There’s no getting away from it, once Scotland is independent it will still share an island with whatever the rest of the dissolved Union opts to call its new state.
With the pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the present stresses in the global economy, it seems timely that mature nation-states with shared values and regional proximity are in the process of restating commitments to co-operation.
The five Nordic states, the Faroes Islands, Greenland and Åland have all just done so, recognising the benefits of working more closely together in times of crisis. The Ministers for Nordic Co-operation renewed these commitments in a declaration approved at their meeting in Halden, Norway, on 27-28 June, 2022. Symbolically perhaps, Halden sits right on the border between Norway and Sweden.
This re-affirming statement emerged:
‘Our vision of the Nordic Region as the most sustainable and integrated region in the world commits us to ensuring that the Nordic dimension is included in all our decisions and that in the event of any future crisis, we will work together to the greatest possible extent to make sure that our close Nordic sense of community is maintained. As ministers for Nordic co-operation, we consider this a collective responsibility.’ (my emphasis)
The new declaration calls for the ministers to meet when a crisis strikes and make sure that Nordic perspectives are taken into account before national decisions are made. The declaration commits ministers to play their part in ‘ensuring rapid and good communication and exchanges of information in order to limit the negative consequences of crisis-management decisions as far as possible’.
Anne Beathe Tvinnereim (Norway), the current chair of the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation stated. “The pandemic underlined how important it is for our countries to stand together in crises. In several areas, co-operation worked well, but COVID-19 also brought many new challenges. The important thing now is to learn from all those experiences, both the positive and the negative ones. The people of the Nordic Region have made it clear that they want to see closer co-operation in areas like contingency planning, and we take that message seriously,”
Key areas currently being advanced further in terms of co-operation include:
- learning from the pandemic on health-related matters
- on ‘societal security’, building on the earlier Haga Declaration which envisioned: ‘A robust North without borders. The vision aims for a society with decreasing vulnerability while strengthening the capability of handling serious accidents and crises and restoring functionality’
- through NORDEFCO, the Nordic Defence Cooperation.
Notably, the Halden declaration emphasises that politicians have a particular responsibility for ‘the situation in areas where people’s day-to-day lives involve crossing national borders’. During the meeting the ministers met with the ‘Freedom of Movement Council’.
This Council is a politically appointed body, set up by Nordic governments to promote freedom of movement in the region for both people and companies. It was formed in 2014. The chair rotates annually between the national representatives in line with the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The chair and the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers have the overall responsibility for work on freedom of movement.
It holds that: ’Promoting freedom of movement is about creating a more open Nordic Region, where it is possible to relocate, commute, study and run a business across national borders without getting bogged down in grey areas or caught up in ambiguous red tape. An open Nordic Region benefits us all.’
Given all of the above, it’s worth stating this for the avoidance of any doubt: there is no pressure from citizens or their politicians to merge the independent Nordic nation-states. There is nothing deemed incompatible between independent statehood and deepening co-operation – where there is trust and shared values between neighbouring states and between related, proximate communities!
So despite implications to the contrary in some Unionist quarters, there is no reason – given respect and goodwill set alongside mutual self-interest – why independent nation states occupying the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, including an independent Scotland – could not, should not pursue a shared vision and establish similar enabling, co-operative structures.
This should be done for two basic reasons. Firstly, not to lose unnecessarily the best of what already exists between the different countries – between Scotland and the rest of the present UK and, despite current tensions, what still exists between Ireland and the present UK. And secondly, to evolve and further enhance co-operative/co-development relationships over time.
I’d like to think that AFTER Scotland becomes an independent nation-state such co-operative agreements will be widely seen as sensible and attractive, even in Westminster. BEFORE independence they well be dismissed out of hand as irrelevant or impossible by some!
However, let’s not be naive: the big outstanding question is what a Westminster-centred, English/British establishment mindset is capable of in terms of positive, progressive adaptation to a radical change in circumstance!