Scotland released a new Scottish Arctic Policy on Monday, 23 September 2019. This may be seen as part of the country’s ongoing efforts to mitigate risks related to Brexit, but it makes a lot of sense regardless of what happens with the evolving drama between the UK and the EU. Scotland has always been a part of “The North” – and whether it’s tourism, fishing, shipping or fossil fuel extraction, the country faces many of the same challenges and opportunities of Arctic states and communities. Scotland’s outlook and well-being can benefit from stronger ties with the North Atlantic Arctic.
In the next few days, I’ll look at some of the pieces here as I sort out this exciting development in Arctic economic activity. It seems fitting to start with Scotland’s marine connectivity. Scotland is well located amidst North Atlantic communities that are connecting with one another to increase trade and investment and share resources. In true Arctic can-do fashion, the nascient High North Atlantic Business Alliance, which started in 2018 as the vision of Nils Arne Johnsen – former Arctic Market Director of the Ramboll Group and now Director of Industry and Economic Development at Troms County Council and a member of the Advisory Board at Polar Research and Policy Initiative since its inception – with outward looking ports and companies of Tromsø, Norway; Torshavn, Faroe Islands; Reykjavik, Iceland; Nuuk, Greenland; St. John’s and Argentia (NF) and Halifax (NS), Canada; and Portland, Maine, USA. The new policy indicates Scotland, already physically in the middle of this alliance, is now participating in its ongoing development.
The policy reiterates a commitment to an “ultra-deep water” port, likely at Dales Voe on Shetland for cost effectiveness. Deep water ports in the Arctic and near Arctic are relatively scarce. Julia Pahl and I investigated Pan-Arctic port infrastructures in our book chapter here, and there is certainly space for more infrastructure. As discussed elsewhere on this blog, infrastructure and transportation connectivity in the Arctic can be fragile, with significant consequences for communities if systems break down, especially when solutions are not in local/regional hands.
Dales Voe is also ready to handle decommissioning of O & G platforms. As is being discussed extensively in Denmark, high quality investment in decommissioning ships and marine structures can help local economies and can increase global equity issues. As we phase out of North Sea oil, this sort of investment will help the region make smoother, more profitable transitions to new maritime energy sources.
There are risks – increased connectivity can bring externalities through increased maritime travel including increased air pollution and invasive species in ballast water or through hull fouling, as discussed on this blog many times (here, here, and here, for example). This makes the alliance of ports even more useful and important. It’s great that Scotland wants to work within the collaborative framework that fits the Arctic model.
Adding Scotland to the system is a welcome increase in resiliency as well as connectivity.