THE British press is fond of reporting lurches to the right across Europe – even though they rarely produce the authoritarian governments commentators predict.

But in Norway, there’s been a pretty dramatic lurch back to the centre-left as the Conservative Government that ruled Norway for eight years got its collective jotters earlier this week. The Social Democrats were the largest party and are now set to form a coalition government with other centre-left parties. And that means Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden will all soon have social democrat prime ministers for the first time in 20 years.

If Icelanders follow suit as expected, in elections next Saturday, then all five Nordic countries will be governed by social democratic governments for the first time in a generation.

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That’s bound to get almost zero coverage – yet it matters greatly for the North, for the world (since these small nations have long been democratic trailblazers) and for Scotland. Partly because voters – who rejected a party that wanted Norway to “do a Brexit” and quit the EEA halfway house – may now have more sympathy for Scotland’s anti-Brexit, pro-independence stance. In fact, the anti-EU Progress party suffered its worst election result since 1993. You probably won’t hear a lot about that either.

But the other reason this leftward move matters to Scots is that it changes the political landscape around us to the north and the east – not forever, but for long enough to create a joint Nordic focus on reconfiguring health care and the welfare state post-Covid and undertaking a a progressive, cooperative green transition.

It goes without saying – but let’s say it. We should be there too.

The National: Erna Solberg

Not wasting our time and energies trying to deflect, anticipate and mitigate a Tory so old-school that former Norwegian Conservative premier Erna Solberg (above) was clearly horrified when Boris suggested gate-crashing their European Trade body EFTA with market-dominated, control-obsessed Britain in 2019.

Boris, Theresa May and David Cameron would all be completely out of place in a gathering of Nordic leaders. Nicola Sturgeon, Patrick Harvie, Lorna Slater – and indeed Alex Salmond in his time – would not. That’s significant.

Scotland will always have a British dimension, sharing the island and centuries of history as we do. But make no mistake. The arena we need to enter, the political systems we need to embrace and the priorities we need to share are sitting in the cabinets of social democracies across the North Sea, not across the English border. Extending equality, reshaping society and industry to deal with the climate emergency and working with like-minded neighbours in the Nordic and Arctic Councils (and the EU/EFTA) – these priorities have been agreed by political grown-ups. The kind of folk Scots should be dealing with.

Instead, we continue to waste our time and energy on a Prime Minister who will re-invent a non-viable bridge to Northern Ireland if it distracts media attention from policy failures, the cruelty of Universal Credit cuts and his stealthy creation of a centralised state.

The National:

Johnson’s archaic, undemocratic Henry VIII-powered agenda is seeping into our own lives – witness the nonsense about criminalising protesters outside Holyrood. Norms and templates adopted by our largest neighbour so easily warp professional thinking here.

Happily though, other neighbours are available – and one thing marks out our social democratic neighbours in the Nordic nations. The “one singer, one song” approach has gone – they cooperate with erstwhile rivals in order to govern.

On Monday, for example, Norwegian Labour was the largest single party — as it has been at every election since 1924. But it also had its second-worst showing. Similarly, Sweden’s social democrats had their worst showing in 110 years three years ago, but still held on to power.

In the fragmented political landscape that’s inevitable in proportional voting systems, “winners” are increasingly the parties whose leaders can negotiate and make common cause with rivals – instead of trying to struggle on alone.

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Coalitions, deals and pacts are the name of the game, and in that respect, Scotland is not remotely out of step. Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru are also considering coalition, and in Finland, 34 year-old Sanna Marin became the world’s youngest serving head of government when she became prime minister in 2019, heading a centre-left coalition government of five parties – all led by women. That coalition has steered Finland successfully through the pandemic, with roughly the same population as Scotland but eight times fewer Covid deaths. Everywhere, like-minded parties are cooperating their way out of Covid. Everywhere except Westminster.

THAT’S why escaping the stultifying mindset of UK politics is in Scotland’s interests – and the interest of opposition parties too. Once Scotland has finally quit the UK, they might finally have a fighting chance of gaining power by sharing it in the same sort of broad coalitions that are now normal at our latitude.

And we can all look forward to genuinely mature political debate.

No more “wheesht for indy”.

No more “SNP bad”.

And please God much less politics reduced to clickbait with a snub here and an “outrage” there.

We must think bigger than that.

This isn’t to say life in the Nordics is just peachy, devoid of power play, utterly rational and always admirable.

The National: Priti Patel has indicated street harassment such as wolf-whistling could become a specific crime in England as plans to better protect women and girls widespread safety concerns are unveiled

The Danes have caused controversy by creating offshore immigration detention centres in Rwanda – the new model for Priti Patel. And the new Norwegian premier Jonas Gahr Store will have his work cut out trying to accommodate the populist Centre Party while getting pelters from the Greens – who polled worse than expected and will likely be outside government calling for a total halt to North Sea drilling.

But looking across the Atlantic and North Sea a few things are crystal clear. Nordic voters have opted to deal with Covid and the climate crisis by tacking left not right. Coalitions between left/centre/green parties have rapidly become the rule – not the exception.

And of course, right across the North, independence is the default.

So, will Iceland make it a clean sweep for the left? Katrín Oddsdóttir – human rights lawyer and secretary of Iceland’s Constitutional Society Chair – is optimistic.

“A new poll shows that our conservative government is set to collapse. Of course, this is just a poll but things are looking bright for those who want Iceland to have a left/middle government after September 25 elections. We will hopefully join the other Scandinavian countries who have rejected conservative leadership.

“Here in Iceland, it must be noted that while our Conservative party polls less then 25% of the votes, it has been in government more or less consistently since we got independence from Denmark in 1944. This political dilemma has effectively blocked our new constitution from being ratified, despite approval by two-thirds of voters in a national referendum in 2012. For democracy to work, democratic rules must be updated as societies develop. Hopefully my country will soon find its path towards such a reality, as Scotland finds its path towards independence.”

Amen to that.

Nordic Horizons has organised a Zoom event with speakers from Norway and Iceland on October 6 at 7pm.