Showing posts with label scandinavia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scandinavia. Show all posts

Sunday 19 March 2017

A United Nations of Britain?

When I visited the Dublin Irish writers museum I picked up a card that listed the best of them.
As I looked at the illustrations list I thought of all the great Irish culture and how much the world has benefitted from these Irish voices.
Which made me think also of Scottish voices – our innovations, our Scots songs, the Scottish Enlightenment. Then there are the wonderful Welsh choirs. I thought of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Turner, Wordsworth too and the great English writers and artists.

I thought of the nations of Scandinavia – Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark – they were also once joined through a royal marriage.
For the past hundred years each nation has been able to offer the world its own unique voice and are stronger for it – while they are still the nations of ‘Scandinavia’. In fact their voices are an even clearer, unique and positive force in the world than ever before.
Finland offers one of the world’s best education system with highly trained teachers. Norway, Iceland and Denmark too offer a more collaborative approach to running society, that favours equality, fairness and hard work at its heart. All Scandinavian countries are flourishing as independent nations. There is no point looking at the US – the story there is so different - a newer place where each state is fairly autonomous and is more comparable to the EU.

Then I look at us here in this disunited kingdom of islands – the routes of division and discord, misunderstandings, wasteful squabbles, power sharing, disharmony, extreme inequality and class divisions. Many of these wounds run deep and will not easily heal, disappear or ever go away. There is really only a simple answer – to look over the North seas to our Scandinavian cousins and learn lessons of how self-determining nations are working in a healthy way both independent and together.

Perhaps we too on these islands, can be a United nations of Britain and I hope Britain does not only mean England? England has historically been reluctant to offer Scotland real federalism. This half way house of 30% tax and limited control of welfare is unworkable and for sure something has to give. This doesn’t compare well to other devolved nations or states in America  - such as Quebec, Catalonia – who control their immigration and taxes and broadcasting. Catalonia alone has four tv channels! While Scotland has none1

Knowing that Ireland used the pound sterling for 50 years after its independence, it was demoralising for our supposedly fair and equal union to hear that England would not allow Scotland to use the pound and also knowing that if the Bank of England refused to allow the use the pound, it would also have to refuse other countries access to do business in pounds sterling and was like shooting itself in the foot! Scotland felt bullied and told off like a naughty child told to go to its room to play with only the toys assigned to it.. 

Why would Scotland be like Greece – rather than Iceland, Norway or Denmark? We have more resources than Greece, better universities and R & D. Fear is not a good way to cement a happy union. Let us try to look forward with positive expectations.

It is strange Gillian Bowditch Sunday Times 5th March, sees Scotland as diminished by wanting what other nations have – I see Scotland instead as empowered and flourishing in the belief we are as confident, capable and able for self-determination as any other peoples!

Friday 23 December 2016

Norway's Independence

Scotland is often compared to Norway - in terms of population, oil, geography, long coastline, domination by an external power and more...
Norway was for 430 years tied to a union (due to Royal manoeuvrings much like here in the UK) first with Denmark and then with Sweden) For centuries Copenhagen was the cultural and business capital. Some of the union worked well with Norway trading wood, fish to Denmark. Eventually though in 1905 , Norway negotiated a peaceful separation from Sweden. It is not possible that Norway would ever wish to go back! Norway has a long border with Sweden too (just like Scotland and England) and both countries appear to manage their own sovereignty.

The Union with Denmark lasted between 1388 – 1814) – 434 years.
“Known as the 400-Year-Night.” Norway joined the Kalmar Union of all the Nordic countries ( ) in 1388.
The KALMAR UNION 1388 - King Magnus VII ruled Norway to 1350 when his son became Haakon VI. He married Margaret, daughter of King Valdemar IV of Denmark. In 1379 his son Olaf IV, at ten, accession to both the thrones of Norway and Denmark led to a personal union. Olaf's mother, Queen Margaret, managed the affairs of Denmark and Norway and wanted a union with Sweden, by having Olaf elected to the Swedish throne. Olaf IV died suddenly in 1388 and Denmark and Norway crowned Margaret as a temporary ruler. Queen Margaret decided on Eric of Pomeria, grandson of her sister to be king. Thus at an all-Scandinavian meeting held at Kalmar, Eric was elected King of the Scandinavian countries. Royal politics resulted in personal unions between all the Nordic countries and the thrones of Norway, Denmark and Sweden were under the control of Queen Margaret - known as the KALMAR UNION. (In 1521 Sweden broke out of the UNION)

