What Price Trade Links With the North ?

By Fiona Grahame

FionaWith the economic consequences of a hard Brexit starting to be realised and the lack of direction from the UK Government attention in Scotland is turning more towards links with our northern neighbours. Whilst trade and engagement with adjacent nations is always to be looked on favourably perhaps in our haste to promote these links we need to be aware of a more complex picture of the activities of those we share the northern seas with.

Map of the FaroesOrkney’s position where the North Sea meets the North Atlantic has placed it for millennia in a favourable strategic location both for military and trade purposes. Once part of the Pictish nations of Scotland it was successfully conquered by the Norse Vikings in the 8th C who ruthlessly obliterated the native culture.

In 1472 the islands became officially part of Scotland in a Royal trade deal as part of a dowry between the Scottish crown and King Christian of Norway and Denmark.

It was important as the last watering hole for ships plying the route to Canada as part of the Hudson Bay Company. During both World Wars the sheltered bay of Scapa  Flow  played host to the Royal Navy and protected the UK from invasion via Nazi occupied Norway.

Today Scotland takes part in meetings hosted by the Arctic Assembly. For the first time Scotland hosted a Forum in Edinburgh from 19th – 21st November 2017 and talks explored the shared challenges facing northern nations, including those affecting remote and island communities, such as:

  • Growing tourism in a way that involves and benefits local people, while also safeguarding the environment
  • Experiences from across the region in local projects to harness renewable energy and low carbon technology
  • Ensuring young people have a voice and are able to influence the decisions on the future of their communities

Chair of the Arctic Circle Assembly  Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson,  former President of Iceland said:

“Scotland has formed policies in areas which are of great importance to us in the Arctic, including climate change, clean energy, new forms of economic activity, shipping and tourism. Therefore I very much look forward to participating in the forum in Edinburgh, and furthering the Arctic Circle’s links and cooperation with the Scottish Government.”

Scotland is also being encouraged to establish links with a view to participating in the West Nordic Council  and in NORA ( The North Atlantic Cooperation).

Membership of the West Nordic Council consists of Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. NORA involves Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Coastal Norway.

Writing in CABLE magazine Morten Stemre an advisor with NORA who lives in the Faroes said:

“Representatives of NORA and the Highlands and Islands Council share an interest in preserving the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme as an important source of development financing, once the UK – and by extension Scotland – exits in European Union in 2019.”

Describing Scotland’s involvement as a new ‘North Atlantic Rim’ Morten Stemre states:

“As it pursues its opportunities in the ‘New North’, Scotland – and indeed the Highlands and Islands as a distinct entity – can possibly lead the way towards new regional cooperation and organisational setups across the North Atlantic Rim”

The three island authorities of Scotland have pursued stronger links with the Faroes. Sandy Clunes of SIC (Shetland Islands Council), Stephen Hagan of OIC (Orkney Islands Council ) and Alex MacDonald of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) first officially visited the Faroe Islands in 2004 where they met with the Prime Minister Joannes Eidesgaard. This was to see a succession of meetings taking place between the island authorities and the Faroes.

Although not in the EU The Faroes have a very lucrative fishing deal .

3.2 The Delegations agreed to grant reciprocal access for 2018 to one another’s waters as follows:

  • The European Union is granted access to fish 30,877 tonnes of its 2018 catch limit in Faroese waters
  • The Faroe Islands are granted access to fish 30,877 tonnes of their 2018 catch limit in EU waters of ICES Sub-area 6a north of 56* 30’N1 

fibre optic cableWhat the Faorese were also extremely interested in was delivering fast broadband connections. A plethora of correspondence took place between leaders of OIC and Faroese Telecom to broker a deal.

Páll Højgaard Vesturbú, managing director of FT Net said:

“The local councils and the population in general have shown great interest in our proposal in both Orkney and Shetland. We have also felt a large demand in the Northern part of Scotland and in the Hebrides for Faroese Telecom to solve their problems with poor mobile coverage.”

Their proposals can be viewed here. SHEFA Presentation OE2013

They had support from influential journalist Lesley Riddoch who wrote in The National

“Faroese Telecom are ready and able to provide mobile broadband on Shetland as comprehensively as they have done on the Faroe Islands thanks to a fibre-optic cable that runs from the Faroes to Shetland and Orkney before dropping down to Banff. ” 

Instead the Scottish Government  announced in December 2017 that it will focus on delivering superfast broadband access to Scotland’s rural and island communities, ” to provide a truly national fibre network.” Targeting Superfast Broadband for Rural Areas

Fergus Ewing

Photo Scot Gov

Fergus Ewing, Connectivity Secretary in the Scottish Government   said:

“Reaching 100% will not be easy to achieve, however achieve it we must. Fast and reliable digital connectivity is a fundamental expectation of all communities, regardless of location.

