"THE last thing the Northern Isles want is to be ruled by Glasgow trade unionists and Edinburgh lawyers.” 

Wise words spoken by my Liberal predecessor but one, Jo Grimond.
Jo was a life-long advocate of Home Rule but, like many in the Northern Isles, was suspicious of how it would work in practice. 

That suspicion shaped in many ways the debate in first the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly and then The Constitutional Convention. The election of a Scottish Parliament by proportional representation was designed to provide some reassurance that it would not open the door to domination of the edges by the centre. 

The argument worked and by 1997 the islands were prepared to join the rest of Scotland on its devolutionary journey. In recent years, however, the old fears have arisen again and, when viewed from our end of the telescope, look increasingly justified. 

It was never the intention of those of us who campaigned for Home Rule or Devolution (depending on which part of the political spectrum you came from) that we should replace a highly centralised model of government from London with the some model just run from Edinburgh. Since 2007 and the election of an SNP Government in Holyrood, however, that is exactly what has happened. 
Piece by piece control of vital public services has been sucked upwards away from local communities.

 It is often said that power without accountability is a dangerous thing. Scotland’s councillors now find themselves in an even worse and more dangerous situation – accountability without power.  A once proud and world leading model of economic and community development in Highlands and Islands Enterprise (and, before that, The Highlands and Islands Development Board) has been stripped of its power and driven from Edinburgh. 

Looking ahead, Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) is hell-bent on removing air traffic control from local airports to a single site in Inverness – deaf to local concerns about safety and the quality of service and indifferent to the impact on communities of the loss of so many good quality high paid jobs. 

It was a surprise to few in Shetland that earlier this week Shetland Islands Council voted overwhelmingly to support a motion calling for greater autonomy for the isles.

The motion reflects the frustration that has been growing for years at the imposition of “one size fits all” solutions but it is more than just an angry cry.  It is a demand to do things differently and a recognition that services designed close to the point of delivery will always be better than those designed and delivered from the centre. 

The case for better and more local control of public services is one that will be heard and understood across the Highlands and Islands, in the Borders and the North East too. 

Scotland’s greatest strength is its diversity of communities, languages, cultures and economies.  Cramming them all into a single box of “One Scotland” hampers creativity and leaves us all worse off as a result.   

Alistair Carmichael is the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland