Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Devolution in Action

Westminster MPs are putting pressure on The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh to return one of the Shetland Islands' greatest treasures to the newly opened museum in Lerwick. Alistair Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland, is leading the fight to have the Saint Ninian's Isle treasure returned and has already he has won cross-party support from Angus Robertson, the SNP's Westminster leader. However, the National Museums of Scotland is accountable to the Scottish Executive.

The pictish silver objects dating from the 7th and 8th C were found in a larch wood box under a slab, beneath the Chancel of the Church that had been in use during the Iron Age. They were found by a schoolboy who joined an archaeological dig and included items magnificently decorated with animals and other designs. There was a silver hanging bowl, 7 other silver bowls, 2 sword chapes, 3 pepper pot shapes, a sword pommel, a spoon, a silver pronged Instrument, and 12 silver brooches.

It's an interesting situation. Will more people see the treasure if it remains in Edinburgh? - yes. Will it attract more visitors to the museum in Lerwick? - probably not. Especially as replicas of the treasure are already in the museum; can anyone tell the difference? But what's more to the point why is it not being discussed at Holyrood? This is a small but perfect example of the nonsense of two sets of representatives.

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