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Politics in the Islands: Shetland Islands

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Chris Mason Chris Mason | 17:00 UK time, Monday, 11 April 2011

A deserted square in Lerwick. A single lamp-post in the centre with a small bank of shops around the perimetre

A square in the town of Lerwick

As the devolved election campaigns kick off, I will be travelling to some of the country's most islolated communities to explore their experience of devolution. I'll be visiting some of the islands off the coast of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all this week to get a sense of what people are talking about there.

My first stop is here in the Shetland Islands. But what does the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh mean to people in Lerwick 350 miles away? It's a 12-and-a half-hour overnight ferry crossing to Aberdeen and Bergen in Norway is just as close.

So what are the issues here? You can tune into 5 live Drive and Up All Night to find out. I'll also be posting some photos of my travels on the 5 live blog. Plus, you can also follow my trip on Twitter: @chrismasonbbc

The Cost of Fuel

A sign in a petrol station advertising unleaded fuel at £148.9 per litre

Today I'm in Lerwick, the capital and main port of the Shetland Islands.

I took this photo at a petrol station on the outskirts of Lerwick. Is this the most expensive fuel in the UK?

I spoke to Jim, a taxi driver on the island, about the price of diesel and the effect it's having on his business. He told me that the price had "shot up" considerably at the pumps last week.

He went on to say that although the issue is being debated on the mainland, "nobody is caring about us...because we're across the water".

Impact on Food Prices

A menu in a take-away with a sticker at the top that reads: Due to VAT increase, fuel increase, prices are subject to change

Here's an illustration of the influence of the increased cost of fuel on an isolated island - it has an immediate and significant effect on the cost of everything else.

I spotted this sign in the window of a fish and chip shop in Lerwick.

Everything has to be transported to the island, so the cost of fuel has an impact on things like the cost of food.

I chatted to Yasmin, who runs the shop. She told me that although people in places like Glasgow and London compain about the rising cost of fuel, compared to the Shetland Islands, "they have no idea".

Distant Decisions

An appeal sign from the Shetland Coastguard asking the public to

Meanwhile, issues like the the future of the Shetland lifeboat is being discussed by the coalition government at Westminster. These posters are all over the islands, in shop windows, bus shelters, hotel lobbies.

Norwegian History

A sign for

Wandering around the island, I spotted this sign. You can still see the Norwegian influence everywhere on the Shetland Islands.

The Star

A photo of the rooster that kept interrupting his two-way

Yes, it's a picture of a rooster. For those of you who listened to Drive, you'll know that he was the main star during my report from the Shetland Islands. Peter took great pleasure in pointing out I was being upstaged by a bird.

Listen to Chris' report for 5 live Drive. Starring the rooster.

Read Chris' online article about the issues in the Shetland Islands on the BBC website.

Chris Mason is 5 live's political reporter.


  • Comment number 1.

    I do have an idea Yasmine. However, thanks to me (as an English tax payer), you have free prescriptions and University education for you and your kids. You also get to live in a beautiful place and that does cost. Looking at the price list by the way, you seem lucky to be able to buy fish and chips for £5.70 as that is a lot cheaper than I pay at my local chippy - £8.75!

  • Comment number 2.

    Well said Carrie. I'm a Unionist but if the types of Jasmine think they're having such a hard time I'd gladly see the English subsidy of Scotland revoked and Scotland try and stand of its own.

    Scotish MPs can stop voting on English issues too.

  • Comment number 3.

    What is the justification for sending Chris Mason all the way from London to the Shetland Islands when there is surely a political correspondent in Scotland or the 5Live regional journalist that could do the job for a lot less and surely file reports for other BBC outlets, like Newsnight Scotland or Radio Scotland too?

    Seems like there's an endless pot of money at the BBC to lavish on these junkets.

  • Comment number 4.

    If you look at the voting map of Britain, its quite clear the Scots really dont have much in common with England. If they stood alone they would be no better off than the likes of Estonia. Within 10 years they would be the 'poor man of Europe'. The middle class pockets in Edinburgh know this of course, which is why it will never happen. If we let them have all their Gas reserves back however, things would be different for them!


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