Arctic Connections: Scotland's Arctic policy framework

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

Scotland's Offer to the Arctic

Scottish-Arctic cooperation is ultimately about human connections. To strengthen existing ties and build new links, we will:

  • Establish an Arctic unit within the Scottish Government's Directorate for External Affairs to coordinate work across the organisation, continue to build our Arctic policy and offer a dedicated port of call for both domestic and international stakeholders.
  • Create a fund to support projects and activities promoted by third sector and community-based organisations that raise awareness of Scottish-Arctic links and create new opportunities for international collaboration with the Arctic.

Our plans: actions at Scotland's own hand

There will be many areas where the Scottish Government will take action under this policy framework. These will include the following:

Scotland Looks North

  • Ensure that Scotland continues to be represented at appropriate Arctic conferences to promote our expertise, listen to others' experiences and identify new opportunities for collaboration. This includes attracting Arctic forums to Scotland, with a view to ensuring that our civic society is as closely involved in Scottish-Arctic dialogue as possible. In 2020, we will host a spin-off event of the Arctic Frontiers conference.
  • Advocate for sustainable and peaceful governance of the Arctic, showing support for initiatives that have inclusivity, equality and dialogue at their core and reflect the views of those who live in the region.
  • Engage bilaterally and multilaterally with Arctic countries and institutions on matters that fall within the remit of the Scottish Government to maximise coordination and ensure that our Arctic policy reflects and influences the priorities pursued by cooperation forums operating in the region.
  • Continue to lobby the UK Government to maintain participation in European Territorial Cooperation programmes, including NPA and North Sea Region, as well as Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 regardless of what scenario we will find ourselves in post-Brexit.

Education, Research and Innovation

  • Explore opportunities to support Scottish higher education institutions to foster involvement in UArctic's North2North mobility programme.
  • Encourage Scottish universities and research centres to collaborate on Arctic research by means of greater inter-institutional cooperation, including by promoting discussions between UArctic and interested Scottish institutions.
  • Encourage greater collaboration between Scottish and Arctic academic institutions across the many branches of Arctic research.
  • Continue, and further develop, marine science collaborations in the Arctic through Marine Science Scotland to support our national and international policy obligations.

Cultural Ties

  • 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 may lead, for instance, to joint productions between Scotland and Arctic countries.

Rural Connections

  • Work with civic Scotland to promote new young people exchanges between Scotland and the Arctic.
  • Foster knowledge exchanges on the delivery of connectivity as well as public services such as healthcare, including mental health, and education in rural areas.

Climate change, Environment and Clean Energy

  • Continue to work internationally to further climate justice, looking for opportunities to partner with Arctic organisations to build on the work of our Just Transition Commission on socially and economically sustainable emission reductions.
  • Share scientific knowledge and expertise on marine pollution and biodiversity monitoring through organisations such as Marine Scotland Science.

Sustainable Economic Development

  • Promote Scotland's credentials as a key near-Arctic marine transport and logistics partner, scoping opportunities to build a world-class hub.
  • Under 'A Trading Nation', look for opportunities to increase our trade and investment links with Arctic countries through greater deployment of trade envoys and Global Scots.
  • Strengthen Scotland's connections with the Arctic region as world leaders in environmentally safe decommissioning.

Our prospectus: collaborating with others

We stand ready to engage with Arctic partners who want to collaborate with Scotland on any of the issues raised here, and in particular:

  • The promotion and protection of indigenous and minority languages, respecting the fact that all languages have their own specific needs.
  • Youth retention in remote areas, including by sharing the experience Scotland has developed thanks to the 2018 Year of Young People.
  • Education provision in rural areas, drawing for example on the lessons learnt from the development of the University of the Highlands and Islands.
  • Community regeneration in rural areas and islands, with a particular focus on female empowerment and participative place-making.
  • The empowerment of island communities, including what we have learnt from the development of our National Islands Plan.
  • Transport decarbonisation, active travel and ultra-low emission vehicles.
  • Community engagement in local renewable generation including means of creating economic benefits for local communities.
  • Wellbeing economy and sustainable economic development.
  • Marine planning so as to promote the protection of species and habitats and the sustainable development of a burgeoning marine energy sector.


We would like to thank the members of our Arctic Steering Group for their advice and support throughout the development of this framework. This document has also been informed by a mapping report on Scottish-Arctic links commissioned by the Scottish Government and developed by Glasgow Caledonian University's Centre for Climate Justice together with the University of the Highlands and Islands' Environmental Research Institute. The report is available here:

Scotland's first Arctic Day, held in Inverness on 25 March 2019, provided an opportunity to gather views on the main topics featured in this framework. We would like to thank all those who have contributed their time and supported the emerging framework by helping us explore strategic themes and formulate propositions.



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