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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Gibson MSP

Scotland and the New North

The First Minister’s visit to Iceland on 12-13 October highlighted the importance of closer links with neighbouring northern countries; particularly regarding the issues of economic cooperation and climate change at a time when building strong links and consensus between like-minded nations is imperative to securing Scotland’s future.

There is much Scotland can gain by looking north, and we also have knowledge and insight to share with our neighbours. For instance, climate change affects us all, and is a policy area where Scotland leads the way; with new diesel and petrol cars being phased out by 2032 and 60,000 people currently employed in low-carbon industries. The impact of climate change on the Arctic and the wider region, of which we are an important part, is being increasingly felt. This outlines the need for continuing efforts to work with others and share our expertise.

Further engagements during the First Minister’s time in Reykjavik included meetings with the President of Iceland, Guðni Jóhannesson, and Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

A new tourism link-up between the two countries was also confirmed with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between VisitScotland and the Icelandic Tourist Board. This agreement will see these bodies share information and advice on areas such as quality and sustainability and ultimately lead to collaboration on tourism development, boosting film tourism and making the best of digital markets.

Additionally, the First Minister gave a keynote address at the Arctic Circle Assembly, an international cooperation network focused on a sustainable future for the Arctic and surrounding nations. This event, attracted 2,000 participants from 50 countries and came just a fortnight after Scotland launched a new Nordic-Baltic Policy.

Globally, Nordic and Baltic countries are established leaders across areas such as human rights, use of digital technology and innovation in energy production and this document aimed at cementing Scotland’s links with eight nations including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Estonia as we pursue an outward-looking strategy.

The address to this dynamic gathering of governments and organisations determined to work together to bring about positive change, included the need to forge closer ties at a time when much is still unknown about what may lie beyond Brexit. Scotland and Iceland share ties of trade, culture and kinship over centuries and, through this upcoming forum, these ties and our economic relationship with Arctic, Nordic and Baltic countries, will surely be strengthened.

Despite Brexit, Scotland is determined to remain an “open, internationalist, outward-looking nation” and strengthening our role in the Arctic Circle, with nations which already accounts for half of the top ten sources of foreign investment into Scotland and three of our six largest export markets. Closer cooperation represents an important part of this overarching goal.

Tribute was also paid to Finland’s innovative Baby Box initiative, providing essentials for newborns given to new parents. This was introduced across Scotland over the summer; providing testament to the positive results of such collaboration between nations.

Therefore, with strong existing ties, not just in energy and low carbon technology, but in areas from food and drink and sustainable tourism, to fields such as education, life sciences and advanced engineering, it is clear that the Arctic Circle Assembly has much to gain from further collaboration.

The SNP Government will host the next Arctic Circle Forum, entitled “Scotland and the New North” on 19-21 November in Edinburgh with a focus on innovation, science and sustainable development. Going forward, this most recent effort to bolster links with our northern neighbours will undoubtedly result in the continuation of a mutually beneficial relationship for every nation involved.



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