The Scottish Government aims to strengthen our engagement with the Nordic and Baltic countries in order to promote greater collaboration, cooperation, investment and policy transfer between our countries.
In March 2014, the Scottish Government launched our first ever Nordic Baltic Policy Statement, with the aim of strengthening our relationships with countries in the Nordic and Baltic regions, bringing together various strands of engagement which had been undertaken with Nordic and Baltic countries. For example, a visit by the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP, to Copenhagen in 2013, exploring opportunities for collaboration on architecture and culture and staff exchanges with Iceland around the Scottish planning experience in developing its national spatial strategy,
The Statement has provided a framework for our engagement with the region in the period since launch. We have now decided to update the statement to take account of the changed international context we are now operating within.
The outcome of the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union where, despite the UK voting to leave, Scotland as a whole voted to remain, has led to a period of uncertainty at UK level about our future relationship with Europe. It has also led to uncertainty elsewhere in Europe. The Scottish Government recognises that whatever the outcome is, it is of strategic importance to continue to develop and grow our bilateral relationships.
Engagement with our Nordic and Baltic partners will therefore continue to be a priority. It is important to stress that our commitment to pursue innovative and sustainable solutions to shared challenges will form the cornerstone of future relationships between our governments and citizens.
Why the Nordic and Baltic countries?
Scotland enjoys a long history of economic, social, cultural and political engagement with the Nordic and Baltic regions. Our countries enjoy parallels in many respects, based on the northern periphery of Europe with similar topographies, a mixture of urban and rural communities and many similar socio‑economic traits.
We have cooperated with Nordic and Baltic countries for over 20 years on a wide range of policies and initiatives, reflecting the shared challenges and opportunities we face.
Globally, the Nordic and Baltic countries are established leaders across many areas, such as human rights, the use of digital technology and innovation in energy production, with the Nordic countries notable for their social welfare model.
Strengthening these connections is of long term strategic importance to the Scottish Government and supports the aims and objectives of our International Framework.
Case Study One:
The First Minister’s Baby Box Initiative
Finland’s successful maternity package model, which includes the offer of a ‘Baby Box’ has long been admired across the world. Introduced in 1937, when infant mortality rates were high, the package was initially available only to families with low incomes but was soon rolled out to all expectant mothers on the condition they attended antenatal clinics and doctor appointments before the fourth month of pregnancy. 80 years on, expectant parents are given the option of a grant or the Baby Box however over 95% opt for the latter, as it is of both practical and sentimental value.
Inspired by the hugely successful Finnish model and committed to tackling inequality, the First Minister announced in April 2016 “Every newborn in Scotland will be entitled to a ‘Baby Box’, offering essential items for a child’s first weeks – adapting the successful Finnish model which has helped to improve lives for babies and toddlers.”
The Scottish Government ran a successful three month trial of pilot schemes in Clackmannanshire and Orkney, areas which were picked for their geographical spread and the diversity of their populations. All babies due between 1 January and 31 March across areas which were picked, allowed us to gather feedback from parents on their use of the Box as a safe-sleeping space and on contents. During the pilot, 130 Baby Boxes were distributed in Clackmannanshire and 59 in Orkney.
The Scottish Government began registration for the full rollout of the Baby Box initiative from 15 June 2017 with all new-born babies in Scotland due on or after 15 August 2017 being eligible to receive a Baby Box. The box includes different essential items for a child’s first weeks and months to support parents. It is also suitable for babies to sleep in. The Baby Box concept is also intended to encourage engagement by expectant mothers with maternity and antenatal services.
The Scottish Government is committed to doing everything it can to give our children the best possible start in life. Scotland’s Baby Box has a key role to play in that, sending a strong signal of support to families right from the start of a child’s life.
It forms part of a wider programme of measures in children’s early years to tackle inequality, improving health and supporting parents. Baby Boxes have already been introduced and implemented in a range of countries around the world – they have a proven track record of delivering on issues including encouraging better and earlier engagement among women with maternal health services.
What can Scotland offer?
Our 2017-18 Programme for Government underpins Scotland’s reputation as a progressive, outward facing European country ready to tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by the 21st century.
We enjoy leadership positions in many sectors such as financial technology (FinTech), advanced manufacturing, life sciences and creative industries, and are internationally renowned for the quality of our academic institutions, research and innovation, and scientific expertise more generally.
These areas, combined with our commitment to champion innovation in the low carbon economy plus aspects of health, education and social security, present new and on-going opportunities for knowledge exchange and collaboration with international partners.
Delivering against Scottish Government objectives
The Scottish Government has a strong and consistent commitment to international engagement. Our International Framework sets out how our international work supports the Government’s central purpose of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all to flourish through increasing sustainable economic growth.
While the EU referendum outcome and consequential decision to leave the EU have a significant impact on the international context, the strategic objectives in our International Framework remain unchanged
The Nordic Baltic Policy Statement supports the aims and strategic objectives of the Scottish Government’s International Framework. By building on our existing links with Nordic and Baltic countries, we will learn from each other’s good practice and innovation in social and other policy, helping to:
- Strengthen our external relationships, partnerships, roles and networks;
- Build our reputation and international attractiveness, boosting our trade and investment; and
- Enhance our global outlook to set the domestic conditions for success;
- Encourage engagement with the European Union and protecting Scotland’s place in Europe.
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House