Orkney comprises 70 islands of which only 20 are inhabited. They are separated from the mainland by the Pentland Firth. Stromness, and the capital Kirkwall, are two main towns, both of which are situated on the largest island, known as 'The Mainland'. Apart from the oil terminal at Flotta the main industry is beef production so the BSE crisis has been a major blow to the local economy. Tourism is a growth industry but due to the inclement weather and the Orkney's remoteness it is very seasonal.
The Liberal Democrats have held the parliamentary seat of Orkney and Shetland since 1950. Orcadians tend to be distrustful of party politics and all members of the local council are Independents. This distrust has been translated into a scepticism towards devolution. The islands are so remote that it does not seem to make much difference to them whether they are ruled from Westminster or Edinburgh. Orkney and Shetland would be separate seats in a Scottish Parliament which may help to reassure the islanders that their interests would be protected if a Scottish assembly is set up.
Results of 1979 referendum:
ICM/Scotsman poll published on 22 August 1997:Question: Should there be a Scottish Parliament?
Question:Should a Scottish Parliament have tax-varying powers?
(Total Sample Size: 1,001, Fieldwork: 19-20 August 1997)
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