Nordic Council

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:22 pm on 30th October 2002.

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Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat 5:22 pm, 30th October 2002

I congratulate Kenny MacAskill on securing the debate and I, too, offer my congratulations to the Nordic Council on its anniversary.

My experience of nordic matters was limited until my late teens to the Swedish expression "Jag älskar dig". It means "I love you", which is quite useful. I worked later for some months during a winter in the Faeroes and it was that experience that came to mind when I was firming up my opinion of the link between Shetland, Orkney and the Faeroes. One could see that the populations and their actions were closely related.

It is alleged that the name of my home town of Tain comes from the Viking for meeting place—althing or thingwald, which also links to Dingwall. As one goes further north from Tain, through the east coast of Sutherland and into the county of Caithness, one will see Highland areas of Scotland that are very nordic. History runs all the way through it. One thinks of the Orkneyinga saga, the earls of Orkney and Caithness and even of a little farm near Dornoch called Cyderhall, which is a corruption of the Norse for Sigurd's Howe, referring to Earl Sigurd the Powerful. Almost every place name in Caithness comes from Viking or nordic languages.

I have always found it fascinating that there is a sharp line boundary to the nordic area of Caithness. After driving from the village of Reay towards Bettyhill along the north coast and just into Sutherland, one can see that two cultures are right up against each other—the dialect changes in a short space of time. One can still see in the print of the map that influence, about which George Reid talked so eloquently.

Everyone from Caithness would endorse completely what Kenny MacAskill said. We see a strong community of interest with the nordic regions. We also see vast opportunities for tourism and culture. When those are linked to the environmental interest, one can achieve a great deal.

We used to have a successful festival in Caithness—I am sure that John Farquhar Munro, Tavish Scott and Peter Peacock will remember the northlands festival. Great parties of children came to it from Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Faeroes and Iceland. The festival represented a linking of hands across the ocean. Sadly, that festival has fallen away but, by engaging across the sunlit northern seas as Kenny MacAskill suggests, we could breathe new life into what happened in the past. In that way, we could kick-start the culture of the north.

George Reid suggested that the idea of diversity is in no way impaired by people linking together. He is absolutely right. Diversity, like the facets of a diamond, is one of the great attractions of the world. As we become fed up with a homogenised and boring culture where all we have are Big Macs, we seek out something better and different. I commend the motion to the chamber.