Social Organization. After 1468, the incoming Scottish earls slowly established a feudal system with large estates and increasing control over the rural population. By the nineteenth century, only a small minority of the farms remained as freehold. Beginning in the early nineteenth century, their control was slowly diminished. The 1886 Crofters' Holdings Act enabled the crofters to regain a high degree of freedom and security on their leaseholds. Today, there are very few distinctions in social rank, especially on the smaller islands.
Political Organization. Between 1973 and 1975, the old county of Orkney was abolished and the Orkneys became one of three Special Island Areas of Scotland. In this new Structure, they were allowed to retain a high degree of local authority. The island area operates through the Scottish Office in Edinburgh. Police and fire services are provided through the nearby Highland Region of northern Scotland. The Orkney Island Council has special linkages with London for Petroleum and energy development. Other services are provided through various Scottish development agencies.
Social Control. Local "ethnohistorical" pride, island isolation, and a small population are the primary means of social control. No murders have occurred here in over 120 years. On a formal level, the Scottish court system prevails.
Conflict. The major source of local conflict is rooted in the islanders' respect for their original Norse culture and identity. Many islanders resent the recent (post-1970) influx of Scottish and English migrants. Many prefer union with England rather than Scotland. The County Library, which was founded in 1683, the Tankerness House Museum, and the Stromness Museum serve as important centers that enhance island cultural identity.