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Arctic Yearbook 2012
An Arctic Strategy for Scotland
2008; four months later, as the international banking crisis devastated Iceland and Ireland, this “Arc
of Prosperity” language caused much mirth amongst the Scottish opposition parties who pointed to
the collapse as “evidence” of the vulnerability of small economies. In retrospect, while the Irish
economy remains in a woeful condition, the recovery in Iceland might be drawn on by the SNP to
demonstrate the resilience of small, independent nations and further encourage depictions of
Scotland’s “Nordic” identity.
It is not inconceivable that a fully fleshed out Arctic plan will follow, although this is not currently in
the making and there is no Arctic division comparable to the other regional divisions within the
Scottish international department (R. Dunn, [personal communication, December 9, 2011]; Scottish
Government, 2011a). Other sub-national statal and non-statal entities have prepared or are preparing
comparable strategies so Scotland would not be unusual in this regard (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami &
Circumpolar Council, 2008; Rovaniemi, 2011; Lapin liitto, 2011; Nordic Council, 2012). Further, as
evidenced by the diverse contributions to this Yearbook,
numerous non-Arctic States are coherently
pursuing their interests in the High North.
Strategies of Arctic states and the European Union (EU) begin by justifying themselves: identifying
their respective organs as having valid interests in the Arctic and explaining the need for a dedicated
Arctic strategy. The statements become stronger as one moves away from the Arctic five towards the
peripheries: for example, Sweden devotes one of only four chapters to Sweden’s Arctic connections
(Sweden, 2011); the European Commission’s Communication proclaims that the EU is “inextricably
tied to the Arctic Region… by a unique combination of history, geography, economy and scientific
achievements” (European Union, 2008: 2). By contrast, Norway, more secure in its Northern
identity, considers its links only fleetingly in a two-page foreword, within a ten chapter, 73-page
document (Norway, 2006) and Russia’s strategy contains one brief section defining its own Arctic
region and its particular characteristics (Russia, 2008, Section I). Scotland, not being a state, let alone
an Arctic state, let alone a littoral state, would likely devote an extensive chapter explaining the
reasons why Scotland of all places should have an Arctic strategy at all. Some factors for
consideration here follow. The most northerly town on mainland Scotland (Thurso) sits at 59°
North; the Shetland Isles at 60° North. Shetland lies 324 nautical miles from the Arctic Circle but the
theoretical possibility of a continental shelf branching into the Arctic Circle is not borne out by
ocean floor maps (Earle, 2009: 104-5). Clearly then, Scotland is not within the Arctic Circle and
cannot describe itself as an Arctic nation. However, as the Arctic Council has recognised, Arctic