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This book attempts a fresh look at Shetland’s* history from a legal perspective. I do not come to this task with the preconceived ideas of a historian or a lawyer and have been able, I hope, to view the documents with the fresh eyes of an outsider and a mind clear of any baggage. This has enabled me to find new insights and has given me a clearer understanding of Shetland’s true position. I have challenged preconceptions and drawn conclusions markedly different to the accepted wisdom in many cases.

You cannot give what you do not have. Shetland’s history is laced with instances of people (mainly kings) giving, or presumed to be giving, something they didn’t own. For a historian that is something to be explained away, for a lawyer it stops the process in its tracks. In law, something cannot be built on nothing. If an action is unlawful, anything that depends upon that action becomes null and void - as if it had never happened.

It is widely recognised that Shetland’s constitutional position is a mess. However, there is little impetus to put it right or even change it. There has been a concerted effort by vested interests to bury and distort the real story. Those vested interests both within Shetland and without are not interested in too close an examination of the status quo. Many more are simply too comfortable, or too apprehensive to consider any change. In any case Shetland is so valuable to the UK that it is generally unthinkable to challenge the official presumption that it is part of Scotland.

* Most of what I say applies equally to Orkney, but there are important historical differences, so I confine my remarks mainly to Shetland. The crucial document upon which the Crown relies for its authority carries the same weight in each case.

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