13 January 2013

On the obscure Nordic horizon...

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a Pategonian burrowing owl? No! It's "Scandinavian-style social democracy", whatever that is.

References to the political systems of Nordic countries seem to be multiplying in the independence debate. Folk, keen to explore alternative models for smallish, prosperous states with generous welfare provision and low inequality, cast their eyes northeastwards, covetously, for opportunities to make off with Nordic blueprints for the sort of state an independent Scotland might try to become. Pete Wishart thinks that we'll reimagine Britishness as a loose, shared identity in these islands after independence, and think of England, Ireland and Scotland as forming a discrete unit of countries with shared historical, cultural and linguistic bonds, like the Swedes, Danes and Norwegians.

But are these shallow flirtations with little-understood systems, or serious proposals for shaping the sort of politics and state we might make of an independent Scotland? In practical terms, is it really a political comparison to set the heather alight and deliver a yes vote in 2014, or an obscure reference, lost on most folk, whose understanding of how states like Denmark actually work is limited to last night's Borgen marathon?

These are a few of the questions Michael and I put to Dominic Hinde in the first For A' That podcast of 2013.  Dominic is a doctoral researcher living between Stockholm and Edinburgh, has Green sympathies, and blogs over at Better Nation.  We also took a wee look at the developing political arguments around Trident over the festive season, and buttonholed it all with a chat about David Cameron, who is out to win your "hearts and minds" for the Union.

As usual, you can listen to it from here, or download it to your mobile gramophone for listening to later, from here, or on iTunes.


  1. Really enjoyed this especially Dominic's contribution. Very right about Alex Salmond's dippy linking of the Irish and Norwegian economies in that bizarre 'arc of prosperity' and about the Tory failure to realize we are a post-colonial country.

    Not sure though about the historical validity of any virtuous perplexity on the part of Dominic's Swedish pals regarding arms - there is Charles XII for one, of whom Dr Johnson said

    “His Fall was destin'd to a barren Strand,
    A petty Fortress, and a dubious Hand;
    He left the Name, at which the World grew pale,
    To point a Moral, or adorn a Tale.”

    Incidentally does Dominic know that the 'Better Nation' quote does not originate with Alasdair (who has grown tried of pointing this out)?

    Agree absolutely with you about the ludicrousness of likening Cameron to Flashman. I'll wager my complete presentation set against a signed Jeffrey Archer that George would be outraged!

  2. Glad it proved interesting, Edwin. I learned a lot from it, myself.

    It was an odd experience (and some time ago now), in yon museum in Stockholm. I don't think they felt as if Sweden hadn't been as warlike as its neighbours in the past. As I remember, the anxiety seemed to come from the historical identification with it. They struggled to reconcile their current sense of self with it. At least, that was my juvenile interpretation at the time.


    P.S. Flashman speaks for himself!

  3. Enjoyed the podcast too. And there really are Patagonian Burying Owls, bloody hell....

  4. Douglas,

    There are! This curious bird recalls an amusing story from my childhood. At that time I was a horrid little smout with an obsession with avian life forms. One of my teachers, I forget who now, announced to the class that "owls live in trees", to which I piped up, "what about the Pategonian burrowing owl?"

    I was lucky I didn't get a smack across the chops for that, I reckon.

  5. Burrowing owls are great!


  6. In an independent Scotland, the countryside will be festooned in the little blighters.