* Shetlanders want more say, more oil revenue
* Debate stirred by Scottish independence movement
* Shetlanders first, Scottish second
By Sarah Young
LERWICK, Shetland Islands, April 16 Twelve hours
by ferry from the Scottish mainland, hundreds of miles from
Edinburgh and closer to Oslo than London, the windswept Shetland
islands have their own aspirations about Scottish independence.
Some of the 23,000 inhabitants even want their own.
Many Shetlanders see the Sept. 18 vote on whether Scotland
should end the 307-year-old union with England as an opportunity
to gain control over local services and a share of revenues from
the oil pumped from the North Sea.
"The oil belongs to us. We don't have to argue about that.
It is ours," said Shetlander Hazel Mackenzie, 43, who works in
the livestock auction house in Shetland's main town of Lerwick.
"If we could have all the revenue from all the oil then we
could probably be very self-sufficient."
One example: Over the last four decades, Britain's oil
fields have pumped out 42 billion barrels of oil equivalent;
about 20 percent of it has flowed through Shetland, piped in to
BP's Sullom Voe, one of Europe's biggest oil terminals.
Another is that about a fifth of the oil and gas thought
still to be found off Britain's coast is believed to lie to the
west of Shetland.
As the Scottish independence vote nears, Shetland's council
has joined forces with two other island councils, Orkney and the
Western Isles, to ask for greater control of local services and
new fiscal arrangements to enable them to benefit from the oil,
fisheries and renewable energy resources surrounding them.
At stake for the Scottish government could be its share of
the 7 billion pounds or so of annual oil production taxes which
Edinburgh wants in the event of a "Yes" vote for independence.
For many on Shetland, where the blue and white Nordic-style
flag flutters from masts amongst the peat hills and isolated
coves, a sense of being a Shetlander comes ahead of any
Scottish, British or, given history, even Norwegian identity.
In Lerwick, where seals wait in the harbour to greet the
arrival of the next fishing boat, some islanders see the result
of the Scottish referendum as irrelevant.
"Why would we believe in independence if all it means is
that powers move from London to Edinburgh? No, we want to move
an awful lot further than that," said Tavish Scott, a Liberal
Democrat who is Shetland representative in the devolved Scottish
parliament in Edinburgh, dominated by the Scottish National
Scott says around 67 percent of North Sea reserves lie
within Shetland coastal waters. The Scottish government
envisages using the money from the 94 percent of British oil and
gas production tax revenues it estimates come from Scottish
waters to support its state spending.
Shetland's bid for power over local affairs and a slice of
oil revenues could complicate negotiations between Edinburgh and
London over currency, national debt and splitting oil reserves
in the event of a Yes vote in September and ahead of what would
be independence in March 2016.
"Scotland will need Shetland more than Shetland will need
Scotland," said Caroline Miller, 56, an ex-Shetland councillor
who now helps run a bed and breakfast hotel.
NEW OIL BOOM?
Oil production taxes have boosted British government coffers
by about 300 billion pounds in 2012 money. Shetland, which does
not receive any of the oil production tax revenues but does
receive payment for oil company use of some harbour facilities
and land, has directly benefited from oil to the tune of about
1.7 billion pounds, according to figures provided by its
Some of the gains are invested in an oil fund which has
generated a further 1 billion pounds. Most of this income has
been reinvested in the local community and infrastructure, the
Since 1996, Shetland's gains from oil have been shrinking.
The oil industry stopped its "disturbance" payments - annual
sums negotiated in the 1970s to make up for their presence - as
the ageing fields dried up and crude volumes pumped through
But new drilling and plant investment has reversed those
fortunes. Locals talk of a second oil boom, strengthening their
The shiny new cars parked on Lerwick's streets and the "no
vacancies" signs at bed-and-breakfasts suggest the wealth
flowing through. In the harbour, cruise ships rub alongside huge
floating hotels, both housing an influx of 1,400 workers.
Near to the Sullom Voe terminal - a cluster of huge tanks
hidden over the brow of a hill and edged by a deep inlet -
French oil company Total is building a new gas
Investments of over 8 billion pounds from companies
including Total and BP announced over the last four years will
develop untapped reserves to the west of Shetland, explore for
new oil and gas and build the new plant, keeping the site open
for the next 40 years.
GOING IT ALONE
The detachment many Shetlanders feel on their northerly
outpost runs deeper than the stormy, cold seas which separate
them from the rest of Britain.
The 100 or so islands of Shetland, where road signs warn of
"otters crossing", were part of Norway for 500 years until being
pawned to the Scots in 1469 as a dowry for Princess Margrethe
who married King James III of Scotland.
Nordic-style wooden houses hug the hillside overlooking
Lerwick harbour and road names like Norgaet and Veensgarth hint
at the historic, extinct language of Norn. An annual fire
festival involves a Viking long ship.
"If you ask a Shetlander who are you? We say Shetlander,
we're not Scottish," said abattoir manager Lauraine Manson, 47.
Recognising the distinction, a grassroots group from across
Shetland and its island neighbours, Orkney and the Western
Isles, have started a petition asking for a second vote, a week
after the Scottish referendum.
It would give islanders the option of choosing their own
independence, voting to be part of Scotland, or sticking with
the United Kingdom.
Locals speak with admiration for the set-up in the nearby
Faroe Islands, a self-governed territory within the Danish
Realm, and Britain's crown dependencies, which have control over
their own tax matters.
"I'd like to see ultimately something in Shetland on the
Faroese model or possibly Guernsey or Jersey or the Isle of
Man," said Ian Gidney, 57, who runs an online leather retailer.
Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat member of the
British parliament for Orkney and Shetland, believes it is in
the islands' best interests to be part of a bigger unit.
"What we need though, is more control within that bigger
unit over the public services that we have here," he said.
Last year, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond set up a
working group to consider devolving some powers to the islands,
which is due to report back in June. The Scottish government
supported "local decision making", he said then.
(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Angus MacSwan)