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Scotland and Islandness

Explorations in Community, Economy and Culture


Edited By Kathryn A. Burnett, Ray Burnett and Michael Danson

Scotland’s islands are diverse, resourceful and singularly iconic in national and global imaginations of places «apart» yet readily reached. This collection of essays offers a fascinating commentary on Scotland’s island communities that celebrates their histories, cultures and economies in general terms. Recognising a complex geography of distinct regions and island spaces, the collection speaks to broader themes of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, narratives of place and people, the ideas and policies of island and regional distinctiveness, as well as particular examinations of literature, language, migration, land reform, and industry. With a view to placing ideas and expressions of islandness within a lived reality of island life and scholarship, the collection provides a multidisciplinary perspective on the value of continued and expanding research commentaries on Scotland’s islands for both a Scottish and an international readership. 

This book should instantly appeal to scholars of Island Studies, Scottish Studies, and Regional Studies of northern and peripheral Europe. Readers with particular interests in the sociology and history of Scottish rural and northern Atlantic communities, the cultural histories and economies of remote and island places, and the pressing socioeconomic agenda of small island sustainability, community building and resilience should also find the collection offers current commentaries on these broad themes illustrated with local island examples and contingencies.

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Chapter 4 ‘Da Norn is lang gien, but hit’s left a waageng’: The Distinctiveness of Shetland Cultural Identity (Andrew Jennings)



4.‘Da Norn is lang gien, but hit’s left a waageng,’: The Distinctiveness of Shetland Cultural Identity

‘Da Norn is lang gien, but hit’s left a waageng,’: from the poem A Shuttle o Soonds by Christine de Lucca (2002)

Islands are often home to culturally rich and distinctive communities. This is undoubtedly the case with Shetland and the Shetlanders, who, although they have been connected to Scotland since 1469, still maintain their unique regional identity. Arguably the process of Scottification has not yet been entirely completed. This identity manifests itself in a number of ways, from the oft heard profession that, ‘I’m not Scottish’ and the commonplace statement about taking the ferry to Scotland, to the distinctive voting patterns in recent referenda. Although a majority of Shetlanders supported Scottish devolution in the 1997 referendum, which reflects a shift in opinion since the previous referendum in 1979, when 73% of Shetland voters rejected a Scottish Assembly, Shetlanders seem less keen on Scottish independence. 63.7% voted ‘No’ in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, against 53.4% for the Scottish population as a whole ( Jennings 2017: 66–68).

There are sound linguistic and cultural reasons for this attitude. As the late Jo Grimond, MP for Orkney and Shetland said in a parliamentary debate culminating in The Zetland County Council Act 1974, which gave the new Shetland Islands Council extraordinary powers, ‘[Shetlanders’] traditions are largely Norse in origin and differ from the...

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