The councils called for a "new Scottish constitutional settlement," The Scotsman reported. Officials said they are seeking greater independence whether or not a referendum to create an independent Scotland passes next year.
"We were promised that devolution wouldn't stop at Edinburgh, but to a large extent it did," said Gary Robinson, leader of the Shetlands council. "Islanders feel that devolution stopped at Edinburgh, so we are asking for a greater say on how things are done in the islands."
The councils hope to get greater taxing powers, giving the islands more revenue from fishing and alternative energy projects.
All three island groups are relative latecomers to Scotland. Norway ceded the Western Isles, also known as the Outer Hebrides, in the Treaty of Perth in 1266, while Christian I, king of Norway and Denmark, pledged the Orkneys and Shetlands to guarantee his daughter's dowry when she married James III of Scotland in 1468 and then never paid the dowry.
Robinson called next year's referendum a "once in a lifetime opportunity," saying that residents of the three groups might decide on Scottish independence based on whether leaders of the two campaigns support their quest for more independence.