Shetland Islands, Place of Vikings and Oil, Question Scottish Independence


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The Scottish referendum of independence scheduled for September leaves the Shetland Islands with a question. Go to with Scotland, stay with Britain, or become independent? A petition went online recently on the Scottish Parliament website asking to hold a referendum of this very question.

29.2% of Shetlanders are direct descendants of Vikings according to a study by BritainsDNA, the U.K. Huffington Post reported. The islands were part of Norway until the 15th century and hold important oil reserves for Scotland. Catriona Murray, secretary of the group Referenda On The Islands told the Telegraph “We believe that it is up to islanders to decide, and that now is the time to do so. Our own group includes supporters of all three options.”

The 23,000 people who live in the Shetland Islands may not have much of an impact on the September referendum. But they do play an important role in Scottish economy. Since the 1960s, the Islands have gained strategic importantance, especially in the construction of Sullom Voe, one of Europe's largest energy terminals, according to the Associated Press. Baron Lamont of Lerwick told the BBC "Scottish oil would go out of the window" if the islands left the country.

Meanwhile, Shetlanders continue to embrace their Viking heritage. The Up Helly Aa Viking fire festival takes place "in the late winter dusk, hundreds of Vikings are marching down to the beach, bearing flaming torches," as Associated Press' Jill Lawless described, "Their studded leather breastplates glint in the firelight as they roar and sing. It's a scene that would have struck terror into the hearts of Dark Age Britons."

Whether Shetland stays with Britain, goes with Scotland, or becomes independent, it seems it will remain a place of Vikings.

Image via STV Scotland, YouTube