SHETLAND is as far away from the nation’s capital as you can get in Scotland.

Its administrative centre in Lerwick sits 351 miles from the Scottish Parliament and796 miles away from the Palace of Westminster. It would be quicker to fly to New York City than to drive between the Scottish capital and Shetland.

This perhaps goes some way to explaining islanders’ suspicion of party politics. It is one of only three Scottish councils dominated by Independents. Currently, only one councillor out of 22 is backed by a political party.

That is likely set to change, with one Labour councillor already elected by default because only three candidates were standing in a three-member ward. Three candidates are also running under the Greens banner.

For Moraig Lyall, Shetland’s hostility to party politics is grounded in a distrust of distant centres of power.

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“If people are there representing a political party, they won’t be representing the needs of Shetland,” the Independent councillor said.

“They’ll be focused on the needs of a party that has most of the membership based elsewhere.”

With a population of just 22,920 people – that’s about 2000 less people than live in Leith, Edinburgh – it’s possible for the electorate to have a much closer relationship with their elected representatives than would be the case in the capital.

Almost all current councillors have their home addresses listed publicly on the council’s website. A concerned resident could in theory simply chap the door of their local councillor rather than ping-ponging emails back and forth.

But parties also bring direction to politics. Representatives united under a common cause by definition have agreed aims and ideas. An unruly group of free-thinking independents can be harder to corral into taking any course of action.

Lyall told The National: “It’s a real advantage when it comes to focusing on what really matters to local people, but I think it’s a real disadvantage when it comes to actually getting enough councillors to work together … to move things forward.

“When you have a political party running a council they can more or less say, ‘this is what we’re doing’, and forge ahead with it – whereas it takes longer, I would say, to get a consensus and a forward motion on things.”

Alex Armitage is standing for the Greens and hopes to “shake up” the council with the introduction of more party politics.

He said: “There really is a feeling amongst people that Shetland council, because it’s run by Independents, doesn’t really have a direction.

“The council needs a shake-up, it needs to have some leadership.

“You hear a lot of people say that with Independents who don’t really declare what they’re standing for, what ends up happening is the council officers end up running the council and that’s not good for democracy.”

While much of Scotland has a problem with Westminster rule, Shetlanders can feel similarly hostile to the powers that be in Edinburgh.

A Shetland councillor is more likely to be seen bearing the Nordic cross flag of the island – designed by the founder of the local SNP chapter in 1966 – on their lapel than a Saltire or a Union flag.

While Wir Shetland – the philosophical heirs to the Shetland Movement of the 1980s and 90s – has mostly fizzled out, the push to secure greater autonomy for the islands remains powerful.

The sole SNP councillor Robbie McGregor is a supporter of giving the islanders more say over their affairs. He also has his “fingers crossed” for Yes-backing Greens to be elected, as well as his SNP colleague Zara Pennington in Shetland West.

He told The National: “I wear a Shetland badge alongside my SNP badge.

“We have an island culture here and there’s talk of a lot of people wanting further control over their own affairs in Shetland.

“I don’t have a problem with that. It would be hypocritical of me, if I believe that Scotland should be independent – why should Shetland not have more control over her own affairs?

“Obviously the big caveat I would put on that one, is that it would need to be within the context of an independent Scotland.”

Lyall is also a supporter of greater powers for the island authority.

“All local authorities in Scotland should have individual say in how things work in their area,” she said.

“There is too much dictated from the centre.”

It’s far from a minority view on the local authority – councillors voted by a margin of 18-2 for the even more radical proposal of exploring the possibility of replacing the authority altogether with a “new system of government” with more power and control over revenue.

The latter point is more controversial with some, such as former Wir Shetland committee member Ian Tinkler, who is standing for election tomorrow with a promise to “advocate for full autonomy for Shetland, [as] a Crown Dependency within the United Kingdom”, according to Shetland News.

Even the suggestion of kowtowing to the demands of the parties in Edinburgh and London can cause controversy – no matter the popularity of their representatives.

Shetland forms one half of the Orkney and Shetland constituency represented by Alistair Carmichael and is the safest LibDems seat in the country, having been represented by the party or its Liberal predecessors since 1950.

Despite this, the Wir Shetland movement was rocked by resignations in protest over its decision to back the LibDems’ man Tavish Scott in the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, because members were apparently not polled before this decision was taken.

Against this backdrop, the usual business of local politics goes on, and despite some superficial differences, both Lyall and McGregor concur on the biggest issue facing voters at this election being that of the cost of living crisis.

But again councillors face a unique spin on the problems. While Scotland’s left-wing parties are pledging to take action on rising public transport fares, the costs pale in comparison to those of the Shetland Islands.

A monthly ticket for the bus in Aberdeen costs £69.50, while the cost of a single adult making the 12-hour one-way trip to the city from Lerwick by boat costs £30 in the current season plus an additional £3.50 for a reclining seat. A proper bed would set a traveller back between £77 and £142.

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Green developments including the Viking Energy windfarm on the Shetland mainland, and continuing tensions around the island’s mighty fishing industry, also dominate the political conversation at a local level.

The last time the Shetland autonomy movement flared up was in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. A vote in 2023 – as is planned – could see a revival.

There are more parties than ever standing in the area, but Independents are still expected to take the biggest slice of the pie.

What the impact of party politics taking tentative steps on the island will be remains to be seen.