AT first sight on Google Earth, there is not much similarity between Scotland and Denmark. We have mountains and glens while their plains and small hills rise to no greater than 561ft (170 metres) above sea level, considerably less than Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh at 822ft (251m).
Yet as one of the great exploring and trading nations of the world, the Danes have had long links through history with Scotland, and as a “for instance”, the present UK Royal Family is descended from a Scot and a Dane, King James VI and I and his Queen, Anne of Denmark.
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We are currently both countries on the north-west of Europe and we are both members of the European Union, though that is set to change for Scotland against our will.
It is an infuriating development for many people in the oil and gas sector, the renewables industry and life sciences where there are many examples of close co-operation between Scots and Danes.
So what will happen to the relationships we currently enjoy with Denmark and which both the Scottish and Danish governments have been expanding, not to mention the various friendship societies and town-twinning arrangements between our two nations.
Ruairidh Tarvet of Edinburgh University is an expert on Scandinavia and lived in Denmark for a number of years. He feels that Brexit could eventually lead to closer links with Denmark and Scandinavia in general once Scotland is independent: “The Scots are showing great willingness to have European partnerships, and the will of the people of this country is something that is being listened to across Europe.
“So if a deal could not be done for an independent Scotland to remain in the EU after Brexit, membership of the European Free Trade Association or the European Economic Area would be almost certain because there’s no way that the EU would not listen to the will of the Scottish people.
“So far politicians in Denmark, Scandinavia and across Europe have shown willingness to co-operate and as an independent Scotland we would have a lot of bargaining power, and with all the EU laws in place it would be practically feasible as well.
“All Scandinavian countries including Denmark believe very strongly in the idea of nationalism, but it is not ethnic nationalism, it is a civic nationalism that is inclusive, open-minded and looking out to the world and saying ‘what can our nation do to contribute to the world’ which is a whole different approach to the one we are seeing down south just now.”
Denmark has been a great example of having a parliament, the Folketing, that truly delivers for voters through proportional representation. It means that with nine political parties represented, deals always need to be done to form a government.
That is seen as the norm, as Tarvet explained: “A lot of Danes and Scandinavians in general feel that democracy works best closest to the people, and Scandinavia has had a lot of success with its political system because a lot of the values are shared – no matter whether they are conservative or liberal in thought, they all believe in the welfare state, they all believe in common values.
“So there’s a chance for a greater number of parties across the political spectrum and for having a democracy that’s functioning close to the people it represents and their values.”
Denmark has the second happiest inhabitants of any country, according to various measures, but its people also pay the highest taxes in Europe, though they have a welfare state of the highest quality.
Tarvet said: “The Danes pay high taxes but they are paid high salaries and regardless of whether you pay 30, 40 per cent or more in tax you are still going to have a comfortable life because of that high salary.
“The minimum wage in Denmark is £12 per hour, and having lived there recently for a number of years before I came back to Edinburgh, I can say that the general standard of living is higher than ours. They do pay high tax but they have the means to live.”
The Danes have made their choice of society and seem happy with it. Scotland doesn’t even get that choice.