Scotland and Norway: a slightly confused love affair

As Scotland grapples with the conflicting issues around its immediate future, the fiesty ’yes’ voters for independence recently received an unexpected gift. The ’no’ leadership produced a campaign video titled ’the woman who made up her mind’. The film, a little poem of political and social ignorance was aimed, we gather, at women aged 35 to 45, happily domesticated by their menfolk, and with pretty heads untroubled by the gritty world of politics or social issues. The film shows, lets call her Trine, in her kitchen, kids off to school, cooker waiting for the buff of skurekrem, her brow wrinkled with confusion about an independent Scotland. A steadying cup of tea later, issues of oil revenue, passport control, the British pound and her Dad´s pension touched on fearfully, she has decided ’no’.

As a Scot living in Norway, I´d like to give the ’yes’ campaign a little more inflamatory fuel. Trine, you are worried, puzzling over the issue of future travel to England – your passport of course, and the thorny business of grappling with two currencies jangling in the Zara wallet the kids bought you last Christmas. Consider the following: Norway to neighbouring Sweden is a short hop in a ’plane. We Norwegians do not embark on this journey biting our fists, a flask of brandy to hand and possibly a handy Husky dog lest the border guards turn surly. Sweden has a different currency, true, but it also takes bank cards. And goodness, although they even have a different language, they understand ours too! We routinely show our ID at the airport, even when travelling within the country, just as you do flying from Aberdeen to Bristol. No-one expires from the stress. Denmark, Finland, Sweden – we flit between our neighbours grumbling about the weather and the respective merits of fish, but not in the fear that vast historical or political differences will rear up like Viking warriors.

We Scots nurse our own version of “janteloven”, Norwegian self-questioning. Doubt, suspicion and gloom befriend us like the low-lying fog on Lysefjord. Norway, with its own brooding silences, nevertheless seems a romantic world away across the North Sea. No doubt continuing references to its triumphant individualism are tiresome thorns in the side of the ’no’ protaganists. Norway – its seeming-impeccable handling of oil revenue, its comprehensively democratic tax system, its thriving rural economy, its education system´s (relative) resiliance in the face of private schooling, its health system – is justifiably the shining dream-state for the new Scotland.

None of the afore-mentioned are perfect – it is absurd for Scotland to imagine that Norway is a pristine, moan-free zone. Things break and fail; broken souls beg in the street. It rains. But Norway lives its independence with dignity rather than sentimentality, in deep community rather than in surface democracy, in love with its landscape and in tune with wealth of the ocean.

You can have all that in Scotland, Trine. It´s worth voting ’yes’ for.

Mary Miller
General and Artistic Director
Bergen National Opera

This article was published on the 10.09.14: The Scotsman

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