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Rockall

RockallRockall is a very small, uninhabited island located around 300 miles (480 km) off the west coast of mainland Scotland.  At just over 25 metres wide by 17.15 metres high, the extinct volcano doesn’t seem to have any outstanding features of particular interest but nothing could be further from the truth.

On 18 September 1955, a plaque was cemented on Hall’s Ledge, four metres (13ft) from the summit on the rock's western face, and the Union Flag was hoisted to stake the UK’s claim. Since then it has been at the centre of a series of international arguments over which country it actually belongs to.  Ireland, Iceland and Denmark (on behalf of the Faroes) have all staked their claims.

However, the Island of Rockall Act (1972) states:

"As from the date of the passing of this Act, the Island of Rockall (of which possession was formally taken in the name of Her Majesty on 18th September 1955 in pursuance of a Royal Warrant dated 14th September 1955 addressed to the Captain of Her Majesty's Ship Vidal) shall be incorporated into that part of the United Kingdom known as Scotland and shall form part of the District of Harris in the County of Inverness, and the law of Scotland shall apply accordingly."

The Act was amended by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 to transfer administrative control to the Western Isles Council when Inverness-shire was abolished.

Plaque removal at RockallIn order to validate Rockall's right to be an island, and therefore to be a sovereign part of British territory, a former SAS soldier (Tom McClean) lived on the barren rock -  which is only ever populated by seabirds - for 40 days in 1985. This feat of endurance was broken in 1997, when Greenpeace activists landed on the island to protest about potential oil exploration in the region and has since been broken again by Nick Hancock, who occupied the rock for 45 days in June/July 2014.

During the 1980s, the Department for Agriculture and Fisheries (DAFS) requested that when a Fishery Protection vessel was at Rockall, landings were attempted to remove any plaques from other nations laying claims to Rockall. This was later stopped. The photograph above shows a crew member from the FPV Vigilant removing a plaque.

Attempts to conduct scientifics surveys of the region have often been started, but had to be abandoned due to the ferocious weather typical of the area. In September 2011, however, Marine Scotland scientists took the chance to collect data on Scotland’s most remote marine ecosystem.  These results have proved to be incredibly significant and of great importance to understanding Scotland’s seas.

Related Links

Scottish Government links

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