NICOLA Sturgeon stressed Scotland is doing everything in its power to remain in the single market in the face of Brexit, as she announced a new partnership with Iceland, the two nations planning to work together on improving tourism, climate change and business links.

The First Minister was in Reykjavik to address the Arctic Circle Assembly on the topic of climate change and to sign a memorandum of understanding between VisitScotland and the Icelandic Tourist Board to share information.

Other speakers include UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. About 2,000 delegates from 50 countries are expected to attend the two-day conference, which is concerned with the development and protection of the Arctic region.

Sturgeon began her speech by talking about how Scotland and Iceland share “ties of trade, culture and kinship which go back for centuries” with the early history of the Orkney Islands chronicled in the Icelandic sagas more than 800 years ago. She then spoke of how, in 1874, the national anthem of Iceland was composed in central Edinburgh, and how Scotland gave Iceland another anthem – their football supporters’ “Viking chant”, which attracted worldwide attention at Euro 2016, was reportedly inspired by a similar chant by fans of Motherwell FC.

On tourism, Sturgeon said: “Scotland and Iceland are world-renowned tourist destinations and we share a common interest in developing a sustainable tourism sector that continues to excite and attract visitors.

“New direct air routes between our two nations started earlier this year, so it’s a fitting time for VisitScotland and the Icelandic Tourist Board to deepen their collaboration, learn more from each other, and enhance the tourist experience in both of our countries in the coming years.”

The agreement will lead to collaboration on tourism development, boosting film tourism and making the best of digital markets.

Sturgeon said Scotland was committed to internationalism and stressed that the Scottish Government argued strongly for the UK to remain a member of the European Union. She said: “We welcome the EU’s practical benefits – free trade, free movement; social and environmental protections. And, for all its imperfections, we also admire the principle behind it – we like the idea of independent countries working together for a common good. And we believe that on some issues – and climate change is a good example – 28 independent nations working together can have a bigger impact than one on its own.”

Sturgeon told the assembly that people in Scotland voted clearly, by 62 per cent to 38 per cent, to remain in the EU and that the Scottish Government is “currently looking to find solutions which enable us to retain the benefits of European Union membership”.

“We are also arguing strongly for the United Kingdom to retain membership of the single market, even as it leaves the EU,” she went on. “After all, the different Nordic countries here have taken different views on European Union membership, but all – including Norway and Iceland – have chosen to be members of the single market.

“Fundamentally, Scotland will do everything we can to remain an open, inclusive and welcoming nation, working with our neighbours, playing a positive role in the world, and strengthening rather than weakening our partnerships with other nations. Our friendships and partnerships with the countries around us matter deeply to us. We will not allow them to be damaged by Brexit.”

Sturgeon said she welcomed the chance to contribute to the Arctic Circle Assembly “at a time when insularity and protectionism can seem to be gaining ground”.

She spoke about Scotland and Iceland’s shared, strong commitment to tackling climate change and the steps her own country has taken, adding: “I want to set out a wider message about the positive contribution Scotland wants to make to the rest of the world, and our desire for even stronger partnerships with our northern neighbours.”

Sturgeon said Scotland deliberately set a “difficult goal” and achieved its 2020 target in 2014. “So we are looking to do even better,” sahe said. “We aim to more than halve our 1990 emissions by 2020. That involves looking at a huge range of issues. Scotland has reduced energy use by almost a sixth since 1990 – but we know we need to do more. That’s why we recently made energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority. And we see big opportunities for Scotland in areas such as renewable heat and developing the circular economy.”

Sturgeon said she aimed to do better in the years and decades ahead and showed a video highlighting the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, where “more wave and tidal power companies have demonstrated their technologies there than at any other site in the world”.