Norway's Centenary Celebrations

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:33 pm on 8th June 2005.

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Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 5:33 pm, 8th June 2005

Rob Gibson mentioned Peterhead's proximity to Stavanger, noting that it is only 470km away. However, Peterhead is a great deal closer to Norway than that. Peterhead is twinned with Ålesund, Peterhead Academy has regular exchange visits with Norwegian schools and my office is four minutes' walk from the Norwegian Government's office in Peterhead.

Inevitably, personal recollections dominate my view of Norway. My wife and I took the first ever flight of our lives from Aberdeen to Stavanger on 4 August 1969 and experienced the excellent Norwegian public transport when we took the hydrofoil from Stavanger up the coast to Haugesund, where we spend our honeymoon. The Norwegians have lessons for us in how to deal with remote rural communities that are connected by the sea.

We had asparagus soup and cream every day, there being a glut of asparagus in Norway that year, and had reindeer steaks on several occasions—yum, yum. I remember that every house that we passed displayed the national flag, which showed that people took a justifiable pride in being Norwegian.

We share a great deal with the Norwegians. We share the North sea, whose bounty over the past few years has already been referred to. The bounty of fish is a continuing one. I venture to say that the Norwegians are a great deal cleverer in negotiating for their special interests with regard to fish than we are, and we might well have something to learn from them.

A hundred years ago, Norway's population was less than half that of Scotland. Today, our populations are eeksie-peeksie and ours is heading in the wrong direction. Norway has a lot to teach us.

Jeg snakker ikke norsk. As far as I recall, that might mean that I do not speak Norwegian. However, I think Norwegian, which is much more important. For example, I believe in independence and I am not aware of any campaign to re-merge Norway with Sweden. Further, I believe in contributing to the world, and the very first United Nations Secretary-General was a Norwegian.

Norway is an example to us all and one that we should be emulating. Norway is always in my heart and will remain ever so.