The "400-Year Night” - Norway remained in a union with Denmark until 1814, a total of 434 years. In the 19th century, the national romanticism was known as the "400-Year Night", since the kingdom’s entire royal, intellectual and administrative power was centred in Copenhagen Denmark. Denmark supported Norway's needs for grain and food supplies, while Norway supplied Denmark with timber, metal, and fish. A great famine of 1695–96 killed 10% of Norway's population. The harvest failed in Scandinavia at least nine times between 1740 and 1800, with great loss of life. After Denmark–Norway was attacked by the UK in the Battle of Copenhagen, it entered into an alliance with Napoleon. Denmark lost in 1814, and ceded Norway to the king of Sweden, while the old Norwegian provinces of Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands remained with the Danish crown. 

**Norway took this opportunity to declare independence and adopted a constitution based on American and French models, and elected the Crown Prince of Denmark and Norway, Christian Frederick king in 1814. This is the famous Syttende Mai (Seventeenth of May) holiday celebrated by Norwegians and is the Norwegian Constitution Day.
Norwegian-Swedish War and Union with Sweden 1814 - Norwegian opposition to the great powers' decision to link Norway with Sweden caused war to break out. Sweden's military was not strong enough to defeat the Norway and Norway's treasury was not large enough to support a long war. British and Russian navies blockaded the Norwegian coast. They were forced to negotiate Convention of Moss and Union with Sweden. Christian Frederik abdicated the Norwegian throne and authorised the Parliament of Norway to make the necessary constitutional amendments to allow for the Personal union that Norway was forced to accept. On 4 November 1814 the Parliament (Storting) elected Charles XIII of Sweden as king of Norway.

Norwegian romantic nationalism - Norway kept its own liberal, independent institutions except for the foreign service. Following the recession caused by the Napoleonic Wars, economic development of Norway remained slow until economic growth began around 1830.  Norwegians sought to define and express a distinct national character. The movement covered all branches of culture, including literature Henrik Wegeland[1808–1845], Biomstierne Biomson[1832–1910], Peter Christen Asbionsen[1812–1845], Jergen Moe [1813–1882]), painting Hans Gude[1825–1903], Adolph Tidemand[1814–1876]), music Edvard Grieg [1843–1907]), and even language policy, where attempts to define a native written language for Norway led to today's two official written forms for Norwegian: Bokmai and Nynorsk.

King Charles III John, throne Norway and Sweden 1818 - 1844, was the second king after Norway's union with Sweden. He protected the constitution and liberties but he was also ruthless in the use of paid informers, secret police and restrictions on the freedom of the press to put down public movements for reform— in particular the Norwegian national independence movement.
**Dissolution of the union 1905 - Christian Michelsen, a shipping magnate and PM of Norway, 1905 - 1907, played a crucial role in the peaceful separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905. A national referendum confirmed the people's preference for a monarchy. No Norwegian could legitimately claim the throne because none was able to prove relationship to medieval royalty and in European tradition royal or "blue" blood is a precondition for laying claim to the throne. The government offered the throne of Norway to a prince of the German royal House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg. Prince Carl of Denmark was unanimously elected king by the Norwegian parliament, the first king of a fully independent Norway in 508 years (1397: Kalmar Union). He took the name Haakon VII. In 1905, the country welcomed the prince from neighbouring Denmark, his wife Maud of Wales and their young son to re-establish Norway's royal house. Following centuries of close ties between Norway and Denmark.

Norway is considered to be one of the most developed democracies and states of justice in the world. From 1814, c. 45% of men (25 years and older) had the right to vote, whereas the United Kingdom had c. 20% (1832), Sweden c. 5% (1866), and Belgium c. 1.15% (1840). Since 2010, Norway has been classified as the world's most democratic country by the Democratic Index.