IT’S quite something, to be binge-watching the new Borgen: Power And Glory series on Netflix, in the same week that the Scottish Government restarted the case for indy. Nicola Sturgeon was quickly and wittily on the socials, dampening down any comparisons. “Early fifties, menopausal, angry at the world – yes, I’ve watched the first few episodes … but you know, Birgitte is a fictional character.”

We know, First Minister. But c’mon! The overall parallels are too much fun not to explore.

(There may be a few spoilers here, so be warned).

I actually wouldn’t go so heavily on a direct biographical/psychological comparison between Nicola and Birgitte. For one thing, much of the preceding three series were about Birgitte’s wrangling between the demands of motherhood and hi-octane politics. That’s a quietly sad absence in Nicola’s life.

Does the comparison work on the level of how Nyborg’s character has manifestly shifted over the last decade? Borgen: Power And Glory shows a politician who seems liberated into hard-ball, by her sheer age. “I am so happy not to have to apologize for working so much”, she confides in her ex-husband.

But Nyborg also seems to have liberated herself from the constraints of principle that so charmed the world in the preceding series. Birgitte considers preferments from American diplomats, misinforms the public (with fake climate science), cynically hires old enemies as media consultants, exploits her son to improve her brand … along with many other Machiavellian actions.

Going by media reports and interviews, it seems that this dark toying with the Bergen ideal brought many of the old acting crew back to the Folketing.

The National:

Are we throwing this same cloak over Sturgeon? You will have your own assessment of how strategic and calculating you think she has been, as an operator, over her 23 years of political representation. One truth that Borgen has always reliably depicted is the egoism, horse-trading and manipulation that goes on in representative politics (perhaps even more so in a proportional system like Denmark, never mind ours).

I’ve always felt incapable of this activity myself, and one assumes Sturgeon – as the longest-serving First Minister – knows how to work the scene. I also suspect that the challenges of Brexit and Covid have intensified her managerialist tendencies – though I thought I did watch something idealistic flicker back into life, as Sturgeon energetically handled the press conference for the new indy research paper.

I’m much more interested in the way that Borgen: Power and Glory casts a backlight from a possible future. Concerning, in particular, the statecraft that may have to be practised in the early years of independence.

For one thing, Denmark was one of the founding nations of NATO in 1949. That’s 73 years of dealing with behemoths like the US.

The new show depicts how brutal that relationship can be. A lugubrious, John-Kerry-like US Secretary of State tells Nyborg (now foreign minister), as they both face Chinese involvement in Greenland oil drilling, to “make the problem go away”. And while she’s doing so, the US ambassador stabs her plan in the front, on the evening news.

Again, I have no patience for such chicanery – leave me out with the protestors in the street. But undoubtedly, for a Scottish state in the current Westphalian geopolitical system, someone would have to engage in such rough-and-tumble realpolitik.

The overall plotline – a discovery of massive oil reserves in Greenland, still a protectorate of Denmark – is also juicily intriguing for Scottish statecraft and national policy. Assuming Scots indy means taking territorial control over zones like the Abigail and Cambo oil and gas fields, one can imagine the Borgen cabinet debates playing themselves out in Bute House.

We can use that money to develop sustainable alternatives! It would be a tiny proportion of the world’s overall carbon budget! But: it would still be a concrete contribution to global warming!

And it sets a terrible precedent at a moment of collective urgency!

The Borgen scenes are a good rehearsal for a mediocre, fudged response to all this. But these are times when even a moderate body like the IPCC, the UN’s climate watchdog, is now actively considering economic contraction (or de-growth) as an adequate response to runaway climate breakdown.

Maybe a lesson for the Scottish Greens here if they survive into a post-indy coalition government: stay verdantly Green – don’t rebrand as Nyborg’s New Democrats.

More juiciness comes from the depiction of the Greenlanders themselves in Borgen: Power And Glory. They are chafing under what they see as their Danish yoke and playing high-level, fossil-fuel chess with Canada, China, Russia and American forces. They may all be interested in the black gold – but they’re also angling for ports, as trading routes for a “New Silk Road” open up with the melting Arctic.

Scotland faces that prospect much more directly than Denmark – though I imagine there’s excellent mischief to be made if the Shetland and Orkney islands adopted the same disgruntled sovereignty claims as the Greenlanders.

What seems candid about the Borgen series – indeed, it regularly comes up in Danish Noir TV shows – is its depiction of baked-in, everyday prejudice against the Kalaallit. Their social troubles seem remarkably parallel to indigenous Australians.

Shockingly, the worst example of prejudice comes in an across-the-negotiating-table outburst from Nyborg. She cites a range of poor social and political indicators to prove that Greenlanders can’t fully govern themselves. She sneers at their dreams of becoming an “independent Arctic Bahrain”, then bluntly reminds them that Greenland’s self-government is granted by Danish law – “and ultimately that law can change”.

Ooft and oh-ya. The jewel of the “comparator” nations laid out in the Scottish Government’s report this week, is depicted as overbearing Unionists to their indigenous peoples. As the FM might be at pains to point out again, remember it’s all fictional…

At this point in the series, after a series of uncharacteristic outbursts and aggressions from Birgitte, you’re invited to have them explained by her advancing menopause. I’ve talked among female friends, and they’ve pointed out something pretty worrying in the show.

I’m told that the doctor who refuses hormone replacement therapy to Nyborg when she requests it, is operating in a very purist way: the breast cancer scares around its use have been largely placated.

So Nyborg’s professional delight in her post-family freedom – finally allowing her to be the unrestrained political player she wants to be – is regularly, explosively (and maybe unnecessarily) undercut by her biology.

The series runs a strong parallel story with the former reporter, Katrine Fonsmark, who was once Nyborg’s press agent and has now become head of news at TV1. I won’t give out many details, but again, she hardly represents a story of endless female ascent and achievement.

Time magazine sums up the point really well: “In its depiction of powerful women behaving just as badly as men, has Borgen arrived at a new, post-feminist version of true equality? Has it succumbed to an older, more misogynistic vision of women in power?

“Or is the show, which on many occasions has seemingly predicted real social and political change, a recognition that the reality of feminists – and women in general – lies between the poles of idealisation and demonisation?” You watch and decide.

But like Nicola (whether she fully admits it or not), you’ll be ultimately watching Borgen: Power And Glory because it’s the closest simulation to the opening decades of an independent Scotland we’re going to get. Warts, fabulous tailoring, endless polished wood surfaces and all. But let’s not be happy with the simulation. Let’s make it real.