IN a wide-ranging article in The National last week, Lesley Riddoch pointed out that all five Nordic countries now have social democratic governments for the first time in a generation. And she pointed out that this was important for Scotland, because the company of the Nordic countries was much preferable to the current dysfunctional relationship Scotland has with the rest of the UK.

Norway has just elected a social democratic government (to be led by Jonas Gahr Støre, below), but my experience is that the way Norway chooses its government is very different from Scotland’s. For almost exactly 20 years now Norway has been governed by coalition governments consisting of three or four parties. Just recently the SNP and Greens formed Scotland’s first coalition government in 14 years.

READ MORE: Lesley Riddoch: The model and opportunity presented by our Nordic neighbours

In Scotland the differences between the five main parties – ie SNP, the Tories, Labour, the Greens and Liberal Democrats – are all too clear. It would be difficult for a Tory to vote for the Greens or vice versa. Likewise it is difficult these days to imagine an SNP voter switching to Labour.

But in Norway more and more voters (myself included) have to seek advice on which party to vote for. The differences between the nine main parties represented in parliament are often wafer-thin. The most common complaint I heard from folk before Norway’s last election on September 13 was: “I can’t make up my mind who to vote for”. And we have nine main parties to choose from and a plethora of smaller ones representing minority interests.

So the Norwegian radio and several newspapers have come up with a solution. They have devised a questionnaire where you are asked your opinion on between 25 and 30 questions. Your answers are then compared with the policies of the nine parties. You are then advised which of the parties your opinions are closest to, and so which party you should vote for. Questions range from whether you are for or against more immigration, the building of more cycle paths, approving or rejecting the EU, private nursery schools, whether the Prime Minister is doing a good job, whether Norway should stop oil exploration and so on. In fact I used this service and voted for a small party slightly to the right, but with liberal views on environment and immigration. My wife used the same service but came up with a different party.

Because differences between parties are small, politics in Norway is very genteel and civilised, and quite unlike the bruising, vituperative version I witness in Scotland. Maybe Scotland, by imitating the Nordic social democrats, could introduce a few more diverging opinions and less noisy argy-bargy?

Mike Fergus
Oslo, Norway

AS a former shipyard worker I too am both surprised and disappointed by the Calmac procurement organisation’s decision to exclude Ferguson Marine from tendering for the new ferries.

After all, this facility is effectively owned by the Scottish people.

In my view, their tendering criteria are too narrow. What if there was a more holistic appraisal of tenders? Should the judgement not be on the real best value for Scotland and people of Scotland?

READ MORE: 'No ifs and no buts', Kate Forbes tells government-owned shipyard

Has consideration been given to some or all of the following?

  • The impact on the community of Inverclyde by excluding Fergusons
  • The actual costs of no work for Fergusons
  • The actual costs to the unemployed workers and their families
  • The carbon footprint of both increased delivery AND distant supervision of the build
  • Hidden or even secret subsidies in some or all of the countries selected
  • Trade union recognition and employment practices What if all or even some of the above are factored in?

Willie Oswald

WE should remember the fatal disaster that was Piper Alpha but this shouldn’t be the end of our thoughts about the cost of North Sea oil.

Just ten weeks later there was another fatal explosion on September 22 1988. The Ocean Odyssey survivors were evacuated onto the offshore oil rig on which I was the nurse/medic.

Any personal impact of this experience is inconsequential when put in the context of the world temperature now being at the highest point for at least three million years.

READ MORE: Tory call for MSPs to back new oil and gas projects in North Sea is rejected

However, this global emergency may not always be locally obvious. Most of this rise in temperature has been in the last 250 years, since the development of global warming and climate chaos caused by carbon-producing industry previously using coal. This particularly includes burning hydrocarbons such as those produced by North Sea oil.

If we in Scotland allow the burning of oil from the “new” Cambo field, west of Shetland, we are also responsible for the damage to the environment for our descendants when we could easily be investing in a transition to positively useful, well-paid jobs.

Norman Lockhart