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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Rachael Lorna Johnstone offers a distinct view from Scotland in a separate chapter of the
For the sake of brevity, UK policy in the European Union context is not discussed.
The Arctic in UK Policy
Traditionally, the UK has been an Antarctic state. However, in recent years, an increasing number of
civil servants and parliamentarians in London have become aware of, and started reacting to,
extraordinary environmental changes occurring in the Arctic (ACIA, 2004). These reactions have
gone beyond simply invoking the Arctic in service of an established ‘Green’ domestic political
agenda as reported in the British media (Jowit and Aarskog, 2006), or as a natural extension to the
UK’s activities in the British Antarctic Territory. The meeting of Arctic stakeholders in Oban,
Scotland, hosted by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and the UK Parliament
Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry, ‘Protecting the Arctic’, as well as the provision of funding
for a new Arctic science programme, are indicative of just some of the ways in which the British
government has recently sought to clarify how the Arctic matters to the UK (DEFRA/JNCC, 2008;
Parliament, 2012; NERC, 2012). The Ministry of Defence has also shown greater interest in the
future security of the region (DCDC, 2007; 2010).
While there is ambiguity about whether the UK has any kind of formal Arctic Strategy (Archer, 2011;
Depledge and Dodds, 2011), in 2011 the FCO Minister, Henry Bellingham, outlined a tentative
statement of intent:
Our principal aims in the Arctic are to promote peace and good governance, and
increase UK influence in the region by maintaining good bilateral and multilateral
relationships with the Arctic States, for example through supporting the work of the
Arctic Council and other international and regional bodies.
The UK recognises the need to protect the Arctic environment, particularly in light of
rapid regional climate change, but also recognises that the Arctic region is crucial to
UK energy security and of increasing interest to British business and scientists. The
government therefore works with the Arctic states to promote and support British
interests in the region, including in respect of science, energy, fisheries and potential
transport routes opened up by melting sea ice” (
, 2011: col 700W).
The website of the FCO further helps to orientate the direction of UK engagement with the Arctic.
The UK’s “active role in Arctic affairs” since the 16
Century, its geographical position as the
“Arctic’s closest neighbour”, the presence of British citizens and the implications of climate change
(including for energy security and increased shipping) are all invoked in various accounts of UK-
Arctic relations where past, present and future are used to justify the UK’s continuing interest (and