“To deliver our ambition, this government is investing £600 million through the Reaching 100% programme – more than any government in the UK has ever invested in broadband.” 

More recently Stornoway born  Angus MacDonald SNP MSP for Falkirk East who sits on the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Nordic Nations has proposed new ferry links between Scotland and Scandinavia.

Speaking to  the Holyrood Magazine Angus MacDonald said:

it is vital that we develop and maintain strong connections with the rest of Europe in order to keep enticing tourists to Scotland – and the economic benefit of increasing visitor numbers from some of the world’s wealthiest nations is clear, with Scandinavian tourists spending nearly £8.5 billion in the UK between 2011 and 2016.

“And it is not only tourism that could benefit, but our whole economy – a potential passenger/cargo ferry could have the twin effect of increasing tourist numbers as well as growing our exports across the North Sea.”

No one would deny that stronger trade and social links with our northern neighbours would not be beneficial to all concerned but before we launch into actual negotiations and sign any deals we have to look at other aspects of those nations which should cause us to stay our hand.

The Faroes, not an independent nation but part of the Kingdom of Denmark takes part in The Grind. A barbaric slaughter of pilot whales and other marine mammals that get caught up in it. Environmentalist campaigners Sea Shepherd actively oppose The Grind.

“While the Faroe Islands are not a member of the European Union, they remain a Danish Protectorate. In other words, even though the Faroes are self-governing, Denmark controls the police, defense, foreign policy, and the currency. All trade with EU countries is handled through the Danish foreign ministry. The primary reason for the Faroes abstaining from joining the EU was in an effort to prevent the EU from meddling in their fishing policies. The slaughter of cetaceans is illegal within the European Union.”

The written and photographic accounts of The Grind are truly horrific . Report on the first grindadráp of 2017

The Grind

Whaling in the Faroe Islands (Credit: Erik Christensen)

Consumption of this whale meat is considered by many in the international community to be unsafe due to the large number of pollutants found  in it. According to Sea Shepherd ‘ Meat resulting from the grind contains high amounts of arsenic, cadmium, zinc, lead, copper mercury, and selenium.’

Whaling continues in Norway.

“Norway hunts minke whale’s under an ‘objection’ to the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) global ban, or moratorium, on commercial whaling. The hunts rely on state subsidies and the government is constantly searching for new markets to exploit, with young people and tourists being major targets. Norway has aggressively fought to retain its right to hunt whales despite it being unnecessary, uneconomical and unquestionably cruel.Whaling in Norway

In 2016 Norwegian whalers killed 590 minke whales.

Those who support  having closer ties with the Nordic nations have argued that with more engagement Scotland could more effectively voice its objections to the continuation of whale slaughter. Highly debatable given the lack of effect international condemnation has had.

Our elected representatives need to think long and hard about what they do in our name.  Forging links with nations who continue to flout international laws and participate in these atrocities comes at a price to our reputation as a nation. A nation which prides itself as being forward thinking and internationally responsible in its actions.

“The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have. That lays upon us, whether we like it or not, an awesome responsibility. In our hands now lies not only our own future, but that of all other living creatures with whom we share the earth.” David Attenborough




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19 replies »

  1. I said this in the comments to a previous article in ‘The Orkney News’, and I’m going to repeat it…………

    “My gripe with the Faroe Islands is that they pointlessly round up and slaughter whales and dolphins. That makes me think that no one should agree with the Faroese about anything, until they stop doing that!”

    Though I don’t imagine The Powers That Be give a tuppeny damn about what I think!

    • Pointlessly? Are you one of those false preachers that tell lies about the faroes like: “They kill for fun” – “They throw all the meat away” etc? Shame on you. You more then fail as a journalist.

      • Hello Steintor
        I’m not a journalist. I’m also not a “false preacher”, or a liar. I’ve never said that the Faroese “kill for fun”. Admittedly , I have never been to the Faroes, have never witnessed this annual kill for myself – wouldn’t want to, whatever the reason is, for that kill. So, I have to rely on reportage, whilst being well aware that the media can be very questionable when it comes to truth-telling. I didn’t base my comment only on the Orkney News item – it’s the culmination of much reportage of the annual ‘kill’ in the Faroe Islands, of various marine life – intentional and un-intentional. As I understand it, it’s mainly due to tradition, and many traditions are no longer relevant.
        If this kill is needed, for food, in a place where, as another comment here mentions, it’s not easy to get to a supermarket, then – to kill for food can be necessary, and not pointless. To kill otherwise, is….pointless.
        I live on Orkney, where there are supermarkets, which, if you live out of the way and don’t drive, are a bit difficult to get to – it’s not a case of popping out to the shops! Also, I am from subsistence level farming family in Ireland, and do, completely understand the need to get food where you can find it, but…….
        Is the Faroese kill of these creatures for food? Entirely for food? or is it tradition?

