PRESS RELEASE: 12 May 2003
SOUL for Whalsay
On a Saturday night when many folk were away from the island at other events, about 70 people turned up to listen to Alastair Inkster speak about Udal Law at the Symbister Hall in Whalsay. Most had already signed one of the petitions in the local shops and all were concerned about the present and future state of the fishing industry and local economy.
Alastair's remarks centred around the present crisis in the industry, pointing out that Udal Law had never been removed and that, with the recent abolition of Scottish feudal property law, the position was even stronger. In effect this meant that Shetland should have control over all the continental shelf around the islands and by proper conservation methods would be able to have a thriving sustainable fishery. The present Cod recovery programme in the North Sea means Shetland's whitefish boats, using 120mm mesh nets, are restricted to fifteen days per month fishing. The Danish industrial trawlers, fishing with 15mm mesh nets for Norwegian Pout for the fishmeal plants, are fishing 'unrestricted' on the same fishing grounds. With local control of Shetland's continental shelf there can be a proper sustainable fisheries programme introduced and a stop to industrial fishing where baby fish are being destroyed, and discrimination against Shetland's fleet which don't fish for Norway Pout.
He said " Shetland was deprived of her seas by a Parliamentary fiction that they were owned by the Crown in the Crown Estates Act 1962. Shetland's Continental Shelf was taken away by the same fraudulent ploy in the Continental Shelf Act in 1964. These Acts were then used to give Shetlands Fishing to the Common Market by Ted Heath. THE CROWN HAD NO LEGAL RIGHT TO DO THIS AS THEY NEVER HAD LEGAL TITLE TO SHETLAND or ORKNEY'S SEA or SEABED!"
Many were surprised to find that, far from being a relic of the past, there are moves right now in Europe and Scotland that make Udal law a hot current topic. Alastair was at pains to point out that the implementation of Udal Law did not mean independence for Shetland, but that Shetland people had been kept in ignorance of the power of their position in any negotiations.
He went on: "The abolition of Feudal Property Law (on April 1st) in Scotland has guaranteed Shetland its own Laws, Rights, Customs and Privileges. Legally the Shetland Community now owns, and should control her seas and seabed. European and Westminster policy is now being illegally imposed on Shetlands Continental Shelf. Shetland & Orkney are annexed territories like Faeroe. They were the first part and are the last part of the British Empire. Shetland and Orkney have been denied Self Determination and the Return of their own Laws. UNTIL NOW.
Support is being sought from groups in the fishing and crofting communities, with positive results.
In the discussion afterwards it emerged that, although Shetland now has Udal Law, it will be taken away and conveniently forgotten about unless a stand is made. Questions were raised about what could be done and a number of suggestions were put forward. One of these was for a Whalsay SOUL group to be established and Willie Hutchinson agreed to act as a co-ordinator for that group.
Window posters available at the meeting were snapped up and the meeting closed with generous contributions to the SOUL campaign funds.
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