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By G.A.Ponsonby
 
A bid by an unelected Tory Peer, Malcolm Sinclair, to prevent Orkney and Shetland from remaining part of an independent Scotland has today been dismissed as "bizarre" and "extreme".
 
According to Sinclair, who is a hereditary member of the House of Lords and once served in Margaret Thatcher’s Government, a win for the Yes campaign in the independence referendum would not automatically include the island group, which could be forced to remain under London control.

In a series of House of Lords amendments to the Scotland Bill, the unelected Peer has demanded that in the event of Scotland voting Yes in the independence referendum, the islander’s poll be considered separate and if more islanders voted No then the region be placed under Northern Ireland style partition and be governed by Westminster.

The Tory Lord has also insisted that the Scottish result will only be deemed binding if it is confirmed in a further UK wide referendum.  Sinclair, also known as Lord Caithness, has also proposed that the disputed rocky outcrop of Rockall be placed under the governance of London. 

If his plans are implemented, the legislation would see Westminster take ownership of Scotland’s oil and gas fields as well as the region’s renewables resources and result in £100s billions flowing direct to London.

However the land grab bid by the Tory politician has been ridiculed and dismissed by MSP for Caithness, Rob Gibson, who called it “bizarre” and “extreme”.

Mr Gibson said that islanders would enjoy greater personal prosperity under independence, and urged them not to succumb to what he called "a London raid" on the area’s natural resources.

The SNP MSP said: “The Earl of Caithness has never once stood for election.  His views have never, ever been endorsed by the voting public.  He is a man who has had to apologise for his past parliamentary ethics, and was a key player in Margaret Thatcher’s government.

“Northern Islander’s will no doubt be laughing-off his bizarre contribution to the independence debate as I speak.  His opinions have left him isolated, and have been widely ridiculed in Caithness and the isles.”

Mr Gibson said the days of local nobles telling the Highland’s what to do were “well and truly over” and demanded the Tory Peer “butt-out”.

“The truth is, residents of the Northern Isles need only look east to our Scandinavian neighbours for a vision of the personal prosperity they will enjoy under independence.  The Northern Isles have reaped limited rewards from North Sea oil, but things could be so much better.” he added and went on:

“I have a great love for the distinct Norse identity and culture in the Northern Isles, and many of my islander friends would describe themselves as ‘Norse first, Scottish second’.  However, I have never once come across a Northern Islander with a hankering for London-rule over respect in an independent Scotland.

“My message to the Northern Isles is this – do not let London plunder your vast, vast natural resources any longer.  Let’s channel the Isles’ potential to build a more prosperous Orkney and Shetland, because these two great island groups are as much Scottish as Thurso or Tain.”

Lord Caithness has courted controversy before and was recently forced to apologise after booking parliamentary facilities as part of an advertising campaign.

In 2009 the sales brochure of holiday company R Crusoe and Son featured Lord Caithness apparently promoting holidays to the UK.

"We gather in London, England for a private tour of Parliament with Lord Caithness, who introduces us to several colleagues over lunch.  The Lord Speaker, Lady Hayman, or the Leader of the Conservative Party, Lord Strathclyde, joins us for a chat." said a section of the brochure.

Caithness was reported to the Commissioner of Standards who accepted his apology which read:

".. the website of the travel agency could be construed by a reasonable person as suggesting that I had a financial interest linked to showing paying guests around the House of Lords. That was not the situation as I have explained and I never received, or anticipated receiving, any payment arising out of my use of Parliamentary facilities. The visit as advertised by the travel agency never took place and I reiterate my regret that its actions raised concerns about the proper use of House of Lords facilities."

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