Hello Scandinavia! Will Edinburgh soon be on the Baltic rim? – A response to the SNP’s idea of an independent Scandinavian Scotland

by Anna-Cara Keim

On December 5th the British newspaper The Independent published information about a Scottish government document revealing that, upon a Scottish independence, the current government in Edinburgh wants Scotland to “become Scandinavian”.

The idea is to build closer ties with Scandinavia and North Eastern Europe. Additional plans suggest that Scotland should join the Nordic security co-operation and the Nordic Council.

Scotland Scandinavian? Really? For us Scandinavians this is a bit difficult to believe. While Finland linguistically might not belong to the Scandinavian family, it is indisputably a Nordic state. The Nordic countries share, at least partially, a common history. They have very comparable cultural traditions and a similar mentality. However, Scotland does not fit the picture. Scottish culture is quite distinct and the only places where similarities with the Nordic culture can be discovered are on the remote Shetland Islands. The Shetland Norn (Norse) is a language that is part of the West Norse language group such as Faeroese or Norwegian. Yet, Shetland Norn is practically an extinct language nowadays. If at all it is only used for ceremonial purposes.

It will be very interesting to see what Scotland’s new Scandinavian identity will look like. This is, of course, given that the referendum on Scottish independence will succeed. Up to the present day Scottish identity has usually been defined against the English ‘Other’. The English ‘Other’, the English coloniser and the English imperial power have caused the Scots to define themselves as culturally distinct and indeed in every possible sense as simply very different from their English neighbour.

During my years in Scotland I had friends forbidding me to use the word lake – “because it is called a loch up here”. New Year’s Eve was always Hogmanay and no year passed without a Burns supper on January 25th. Others bought the Scottish national soft drink IrnBru, a disgustingly sweet and bright orange coloured beverage of no particular flavour only in glass bottles. The rumour said that the plastic bottles were produced “across the border”…

So will there soon be meatballs and gingerbread instead of haggis and shortbread?

We can only wait and see… (And on this note the ‘Other’ will have a cup of tea.)


  1. I think that in terms of ‘becoming Scandinavian’, what is meant is a closer cooperation with Scandinavian countries and not as in adapting a Scandinavian culture. As for Scandinavian/Nordic culture, is there such a thing anyway? All of the countries in Scandinavia/the Nordic region have similar but also distinct cultural practices, cuisine and history. Sure, there is a lot in common, but a lot of it differs. Scotland has also been semi-inside Nordic/Scandinavian culture for a very long time and does, indeed, have Nordic influences even outside the Shetlands. Having a Celtic influence is not a big problem either; Finland has certain East European influences that aren’t found in the Scandinavian peninsula, so the cooperation is already inclusive.
    Scottish independence is not such a great idea, but not because it can’t become a part of Scandinavia (which is a geographical area anyway, and one in which Finland and Iceland are not included), but because of various other reasons. I think that if Scotland wanted a closer cooperation with the Nordic region, they could easily adapt and fit in. The biggest problem would be that it’s been such an exclusive area for a very long time with a history of (sometimes forced) cooperation that goes long back and has survived a Swedish empire and the question is if that can accommodate a new arrival changing the dynamics, which have little to do with a common culture and more to do with a longstanding relationship.

  2. Technically you are right. Scandinavia is a histirical-linguistic entity that originally only denoted Sweden, Denmark and Norway but nowadays it is often used including Finland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland as well. Geographically, only Sweden and Norway are on Scandinavian peninsula.
    As for Scotland, even though it might have once been close to its Nordic neighbours right now it has definitely more in common with England. But we shall know more in 2014…

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