ORKNEY wants to leave.

Mhairi’s going to leave.

And she’s the sixth – but by far the youngest – SNP MP to announce she’ll quit Westminster after the next General Election.

She has good reason to leave a workplace she hates and might yet have a shot at Holyrood in years ahead – but there’s been one obvious conclusion about all this talk of leaving drawn by political rivals and the mainstream media.

The SNP is kaput, its youngest star has quit despite being deputy Westminster leader, Scotland is unpopular with its own northern citizens and thus indy is on the rocks. Not so fast.

Many things are surfacing now – the result of long submerged pressures finally boiling over into the public domain. And whilst it may feel unsettling, change in pursuit of greater freedom – personal or political – is no bad thing.

Let’s start with the Orcadians, whose council voted this week to pursue a new status for the island chain within the UK as a crown dependency like Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man or outwith the UK as a new/old part of Norway. Never mind, that both sovereign states have refused to parlay.

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As a result of the bold gambit, Orkney has enjoyed unparalleled profile since council leader, James Stockan launched his breakaway plan – provoking initial mirth and accusations of Unionist stoogery but ending with greater appreciation of the islanders’ plight – micromanaged by two distant southern governments instead of doing away like all the small island chains around them.

Most Scots will now realise that Kirkwall is closer to Norwegian Bergen than Edinburgh, was once owned by the Norwegian crown, and that Orcadian folk once spoke a variation of Norwegian – Norn. You can still hear traces in the fine Orkney dialect that’s been heard for the first time in decades on network news – thanks to Stockan’s bold or barking “breakaway” plan.

Fellow Scots may also now understand that Orkney has high levels of fuel poverty despite a massive wind resource that remains trapped on the islands thanks to the enduring absence of a proper subsea cable connection to the mainland grid – a Westminster failure and a legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s disastrous electricity privatisation.

Folk will also know Stockan believes his islands are not getting a fair deal, because everything costs more to deliver thanks to that angry bit of sea called the Pentland Firth.

Actually, though, having met both himself and the previous leader of Shetland Islands Council at meetings in Reykjavík and on the Faroe Islands, they don’t come across as victims but just massively frustrated islanders who cannot move into fifth gear and motor ahead like all their wee island neighbours. And those neighbours are a powerful bunch.

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To the north lies the Faroe Isles, whose people genuinely do have the world’s most powerfully devolved parliament – whatever nonsense Rishi Sunak spouted about Holyrood again in the Commons this week.

The Faroese Løgting, not only controls taxes and energy, it has the world’s fastest mobile broadband delivered by its own telecoms company. Half of its population still harbours the ambition of declaring full independence from Denmark – the same proportion as Scotland. Except the Faroes has just 55,000 not 5.5 million people. That’s bold. And those bold, go-ahead folk are the Northern Isles’ nearest neighbours.

You look and you learn.

Shetland and Orkney had to wait for slow speeds and patchy connection in the Westminster-controlled broadband roll-out – unable to take up the offer of connection to the Faroese system instead. Westminster simply wasn’t interested.

But there are also island complaints about Scottish systems – “in-person” inspections by central-belt quangos are still needed to complete building work, producing extra cost and delays.

Plus NorthLink ferries don’t get Road Equivalent Tariff – a subsidy applied to Hebridean and Clyde CalMac routes by Alex Salmond’s government in 2007. And as Stockan pointed out, many Orkney ferries are now older than the CalMac fleet. All of this does rankle.

Especially when Orcadians and other members of the Scottish Islands Federation mix with islanders in surrounding countries at conferences and Islands Games.

There they discovered 15 years ago, that Aran Islanders in Ireland got so fed up with poor ferry services, they bought their own. Now the first sailing is outgoing from the islands every morning so locals can reach mainland jobs, not incoming with tourists who can easily wait awhile. That simple decision – the result of local control – also means the crew is home every night, not living away with family disruption and extra cost for the service.

The National: Kirkwall in Orkney Kirkwall in Orkney

The Aran Islanders also persuaded the Irish government they shouldn’t pay council tax on mainland second homes, because these help with employment.

Meanwhile, across in the Baltic sits Åland – another island archipelago with a powerful parliament. It’s part of Finland, but Swedish speaking, demilitarised, and with the same duty-free advantages as Guernsey and Jersey.

And of course, these semi-autonomous islands, together with the Isle of Man, offer clear examples of how Scottish islands could be run.

In short, islands all around Orkney have a better deal and far more autonomy, partly because they campaigned for it but mostly – in Norway, Denmark and Finland – because government is truly local across the entire state and islands are just getting an enhanced version of an empowered, local normal.

Scotland could not be more different.

A “SMALL” council like Orkney with 22,000 folk, is actually large in European terms – with twice the population of the average EU council. The Scottish average – and thus our warped idea of “local” – is a mind-blowing 175,000 people.

So Scotland does not do local government. Our councils are regional, remote and bureaucratic. Our community councils are powerless with an annual average budget of £400. There is nothing in between except community buyouts – and there should be.

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Not just to restore local democracy to Scotland but to produce more experience of governance, more practice of running communities and thus more confidence about the national self-government.So long as power remains in the hands of the few, national self-confidence will suffer.

Now it’s important not to get carried away.

The flexing of muscles on Orkney will almost certainly go nowhere.

The proportion of Orcadians who ticked “Scottish only” in the 2011 census was 62% – the same as the mainland average. Aye Orkney campaigns for Scottish independence every other weekend and is heartily exasperated by the attention-grabbing antics of council leaders.

And problems in Orkney and Shetland are experienced across the whole of rural Scotland.

And that’s the point.

The peedie stooshie on Orkney demonstrates that most capable communities are sick and tired of being micromanaged from Edinburgh. If the complaint is taken seriously by Humza Yousaf, a genuinely new deal for islands could pave the way for more general reform, to boost rural confidence and ditch another blockage to independence.

Of course, none of that will happen fast. Top-down governance in Scotland took almost a century to build and will take a few years to unravel. And to be fair, the First Minister has some other big legacy issues clogging up his in tray already.

Equally, there’s no sign of a serious decentralisation plan from Scottish Labour or the supposedly hyper-local LibDems, who’ve represented the Northern Isles at Westminster and Holyrood for decades. And without such political pressure, devolving power to truly local councils will sink back down the priority list.

But for the meantime, dinnae bash the Orcadians.

Thank God some Scots feel so impatient with the glacial pace of progress in Westminster-controlled policy areas and so confident about their own capacity, they can contemplate going it alone.

It’s the kind of confidence all of Scotland needs.