Sveio, the southernmost municipality in Vestland County, voted today on whether to stay in Vestland County or move to Rogaland.
With a majority of 56 percent, the Sveibu remain part of Western Norway.
– I am very happy that we have such a clear majority, says the mayor of Sveio, Linn Therese Erve (Labor)
It boasts a voter turnout of almost 60 percent.
– I think a lot of people think you’re fine, she says.
Two strong regions
56 percent of voters will stay in Vestland County, while 43.4 percent will go to Rogaland. 2762 people voted, of which 14 people voted blank.
– We are part of two strong regions, and then from time to time questions arise as to why we are not part of the Rogaland district, to which we functionally belong.
According to her, the debate flourished again when Rogaland did not become part of the Vestland district. On January 24th, the municipal council has to make the final decision.
– We will put a lot of emphasis on what the locals say when we take a stand, says Erve.
A signal to the rest of Sunnhordland
Mette Heidi Bergsvåg Ekrheim (Sp) is Mayor of Etne Municipality and Chairwoman of the Cooperation Council for Sunnhordland.
– It is good that the result is so clear, and it is clear that it will be a signal for the rest of Sunnhordland, she says.
Etne and six other municipalities in the south of western Norway in the Sunnhordland region have considered moving to Rogaland.
Among other things, they are dissatisfied with what they experience as the focus on the northernmost part of western Norway, the old Sogn and Fjordane.
– We had plans to map Sunnhordland’s position in western Norway in terms of transfers but we have to take a step back and see what we do now that the result is ahead, says Bergsvåg Ekrheim.
According to her, the focus will be on strengthening cooperation between the two counties.
– We have been saying all along that Sunnhordland needs clear voices in Western Norway and we probably need to be more aware of that. Border communities like Sveio and Etne probably know a little more about that, she says.
In bag and sack
– It’s probably an expression of several things. I think some Sveio residents have had the experience of having some Sunnhordland in their pocket and sack, says Yngve Flo, professor and urban researcher at Bergen University.
He emphasizes that the referendum is ultimately advisory and that the municipal council still has the opportunity to change the district.
– It is probably a long way to go to challenge a majority that wants to keep what is. Then they need to be able to problematize what they are expressing, as in the case of an abnormally low turnout. But it can still produce bridal oil, and politicians could risk getting fined in the next election, he says.
There are several rebel communities in the country. A referendum will be held in Alta in Troms and in Finnmark on where they will belong after the large county is dissolved.
At the beginning of autumn, both Aure and Smøla communes voted to move from Møre og Romsdal to Trøndelag. Both stayed.
– The question arises whether one reversal leads to another reversal. Chances are we haven’t seen the latest on here. Taken by itself, this can be a bit of cold water in the blood of those who want transfers to other countries in the country, says Flo.
The professor does not rule out the possibility of changes in the long term.
– Rogaland is more closely related to Rogfast. Vestland is still an unmanageable county, and there is still a ferry between Sunnhordland and the district center, he says.