Arctic Connections: Scotland's Arctic policy framework

A prospectus for cooperation, knowledge-exchange and policy partnerships between Scotland and the Arctic.

Cultural Ties

By building on the strong cultural links between Scotland and the Arctic region, we can strengthen connections between people, empower communities through creativity and be leaders in encouraging international dialogue. Culture is a powerful vehicle for promoting diversity and mutual understanding domestically and internationally. Through creativity and culture, we can raise awareness of the big challenges of our time, from climate change to inequality, which impact on the lives of many on a daily basis.

By reaching across borders, we can make culture a driver of sustainable economic growth. Creative industries carry strong potential for job creation both directly and by unlocking growth in other sectors. Working collaboratively, there is a real opportunity to share best practice and take the lead in developing practical and sustainable tourism solutions that safeguard the interests of the environment, communities and visitors alike.

A Scottish-Arctic laboratory for cultural policies

While culture must preserve its independence, it is important that institutions put long-term planning, infrastructure and policies in place to help the sector flourish. The Scottish Government's Culture Strategy aims to strengthen, transform and empower communities. The extensive engagement with the public which informed the strategy produced many lessons we can share with our Arctic neighbours and we would value learning from their own successes in this area.

Scotland and Arctic countries can work together to promote equality through culture and creativity. We can devise solutions to remove barriers to taking part in cultural life, enabling all citizens to participate and be creative, irrespective of their background and personal circumstances.

The biannual Edinburgh International Culture Summit offers an ideal platform for these discussions to take place. The summit brings together Government Ministers and policy-makers from across the globe with artists and cultural leaders to find new ways to inspire positive and creative change.

Promoting and protecting indigenous languages

Scotland and the Arctic have a proud multilingual tradition, which enriches the vibrancy of our culture and our international profile. The Arctic is home to a wealth of indigenous languages and dialects, while Gaelic and Scots are cherished parts of Scotland's heritage and continue to drive social, economic and educational benefits for our country. However, indigenous languages are under pressure and require our support.

The Scottish Government is promoting several initiatives to increase the use of Gaelic and Scots, raising their status in everyday life. The National Gaelic Language plan 2018-2023[10] identified several avenues through which the awareness and profile of Gaelic can be strengthened, ranging from greater use in the leisure industry to family learning. We are also working to increase the provision of Gaelic learning through nursery to secondary schools across Scotland. The 2015 Scots language policy[11] is currently being revised to include commitments to support all Scots dialects, including those spoken in Shetland and Orkney.

In promoting languages whose roots go back centuries, it is crucial that we seize the opportunities afforded by modern digital tools. The e-Sgoil initiative allows teachers based in the Western Isles to deliver real-time, interactive lessons in Gaelic to students across Scotland. In addition to providing a creative way to engage speakers, e-Sgoil helps address the problems of recruiting language experts in remote areas.

While we have seen a growing demand for Gaelic education over recent years, we continue to look at initiatives to grow the number of speakers. There is a great deal we can learn from Arctic countries as to how they are supporting their own indigenous languages and dialects. The recent visit to Scotland by the Sámi Parliament of Sweden to find out more about our Gaelic and Scots policies demonstrates that transnational learning is already underway.

The richness and cultural significance of Inuit and Sami languages were celebrated by the Throwing Voices events held during the 2019 Edinburgh International Book Festival with the support of the Scottish Government's Festivals Expo Fund.

Case study

Founded in 1973, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (SMO) is an international centre of excellence for the development of the Gaelic language, culture and arts. Located on the Isle of Skye, SMO offers courses solely through the medium of Scottish Gaelic.

Since its inception, the College has adopted an international outlook and has established a range of links with the wider Gaelic diaspora. It currently has five joint agreements with academic institutions in Canada and Ireland and continues to develop partnerships with a range of universities overseas, including the Gaelic College of Cape Breton (Nova Scotia). SMO offers visual arts residency opportunities to international artists who wish to engage with the Gaelic language and culture. The College's Alumni Association Caidreamh an t-Sabhail aims to increase engagement with former students all over the world.

Creative industries: Connecting tradition with innovation

Combining technical and artistic skills, creative industries are leading the way in building new business models while playing an important role in emphasising local culture, history and skills. Creative businesses contribute to building resilient communities and make an important contribution to diversifying the job market both in Scotland and in the Arctic.

The creative industries is one of Scotland's fastest growing sectors, with a turnover of £8.6 billion in 2017 and total exports worth £3.7 billion in the same year. The gaming and screen sectors, in particular, have been growing steadily and have brought investments in other economic fields while showcasing Scotland internationally. The Icelandic film industry has experienced a similar rise, opening opportunities for policy and practice exchange.

Scotland and the Arctic region are also famous for more traditional forms of art and craftsmanship, from textiles to sculpture. We can learn from how Arctic communities have embraced their vast potential and work together on market development and peer-to-peer support. With this in mind, we welcome Scottish involvement in the Circumpolar Crafters Network, a multi-dimensional collaboration promoted by the Government of Nunavut and involving crafters from Scotland, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Norway. XpoNorth, Scotland's leading creative industries conference, can encourage more of these Scottish-Arctic collaborations. Bringing people from the international creative sector together, this annual event has established itself as an entry point into wider European markets.

