Nordic Council

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

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Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 5:30 pm, 30th October 2002

Most of the issues that I wanted to raise have been covered, but I would like to emphasise one point. I hope that we can get actively involved in the Nordic Council, rather than just talk to the other members politely. Within the European Union, there is an opportunity to make a collective northern European voice heard. The centre of gravity of the European Union is 400 or 500 miles south of here. We could have useful allies in the nordic countries, so I hope we can get proper membership and collaboration with them.

The nordic countries talk our sort of language with regard to democracy and attitude to life. They even share our serious drink problem, so we have a lot in common. They could help us not to be peripheral, but to get to the heart of and have great influence in Europe. I hope that when Estonia and Latvia join the European Union, they can also be involved more in the nordic union. Perhaps we may even entice some of the German Länder that touch the Baltic. There was a great civilisation in that area. First, of course, there were the Vikings, but then there was the Hanseatic league, which had a tremendous effect and conducted very rich trading all the way round the Baltic. People from Helsinki are to benefit a lot from Scottish culture. In addition to the story that Irene Oldfather told us, about the opera, the Edinburgh Youth Orchestra is having a 40th anniversary tour next year, starting in Helsinki and then going on to Estonia, Latvia and Russia.

I hope that, politically, we can make a real union with the nordic countries. I endorse George Reid's well-expressed points about the history. The more we can do to persuade our young people that history did not start with the birth of Princess Diana or David Beckham, the better. We have huge connections with the nordic countries. Scottish children all learn about the Vikings, because primary schools always have projects where they draw the helmets with the horns, which some pundits believe the Vikings did not actually have. We were closely involved with those countries. As George Reid said, we made a lot of contributions to them, and they have also made a contribution to us. There are considerable companies that started in Scandinavia and which now work in Scotland. I hope that we can develop good historical teaching, develop our culture and unite with those people, who are our cousins.

I welcome this debate and the idea of joining the Nordic Council. It would give us the opportunity to flex our muscles a bit in foreign affairs without interfering with the sovereignty of nations and all that rubbish that we are meant to believe in.