Shetland Action

Welcome to Shetland Action

Stuart HillHello, I'm Stuart Hill

I arrived here in Shetland in 2001 by a curious route. Having come from England, I had virtually no interest in either history or politics, both of which seemed to have little relevance to real life. In Shetland it's different.

Shetland is a small and very tight-knit society. England by comparison is big and amorphous. In Shetland there is the feeling that the efforts of a few people really can make a difference. As I found out more about the history I discovered that all was not as it seemed at first sight. I was instrumental in setting up SOUL (Shetland and Orkney Udal Law Association) and for some time struggled with the idea that, as an Englishman, it was not my business to be poking into Shetland's past and digging up its skeletons. However, I gradually realised that this was a job that had to be done by somebody with an outsider's perspective - it would be difficult for a Shetlander to do. If there are toes to be trodden on, it's probably best done by somebody who doesn't know whose toes they are!

Shetland has a rich and unique history - some of which, as I was soon to find out, had been hidden and obscured for centuries for reasons that are deeply embarrassing to the UK government. As I investigated more closely, my research led me to the inescapable conclusion that at no point in Shetland's history had the Crown acquired ownership here. Ownership would be required to incorporate Shetland into the realm at some point, but that seems never to have happened. If it never happened, and nobody can provide a date when it did, it places Shetland in an extremely interesting position.

It means the Crown's assumption that it owns the seabed around Shetland has no foundation. Consequently any licenses, leases and rents concerning the seabed are flawed and may well be fraudulent. It means that Shetland's inclusion in the EEC against its will has no substance. It means that the UK government had no right to use Shetland's fisheries as a bargaining chip to enter the EEC.

These are the kinds of issues that are so embarrassing to the government and the Crown and why the people of Shetland cannot be allowed to know their true history. As the evidence accumulated, it became clear to me that something was desperately wrong. I have now reached a point in my life where I can devote my whole time to this issue. As I speak to  people it becomes obvious that some parts of Shetland's history are completely unknown to them. The authorities do not want the people of Shetland to know that true power is in their own hands.

Many crofters find the EU regulations they are forced to comply with have little relevance in Shetland. The Common Fisheries Policy has proved a disaster for the conservation of fish stocks. Everybody thinks they have no choice but to obey the 'rules' and struggle on as best they can. What if Shetland could opt out of the EU - an organisation of unelected, unaccountable and power-hungry bureaucrats? Why would we wish to remain part of an organisation so corrupt that it has been unable to get its accounts audited for the past fifteen years?

If Shetland is able to break the shackles of those who need to keep her under control, she could provide an example for the rest of the world, many of whose people find themselves in the same position.  One of my favourite quotes is from anthropologist Margaret Meade who said "Never doubt that a small number of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world - indeed it is the only thing that ever has."

I am certain that 2008 will see some very significant changes in Shetland - changes that will ripple out far beyond its shores.

The elephant in the roomStuart Hill. 

Keep asking: When did the Crown get ownership?