Arctic Yearbook 2012
An Arctic Strategy for Scotland
comparable to the Saami, there is no serious discussion of indigenousness in Scotland (MacKinnon,
2008). A pro-independence Scottish administration is likely to focus more on the right of
self-determination and the corollary right to “freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources” as
it is first to claim the same in respect of Scotland’s off-shore oil wealth and on-shore renewables
(ICCPR, 1966, article 1(2); ICESCR 1966, article 1(2)).
In contrast to the United Kingdom’s Polar Regions Unit (devoted to both poles), Scotland’s
international department contains no devoted Arctic section and it would be a simple and relatively
cheap administrative step to establish an office to sit alongside its Edinburgh based Europe division.
A key priority of the Scottish government in any international cooperation is to promote business
interests (Scottish Government, 2008). Furthermore, for the SNP to win the referendum, it must
convince the Scottish electorate that its economy is both large and stable enough to stand alone.
Scotland remains a net exporter of oil and gas in contrast to the United Kingdom which as a whole is
a net importer but hydrocarbon resources are reserved as a UK asset (Continental Shelf Act 1964;
Scotland Act 1998, Schedule 5, Part II.D; United Kingdom 2011a). Extraction in the High North is
still vastly more expensive than in more temperate regions but commercial opportunities are
nevertheless opening and Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy holds 11 of Greenland’s 20 oil exploration
licences (Offerdal, 2009; Cairn Energy, 2011). Supporting the Greenlanders’ claims to self-
determination in an Arctic Strategy is not only good policy in terms of asserting the SNP’s own claim
to independence, but is also an astute economic move as long as the Greenlandic administration
continues with its very pro-extraction approach.
Scottish industry has opportunities beyond exploration and exploitation, with possibilities for
Scottish ports to be used as transit hubs (see below) and for crude processing at the refinery at
Grangemouth in the Forth Valley (the rest of the UK has a further eight refineries). Even if
resources are as hoped, Greenland might still lack the human and capital resources to build its own
refinery; construction may be prohibitively expensive given the high cost of importing materials,
limited internal transport networks, short construction season and increasingly unstable permafrost
(Eskeland & Flotorp, 2007) or a Greenlandic on-shore refinery might simply be unwelcome.
Grangemouth would be in direct competition with numerous other refineries (in particular