Jörgen Pettersson went down well at the conference Scotland's three islands councils organised in Kirkwall.

It had been convened to maintain the momentum of the councils' campaign to win more powers whichever way the independence referendum goes.

Mr Petterson knows a thing or two about island powers. He is one of 30 members of the Parliament in the Aaland Islands which, although Swedish-speaking, are a self-governing part of Finland.

He had visited Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles and noted - "the similarities between yourselves and Aland - cultural, dialectual and many others".

Read David Leask's blog on the Aaland Islands' view on Scottish independence.

It had led him to reflect that "the Vikings did a good job".

Today he is the chairman of the Parliament's key Finance, Industry, Trade and Agriculture Committee. He told the 150 delegates in Orkney of his islands' story, which left more than a few looking eastwards with covetous eyes to devo-max Baltic-style.

There are 6757 Aaland Islands, between Sweden and Finland, but significantly closer to the former. Only 60 are inhabited. The total population is 29,000. Lewis and Harris (21,031) with Skye (10,008) have more. And the figure is dwarfed by the 103,702 living on an island here at the 2011 census.

Yet the Aaland Parliament, has legislative power over: education, culture and heritage; health care, hospitals and social care; the environment; trade and industry; local transport; municipal administration and taxation; policing, postal service, radio and TV. Not only that, Aaland's autonomy and demilitarisation are guaranteed by international law.

Meanwhile, Aaland's position in Europe has been specifically recognised in EU law since Finland joined in 1995.

The word from Edinburgh is that Alex Salmond is relaxed about giving more powers to the islands councils. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Michael Moore is due to begin discussions with them soon. But few really believe Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles can win anything like an Aaland-level settlement from Edinburgh or London.

But it could all have been so different had Russia, which took control of Aaland from Sweden in 1809, completed the building of a fortress on Aland.

In 1854, during the Crimean War, Britain and France sent naval vessels to blow it to pieces. "After that we have no fortress but a lot of stones, quite small ones ..." for which Aland islanders today are grateful, Mr Pettersson said.

It was in 1921 Aland first got its autonomy from the League of Nations, the predecessor of United Nations. It was as a self-governing region of Finland that guaranteed the preservation of the Swedish language, culture and customs.

As the Kirkwall conference seemed to sigh "if only", the man from Aaland concluded with a rousing flourish: "I am aware financial implications are a challenge. You have rightly asked yourself if you can afford more autonomy. I would, however, like to raise another view on the same subject. Can you afford not to try to find new ways into the future?

Leaving most to wonder just who will provide their "quite small" stones to build with tomorrow.