“How Scandinavian is Scotland?”, asks BBC News, in an article following a report in the Independent which discusses the Scottish Government’s desire to forge closer links with the country’s Nordic neighbours.
It is an interesting question, and those with even a cursory knowledge of Scottish history cannot deny that there are ethnic and cultural similarities between Scotland and Norway. But the Nordic-ness of the Scots is in no way unique when it comes to the British Isles. For example, the Anglo-Saxon line is genetically linked with southern Scandinavia, with those in the eastern parts of England sharing much with their brothers and sisters in Denmark and the northernmost bit of Germany. In an open society, culture and community are no respecters of political boundaries.
The people of Scotland, whether they be of Celtic, Scots or Pictish descent, can certainly draw links with Scandinavia, but a political cynic – albeit one who supports the dissolution of the United Kingdom – might be forgiven for thinking that the nationalist-led initiative is driven in part by a fear of losing the Orkney and Shetland Islands in the event of a declaration of independence by Scotland from the UK. The loss of Orkney and Shetland is a real danger for Scotland, as many of the inhabitants of the two archipelagos view their southern neighbour as an imperialist occupier.
I know this from having lived in the Northern Isles. The Scottish flag is an uncommon and often resented sight in Orkney and Shetland, even if over half a millennium has passed since the islands were pawned to Scotland in lieu of a royal dowry.
Despite my cynicism, and a general disdain for nationalism, however progressive it purports to be, the Scottish Government’s move makes political sense of a kind. That said, what the Norwegian and Danish states would make of it is another question. This isn’t discussed in either the BBC or Independent reports, and, from what I understand, the Scandinavians refuse to discuss the matter, with state agencies in Denmark and Norway routinely referring to Scotland as an integral part of “England”. Restricted legislative autonomy counts for nothing.