Arctic Connections: Scotland’s Arctic policy framework

Local MSP Kenneth Gibson reports on a new Arctic Policy Framework that the SNP government have launched which aims to build on the historical links that Scotland has with the Arctic region and develop opportunities to progress work on environmental and climate change issues.

Last month, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP, launched Scotland’s first Arctic Policy Framework.

During the launch in Orkney, Ms Hyslop highlighted past collaboration and joint exploration, while looking ahead to how Scottish expertise on Arctic issues can lead to further work with Arctic partners.

Countries with territories in the Arctic, ranging from Canada to Norway, Russia to Iceland are already major trade partners for Scotland, accounting for around 27.5% of our overseas exports in 2017. They are also originate nearly half of all foreign direct investment in Scotland.

Over the last five years Scottish organisations have secured a total of €6.8 million through the Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) programme. To date, over half the projects funded through the NPA programme have involved a Scottish dimension.

Scotland has the expertise and vision to serve as a link between the Arctic region and the wider world, with opportunities to help tackle issues such as sustainable tourism, renewable energy and climate change.

The launch of the framework brought together policy makers, academics, business leaders and others interested in the future of Scotland’s relationship with the High North. This framework will create opportunities to take forward key environmental and climate change work and strengthen trade and investment links in areas such as renewable energy as well as promoting Scotland as a well-placed marine transport and logistics hub.

As part of this, the SNP Government is establishing a fund which will support people to people links and help communities build Arctic relations and encourage Scottish universities to participate even closer with the University of the Arctic. The fund will also promote knowledge exchange within digital heath care and education in remote areas and advance our cultural connections.

For centuries, Scotland and the Arctic enjoyed close links with a lasting impact on our cultural, economic and social fabric. While most visible in our northernmost areas, these bonds are evident across the country and lie at the heart of our valued relationship with Arctic states. Scotland is among the Arctic region’s closest neighbours and we share many features and philosophies, having long looked to each other for inspiration, solutions and ideas.

To this day, connections forged through history continue to spawn new academic partnerships, trade exchanges, artistic projects and joint cooperation. Enabled by new technologies, a deep understanding of Scottish-Arctic similarities has led to rich collaboration across a range of areas, from improving connectivity and invigorating rural economies, to making sustainable use of marine resources and cultivating cultural heritage.

At a time when the Arctic is the focus of growing geopolitical attention, this framework puts people back at the heart of Scottish-Arctic dialogue. Scotland remains an outward looking European nation, committed to positive relationships with both our European neighbours and those further afield, despite the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU.

The Arctic Policy Framework launch is the starting point in a new exciting era for Scottish-Arctic relations. The SNP Government’s commitment to the region is clear and Scotland will remain an active partner in facing both the challenges and opportunities presented by our ever-changing world.