Kingdom," Mr Stockan claimed.

"On the street in Orkney people come up and say to me when are we going to pay back the dowry, when are we going back to Norway.

The islands complain they are not getting enough money back
The islands complain they are not getting enough money back. Picture: Alamy

"There is a huge affinity and a huge deep cultural relationship there. This is exactly the moment to explore what is possible."

A Scottish government spokesperson said it is "committed" to supporting communities on the country's islands. It provided £89.7m to pay for services, the spokesperson said.

The UK government spokesperson said: "We will always be stronger together as one United Kingdom, and we have no plans to change the devolution settlement."

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