    • It’s the other way around. The killing of pilot whale for food has become a tradition be cause of its’ significance and the fact that it’s been a thing since the early viking age, around year 800.

  2. Wauv, Fiona! Your article totally reveal you ignorance regarding the Faroe Islands and OUR legal and natural right to harvest Pilot whales for FOOD. It´s obvious on which sources you base your ignorant conclusions! You and the rest of the ignorant worshipers of the criminal parasite and fraud Paul Franklin Watson and is eco terrorist organisation Sea Shepherd are the scum of the Earth. No more, no less!

  3. I think you should stay in your comfortable couches, and wait for your government to do it for you. What has fast internet ever brought anyone anyway?
    As to it being pointless hunting food in your own waters, I totally agree. Food is irrelevant, as you can get it from the lovely people at Montsanto and Nestle.

  4. A typical Sea Shepherd supporter they can never tell the whole truth, why do you not tell us that Iceland and Greenland also catch whales. The Orkeny can stay far away from the Faroe Islands Norway, Iceland and Greenland and we can promise you that Orkeney will stand very alone.

    • This woman is not a part of the Orkney majority, shes just trying to get sales or clicks from her Google Adsense

  5. what a bunch of braindead trolls …. desperately trying to defend their status as international criminals ….. barbaric scum! one day the civilised rest of the world will turn on you vermin and treat you like the scum you are

    • But, howcome it’s the leader of the Sea Sheperds that’s on a wanted list for international crimes, and furthermore only members of the Sea Sheperds being arrested, tried and convicted of crimes.
      Even the EU Commision have dismissed the alligations of a crime on the Faroe Islands.
      There’s something fishy about your statements.

  6. it is so obvious where you got your so called information from. barbaric really cant you come up with anything original for once? i bet you all sit in your cities judging everything you cannot understand. nothing new to see besides the same stupidity. i’d like to see you live in a place where you cannot go to the supermarkets I’d love to see your reactions then.

  7. Almost amusing to see the loaded and primitive vocabulary; so incredibly removed from balanced and informed basis of knowledge. Completely void of scientific standards. I pity you – please get well soon as I quite like to think that you are good, somewhere deep down, at least I hope…

  8. Are you drinking café latte with Gail Ross, or are you some kind of special stupid, to cite Sea Shepherd as a legit informationist?

  9. A lot of people have got very angry, and some have become gratuitously insulting to the writer of this item.
    For that matter, one person has been insulting to the Faroes, generally, as a nation, which isn’t a right thing to do, either!
    That is never a good way to make your case.
    Would one of you like to write a piece for The Orkney News, stating the other side of the argument, reasonably, and factually?
    I’m not being sarcastic, I mean it. I am a great believer in all sides of an argument being presented, reasonably, then folk can come to their own conclusions.
    I look forward to seeing a reasoned, factual article in response to Fiona’s.

  10. Just to be clear. Killing Pilot Whales in the Faroe Islands is totally legal. The Pilot whale is not endangered, killed quickly (< 2 sek.) and humanely. The meat is used for human consumption.

  11. From the article: “Forging links with nations who continue to flout international laws and participate in these atrocities comes at a price to our reputation as a nation.”

    The author seems confused. Neither Norway nor the Faroes flout international law.

    Elsewhere in her article, the author acknowledges that Norway whales under an objection to the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. The same international law that created that moratorium also contains provisions which allow members to object to, and not be bound by the ban. Availing themselves of this option is not flouting international law.

    The author also acknowledges that the Faroes are not part of the EU. As such, the Faroes are not bound by EU regulations concerning cetaceans. The author goes on to state the Sea Shepherd position that due to the relationship with Denmark, a nation which is bound by EU regulations, it should follow that the Faroes also be bound by these regulations. Sea Shepherd wishing it were so, does not make it so. The Faroes can not flout a law which does not apply to them.

    Hopefully, as Scotland moves forward in establishing relations with her northern neighbors, she does not rely on such misinformation as presented here.

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