Historic and natural environment

While currently underrepresented on the World Heritage List, the Arctic region boasts striking marine features, globally unique habitats and a rich history of outstanding cultural and environmental value. Scotland is host to several UNESCO accreditations, including six World Heritage Sites, two Biosphere Reserves and two Geoparks.

If we want our heritage to benefit future generations, it is crucial that promotion goes hand in hand with preservation. The combination of climate change, coastal erosion and ocean acidification represents an existential threat to the historic environment, the danger being most pronounced in the Arctic. We have an important obligation to work together and protect our heritage and cultural sites.

Scotland is already collaborating with Arctic partners on mitigation and conservation work. The Northern Periphery and Arctic project 'Adapt Northern Heritage' aims to support communities and local authorities to adapt northern cultural heritage to climate change. As well as Historic Environment Scotland, it includes agencies from Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Russia and Sweden. Edinburgh has also been chosen to host the launch of the Climate Heritage Network, a group of national and local preservation offices that want to accelerate the ambition of culture and heritage actors in delivering on the Paris agreement. The Network can serve as a vehicle for greater cooperation between Scotland and the Arctic on the preservation of historic and natural heritage.

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney is the first cultural World Heritage site to apply a Climate Vulnerability Index assessment, producing lessons that can be shared internationally.

Like Scotland, the Arctic is also internationally renowned for the richness and diversity of its intangible heritage. Our Place in Time,[12] Scotland's strategy for the historic environment, acknowledges the importance of oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events and traditional craft knowledge.

Case study

The University of the Highlands and Islands' Centre for Mountain Studies at Perth College chairs the NPA-funded Sustainable Heritage Areas, Partnerships for Ecotourism (SHAPE) project. SHAPE involves 33 associated partners from Scotland, Canada, Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway, and Sweden. It brings together public and private sector stakeholders to develop innovative approaches to ecotourism and heritage management in sparsely populated areas. SHAPE will lead to the creation of an open-access web-based service to support organisations and communities with delivering effective ecotourism initiatives.

Sustainable tourism

Tourism is a major source of revenue and job opportunities for Scotland, especially for our rural communities. The Arctic region - with its precious landscapes, unique wildlife and rich indigenous cultures - has also experienced substantial tourism growth over recent years. As a result, we face common issues around balancing increases in visitor numbers

  • often in environmentally fragile communities
  • against ambitions for sustainable economic growth.

With travellers increasingly seeking nature-based opportunities, Adventure Tourism is fast developing both in Scotland and in the Arctic, calling for an early exchange of ideas as to how sustainability can be embedded into this growth area.

Marine and cruise tourism account for a growing share of the tourism market in Scotland and the Arctic. In 2018, a fleet of 825 cruise ships brought almost 800,000 passengers to Scotland. Small communities can sometimes struggle to bear the impact of these numbers and we are keen to engage with Arctic destinations in this global market to exchange learning and develop best practices. The cruise market is also rapidly evolving with the commissioning of a larger number of Expedition craft, bringing smaller numbers but often seeking a deeper experience. This trend will affect Scotland and the Arctic region, creating both opportunities and challenges.

We are developing an Islands Passport that will encourage people to visit more of Scotland's 96 inhabited islands, helping to alleviate tourism pressure points and spreading tourism to wider regions. The passport aims to increase visitor spend in less well-known or less accessible islands, sustaining often fragile lifeline services. We are keen to share the learning from this initiative with our friends in Arctic areas.

The Scottish Government and our national tourism agency, VisitScotland, are engaging with organisations across Arctic countries to exchange best practices on sustainable high-quality tourism and we are keen to do more. The Visit Arctic Europe project - which brings together tour operators, government agencies and hospitality stakeholders from the North of Norway, Sweden and Finland - is an example of cross-border cooperation we are looking with great interest at. The project aims to tackle seasonality and develop the potential for all-year-round activities.

Case study

For more than a decade, the Scottish Government's programme of Themed Years has provided a focus for activity that helps to spotlight Scotland's greatest tourism opportunities. Each year focuses on the promotion of domestic and international tourism and the development of the events industry. The theme also provides an opportunity to profile non-tourism related activities.

In 2020, Scotland celebrates its Year of Coasts and Waters. The Themed Year will encompass all aspects of Scotland's tourism offering, with a focus on raising awareness and increasing responsibility for our natural environment. In 2022, the Year of Scotland's Stories will showcase our rich literature and celebrate the global reach of our creative industries.

These Themed Years focus on areas in which the similarities and connections between Scotland and the Arctic region are evident. We will work to ensure they serve as platforms for even greater Scottish-Arctic dialogue, celebrations and knowledge exchange.

Going forward, we will:

  • Work with the Edinburgh International Culture Summit Foundation to invite representatives of Arctic organisations and institutions in order to promote new Scottish-Arctic cultural policy exchanges.
  • Work with VisitScotland to draw up specific proposals for discussion with the Nordic Council on policies and practices that promote sustainable tourism, especially in the emerging adventure and marine tourism sectors.
  • Take opportunities such as those offered by XpoNorth to encourage collaboration between Scotland and Arctic countries on the creative industries. This can lead, for instance, to joint productions between Scotland and Arctic countries.
  • Engage with Arctic partners who want to work with Scotland to share lessons on the promotion and protection of indigenous and minority languages, respecting the fact that all languages have their own specific needs. This will include lessons we have learnt from e-Sgoil on addressing recruitment issues.



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