IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


6th July, 2023 Geography

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The Orkney Islands' consideration of separating from the United Kingdom (U.K.) and becoming a self-governing territory, potentially under Norway.


  • The Orkney Islands, an archipelago off the northeast coast of Scotland, is considering ways to separate from the U.K. and become a self-governing territory of Norway.
  • The local council proposes exploring alternative forms of governance to provide more economic opportunities for islanders.

Reasons for Consideration

  • The Orkney Islands aim to leverage their energy production capabilities, including an oil terminal and renewable resources, to achieve greater economic independence.
  • The council leader, James Stockan, believes the islands have been neglected by both the U.K. and Scottish governments and lack fair funding.
  • Orkney's contributions to the U.K. economy have not been thoroughly analyzed, and the received dividend is deemed insufficient.

Potential Options

  • Economic Independence: Orkney could utilize its energy production capabilities, particularly in wind projects, to achieve economic self-sufficiency.
  • Nordic Connection: Orkney is exploring the possibility of establishing a "Nordic connection" with Denmark, Norway, or Iceland, reflecting its historical ties to Norse kingdoms.
  • Crown Dependency Structure: Another option being discussed is adopting a crown dependency structure similar to Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man.

Historical Context

  • Orkney was under Norwegian and Danish rule until the late 15th century when it was handed over to Scotland.
  • The islands boast ancient Neolithic sites, stunning landscapes, and diverse marine and avian wildlife.

Current Government Support

  • Orkney, as one of Scotland's council areas, receives funding from the Scottish government under the U.K.'s devolved system of government.
  • The U.K. government is providing funding to grow Scotland's island economies, including Orkney, as part of its efforts to level up communities.

Responses from Governments

  • The U.K. government states that it has no plans to change the devolution settlement and emphasizes the strength of the United Kingdom.
  • Responses from the Scottish and Norwegian governments are pending at the time of the report.

Council Decision and Future Talks

  • The motion to explore alternative forms of governance will be discussed by council members, marking the initial stage of potential negotiations with the U.K. and Scottish governments.
  • The process is expected to be lengthy and contentious.

Broader Context

  • Orkney's discussion about self-governance aligns with the wider debate on devolution in the U.K., with other regions seeking greater autonomy and self-governance.
  • Manchester and Cornwall are among the areas that have secured deals for increased local decision-making.

About Orkney

  • Orkney is an archipelago located off the northeast coast of Scotland.
  • It consists of approximately 70 islands, with the largest ones being Mainland, Hoy, Rousay, and South Ronaldsay.
  • The islands are situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, separated from the Scottish mainland by the Pentland Firth.

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Historical Significance

  • Orkney has a rich and diverse history, with evidence of human occupation dating back over 5,000 years.
  • The islands were under Norse and Danish rule for a significant period until they were transferred to Scotland in the late 15th century.
  • Orkney's historical sites, including well-preserved Neolithic structures such as Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar, contribute to its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Economy and Energy Production

  • Orkney's economy is primarily based on agriculture, fishing, tourism, and energy production.
  • The islands have significant energy resources, including renewable energy from wind, tidal, and wave power.
  • Orkney has become a leader in renewable energy innovation and has a high proportion of renewable energy installations.


  • The primary language spoken in Orkney is English.
  • However, there are also efforts to preserve and promote the local Orcadian dialect, which has distinctive features and vocabulary.
  • The Orcadian dialect reflects the Norse and Scottish influences on the islands and contributes to the cultural identity of the local population.

Festivals and Traditions

  • Orkney hosts various festivals and events throughout the year, celebrating its cultural heritage.
  • The Orkney Folk Festival showcases traditional music, dance, and storytelling.
  • The Magnus International Festival celebrates the arts and cultural heritage of Orkney, featuring performances of music, drama, and visual arts.

Folklore and Mythology

  • Orkney has a rich tradition of folklore and mythology.
  • The islands are associated with Norse mythology and legends, such as the story of the Orcadian hero, Hǫgni.
  • Folklore also includes tales of selkies (mythical seal creatures) and other mythical beings believed to inhabit the seas surrounding Orkney.

Arts and Crafts

  • Orkney is known for its vibrant arts and crafts scene.
  • Local artisans create traditional crafts like pottery, jewelry, and textiles, often inspired by the natural beauty and history of the islands.
  • The Orkney Craft Trail allows visitors to explore workshops and studios to witness the creation of these unique handmade products.

Music and Dance

  • Music and dance are integral to the cultural fabric of Orkney.
  • Traditional folk music is performed using instruments such as fiddles, accordions, and bagpipes.
  • The Orkney Ba game, a traditional form of football, is a popular sporting event accompanied by music and dance during festivals.

Cultural Preservation and Heritage Sites

  • Orkney places great importance on preserving its cultural heritage.
  • The Orkney Islands Council, along with heritage organizations, works to protect and maintain historical sites and artifacts.
  • The UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Skara Brae and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, contribute to the preservation and recognition of Orkney's cultural significance.

Integration of Cultural Identity

  • The cultural identity of Orkney is integrated into daily life through the arts, festivals, language, and local traditions.
  • The residents of Orkney take pride in their unique heritage and actively participate in preserving and promoting their cultural identity.


Q) Examine the historical context, economic considerations, and challenges involved in Orkney's desire for alternative forms of governance. (150 words)