Monday, October 12, 2009

Which council?

An intriguingly-titled opinion piece by Lesley Riddoch in today's Scotsman - "Nordic Council membership offers us a real alternative". Unfortunately it's a premium article so I haven't a clue what argument Ms Riddoch is putting forward, but presumably it involves the suggestion that an independent (or perhaps even devolved) Scotland could apply for Nordic Council membership. An idea that seems absurd at first glance, but I do recall that some years ago both the Orkney and Shetland Islands Councils were courted by the Nordic Council. Presumably if those two island groups were thought to qualify on linguistic, cultural and historical grounds, a case could be made that the country they are a part of ought to automatically qualify as well. Shetland, indeed, has a particularly strong additional case on the grounds of geography - it's directly between mainland Denmark and the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. And other parts of Scotland have strong historical Nordic connections as well - most notably the Western Isles, where Norse place-names abound, and in part of which it's sometimes said that people "speak Gaelic with a Norwegian accent".

It's perhaps more realistic, though, to instead look on the British-Irish Council - for now a talking shop with photo-calls - as being the embryonic form of what could one day blossom into our very own Nordic Council.


  1. I don't know James, if it wouldn't be a good idea to go for both. The reason for joining these things is presumably to create better understanding, trade and cultural links (as well of course as to provide officials with junkets).

    I think that, as part of Britain (for which read England) we are used to being told that France is our nearest neighbour. (Ironically France and Scotland are much closer in non-geographic terms than France and England, but leave that aside.)

    The truth is that our nearest neighbours are Ireland, Iceland, Faeroes, Norway, Denmark. Notwithstanding a small local difficulty, these are relatively rich countries, in terms of finance yes, but also culturally. They lead some of the happiest and the healthiest lives in the world.

    Now I love our "nearest neighbour" France, I really do. I speak French and I lived there for a short time. It's a wonderful place. But I think that I'd like to get to know our own neighnours better. What makes them tick, what makes them so successful when often they have little in the way of natural resources?

    Certainly we must never make the mistake that Britian did. Scotland isn't Edinburgh and Glasgow alone. It's Stornaway, Portree, it's the highlands and the northern islands too.

    I agree we should maintain close links with Wales and Ireland and England; I think that's a given, considering the history, but I think we should be adventurous, daring and radical when it comes to making new friends. We don't just want more of the same.

  2. I agree, Tris. Apart from anything else, I always think it's extraordinary that we don't have any direct ferry links to Scandinavia (I think there might be one or two summer ferries serving Shetland but that's about it). I suppose the reason for that is there isn't enough demand, but it's one of those 'chicken and egg' questions.

  3. Yes, James, it's probably lack of demand.

    Maybe creating links with these countries would drive up tourism (a lot of it inward because they are relatively expensive), create jobs in small towns around the North of Scotland, and bring interesting cultural events within our grasp. I'm all for it, and I'll be on the first ferry to Greenland!

  4. You need to read up on your history.

    Scotland was previously a very active member of the forerunner to the Nordic Council - can't remember the name of it off the top of my head - but it is essentially the reason why Scotland has many historic links with not only the Nordic but also the Baltic states; Russia, Estonia et al.

  5. Anon - well, if Wikipedia is to be believed, Estonia are extremely keen on joining the Nordic Council and perceive themselves to be more of a Nordic than a Baltic country. But it seems that the current Council members don't share that perception. I'm inclined to agree that it would be theoretically desirable for Scotland to join the Nordic Council, but I'm just sceptical about whether we'd be accepted. But I suppose we would have the trump cards of Orkney and Shetland if we ever decide to put in an application!