Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:10 pm on 30th October 2002.
I thank Kenny MacAskill for securing the debate. I am pleased that, today and next month, the Parliament will have the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the Nordic Council's 50 th anniversary. I am aware of the Presiding Officers' work to develop relations with the council
The debate and the work of the Parliament and my committee—the European Committee—show that Europe's newest and youngest Parliament is forward and outward looking. As a new Parliament, we have much to learn from the experience of others, but we also have much to contribute to a modern and vibrant Europe. We have much in common with nordic countries, not least our maritime heritage.
Kenny MacAskill spoke about co-operation. I will mention a project of interregional co-operation between my area—North Ayrshire—and children in Helsinki. With the help of Scottish Opera and funding from Europe, the project involved the commissioning of an opera called "Turn of the Tide", which is based on our joint maritime heritage and culture. The work was most professional and was performed by primary school children from Helsinki and from Irvine. Performances took place in Helsinki and in the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine.
The opera not only charted the history of conflict and co-operation between our seafaring nations and allowed children to enhance their language and performance skills, but allowed very ordinary children from very ordinary backgrounds to broaden their horizons, build their self-esteem and understand at first hand and at an early age the meaning of co-operation with partners in Europe. Members will agree that our children are our future, so it is appropriate to involve them in such projects. The Scottish Parliament information centre's briefing says that educational links are important to the Nordic Council's work and I fully endorse that.
Kenny MacAskill spoke about a commitment to finding common solutions to common problems and to sharing an understanding of where we have come from and where we want to go together in a peaceful and prosperous Europe. Those are the foundations of the European project. With its new Parliament, Scotland is well placed to be not only an observer of that stage and that future, but a participant. I look forward to welcoming to the Parliament in November our nordic colleagues. I am happy to celebrate the anniversary with the Parliament.