As a northern European country, Scotland shares a common region with its Nordic and Baltic neighbours. Scotland must develop its cooperation with Nordic countries to promote social justice, climate responsibility, regional security, and prosperity.
The Brexit vote disappointed Scotland and pushed this country to pursue another independence referendum, hoping to be independent, rejoin the European Union, and take control of its natural resources as well as its future. The Scottish government has been looking towards the Nordic countries for new opportunities and closer collaboration.
On 30 January 2020, one day before the Brexit transition period began, a delegation from the Nordic Council visited Scotland. Both sides emphasised the importance of cultural bonds and historical ties between the Nordic countries and Scotland. Representatives from the Nordic region told the Scottish representatives that this country will always have friends among the Nordic countries despite Brexit and that the practical cooperation between both sides will continue. The Scottish hosts emphasised the geographical, historical, and cultural bonds between them and hoped to continue their friendship based on these bonds to expand cooperation in the future.
Scotland Planned for Strengthening Ties with Northern Europe
The Nordic countries consist of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Aland. Following Scotland’s parliamentary elections in May, the Scottish National Party (SNP) secured 64 seats out of 129 and focused on independence. It stated that independence would foster stronger ties between Scotland and the rest of the UK and Europe. Also, in its 2021 manifesto, the SNP said it would expand Scotland’s international network in the coming years.
Joining the Nordic countries is not just a logical economic and political movement for an independent Scotland. It is because both sides have a shared lifestyle and nature. The Scottish government had already introduced a policy framework for ties between Scotland and the arctic region, including Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland, in addition to a few more countries. The Scottish government intends to reinforce cooperation with its arctic partners by paving the way for a new policy and exchange of knowledge.
Nordic Countries Want Scotland to Be a Close Partner
During the 2014 vote for the first Scottish independence referendum, there was speculation about establishing a connection between Scotland and the Nordic Region. However, the outcome of the referendum was a No to leaving the UK. Later in 2016, when the Brexit referendum was held, more than 62% of Scottish voters said No to leaving the European Union. Nevertheless, the UK as a whole voted to leave, which was against the collective will of the Scots. Scotland has insisted that another independence referendum must be held to let people decide for themselves. Still, Scotland cannot automatically rejoin the EU if it votes to leave the UK, making it easier to be a part of the Nordic countries.
Scotland and the Nordic countries had already highlighted their close cultural and historical ties, and in 2020 the president of the Nordic Council assured that this council would do everything in its power to ensure close ties and cooperation with Scotland would continue.
Nordic, Baltic Countries of Great Importance to Scotland
Scotland always aimed to continue expanding its ties with the Nordic countries throughout and beyond the Brexit negotiations. Since the 2014 independence referendum, the Scottish government has engaged with the Nordic-Baltic region and meetings have been held between the officials of both sides. In 2017, Scotland updated its Nordic-Baltic Statement, which led to bilateral engagement between them.
The Nordic countries have stated that Scotland will always have them as a close friend despite Brexit. During the Brexit transition period, the Scottish first minister at a conference in Oslo expressed her regret for the freedom of movement ending, but argued that an independent Scotland could cooperate with other European nations and the Norwegian government and businesses. She also expressed her support for a project between Scotland and Scandinavia that makes the transfer of renewable energy possible. The Scottish government considers Nordic and Baltic countries an opportunity for renewable energy exports.
Scotland Develops Political, Trade, Academic Ties with Scandinavia
If Scotland gains independence, it will dramatically shift its attention away from the UK towards the Scandinavian countries and follow the army model of its northern neighbours. For the past decade, SNP leaders have sought an independent Scotland which could look to northern Europe for cooperation. Nationalist strategists believe that Scotland has many everyday things to share with its Scandinavian neighbours and that the Scotts can have closer trade cooperation with these countries.
The current SNP government aims to develop trade and investment links with the northern European countries and strengthen relations between governments for better cooperation on economic, academic and innovation projects. During COP26, the Scottish government plans to host events at the Nordic Pavilion and encourage new Scottish-Arctic research partnerships. To increase Scotland’s economic and cultural visibility in the Nordic region, the Scottish government will open an office in Copenhagen and later another office in Warsaw. These offices will be helpful in supporting Scotland’s increasing cooperation with the Nordic and Baltic nations.
Brexit has reshaped the UK’s foreign policy and changed its place in Europe and the world. In Scotland, opposition to Brexit was so strong that the Scottish government stressed on its policy of seeking independence. The Scottish government, a combination of nationalists, has long looked towards other countries to increase and strengthen cooperation with them.
The northern European neighbours are the leading countries with whom Scotland has decided to establish strong ties. Scotland is a small nation, and as an independent country it can use the Nordic countries’ model to collaborate with the EU. Nordic and Baltic countries have also welcomed Scotland, and officials of both sides have made numerous visits to discuss closer economic, academic, and social cooperation. The upcoming COP26, the climate change conference in Glasgow, is a good opportunity for Scottish officials to sit and talk with their northern European counterparts.