The Arctic Circle – more SNP grandstanding

arctic-circle-map

The Arctic Circle (in red)

Until now, I thought the main SNP interest in Iceland was Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil’s Icelandic lessons which, according to his expenses claim, cost you and me £5,300. Now we discover the interest is more profound, with our first minister giving the keynote address today at this year’s Arctic Circle assembly – ‘Scotland and the Arctic.’

I don’t know if Angus is in the FM’s delegation. I hope not since he’s a member of neither the Scottish government nor parliament on whose behalf, presumably, the FM is attending. Anyhow, his invaluable language skills are unlikely to be needed since every Icelander I’ve heard speak in the media is word-perfect in English.

His presumed absence will also save a bob or two: the full Glasgow-Reykjavik return fare on Icelandair comes in at between £397 (economy) and £529 (business class – which politicians normally use), plus of course the costs of any overnight stay(s).

Ms Sturgeon isn’t travelling alone since the 7th seems to be something of a ‘Scotland Day’ in the assembly with, as well as her keynote speech, an ‘exhibit’ she is opening on ‘How can Design and Technology Transform Community Engagement Across the High North?’ curated by ‘Architecture and Design Scotland.’ Here’s a taster of its delights from the assembly programme:

arctic-circle-polar-bears

Where do you start with a sideshow that has the smack of desperation about it, something thrown together at short notice when we have little enough to add to an event not really about us? A child in a polar bear mask. Apart from Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park when did polar bears last tread the frozen wilds of Scotland? I assume the first minister will not have to don a polar bear mask to open the exhibit, although …

I assume also that our expertise notwithstanding, the High North is High North as in Greenland and Murmansk rather than Kirkwall and Lerwick, in which burghs Scotland might have more community engagement expertise than said locations within the Arctic Circle itself. Scotland, you don’t need telling, is somewhat South of the red line on that map above.

Still, when I was checking what interest our SNP government might have had previously in territories within the Arctic Circle, I was surprised to find Fiona Hyslop, ‘External Affairs Secretary,’ saying at an event in 2014 that:

With Shetland lying only 400 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle, Scotland is the next most northern country outside of the eight Arctic Council states.

So that’s alright then. Expect for the fact that Scotland has no devolved responsibility for external affairs and of course, if geographically correct, Ms Hyslop’s statement should have read, ‘the United Kingdom is the next most northern country outside of the eight Arctic Council states.’

I’ve been trying for the life of me to work out why the first minister has been invited to give the keynote address at an international conference on the Arctic Circle. Unless it’s the fact that she met the chair of the group and former president of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson at the 2015 Paris climate change conference, where not representing a nation state she was effectively part of the fringe programme.

I’m not aware of any particular expertise the Scottish government has in the Arctic Circle beyond that available more widely across the UK. As for design and technology transforming community engagement, I can’t say I’ve noticed much of that in Scotland, certainly not that we might have to teach the likes of Canada and the Nordic countries. Plenty to teach the Russians perhaps, with whose propaganda broadcaster Russia Today a few SNP politicians seem to be infatuated, but fat chance of them taking any lessons from our democratic UK.

The obvious conclusion which you’ll have probably already reached is that this is all about grandstanding and playing to the vanity of Ms Sturgeon’s separatist audience.

The rest of us will watch from afar and wonder not only what her wee expedition has cost but what benefit it will bring Scotland.

monkey-in-water

One of Ms Sturgeon’s delegation takes a well-earned dip in Reykjavik‘s famed Blue Lagoon

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5 Responses to The Arctic Circle – more SNP grandstanding

  1. Lulu says:

    Is anyone else starting to feel a bit sorry for Nicola Sturgeon? Here she is, head of the most powerful devolved legislature in the world, about to get a whole stack more powers from Brexit and all she can do is jet off to Iceland for yet more selfies or spout inane #wearescotland type hashtags. It seems to me that the poor thing is terrified of actually wielding the powers she’s been given and making any real decisions.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. wujeanty says:

    The heart of the problem here – ie, Scotland being allowed to infringe upon reserved areas – is the poor drafting of the Scotland Act 1998. Although it (fairly clearly) sets out the jurisdictions of the UK and Scottish Parliaments, it does not set out what penalties would be incurred if the devolved administration strays into territory reserved to the UK. I guess this was omitted for the simple reason that the legislators in London were mostly decent individuals who did not think that in a million years the devolved administration would be delivered into the hands of a fanatical nationalist party which would have no compunction in overstepping its authority. Moreover, the Labour government at the time in all likelihood believed, hubristically and utterly irresponsibly, that Scotland would remain forever Labour.

    But we are where we are, which is this: the Scottish Government, in involving itself with reserved matters, is quite clearly in breach of constitutional and contract law. So what can be done to stop this, in lieu of there being no mechanism for remedy in the various Scotland Acts?

    I believe there are two possible mechanisms:

    1. The UK Parliament legislates to introduce penalties whenever the Scottish Government strays into reserved territory. I have written to No. 10 suggesting this, but, frankly, I don’t think it will get anywhere politically, as it would provide all the ammunition necessary for the SNP to say, ‘Look, we told you! The English are out to get us!’.

    2. Some upstanding citizen with a lot of money goes to court to get an interdict forcing the Scottish Government to desist all activities in reserved matters (which would obviously include Nicola Sturgeon’s European tour). This, I think, would be the best way to do it, as 1) whoever took the action would surely win; and 2) there could be no (or at least not much) political capital to be gained by the SNP. Alas, I am not wealthy and have no wealthy friends to launch such an action, but perhaps anyone reading this who knows someone with deep pockets, and feels that they, too, are being defrauded of their taxes by the Scottish Government, might want to explore this further?

    Liked by 2 people

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