Scotland will host a meeting of Arctic Circle nations for the first time next month as Nicola Sturgeon seeks to forge closer ties with the region ahead of Brexit.
The Scottish First Minister said she wanted to “deepen and strengthen” the nation’s economic relationship with Arctic, Nordic and Baltic countries.
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During a speech to the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland, the SNP leader announced that Scotland would host a forum for its northern neighbours in Edinburgh in November.
Her attendance at the assembly, which attracts 2,000 participants from 50 countries with an interest in the region, comes a fortnight after Scotland launched a new Nordic-Baltic Policy Statement.
The document was aimed at cementing the country’s links with eight nations including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Estonia as it pursues a more outward-looking strategy.
Ms Sturgeon said she was fighting for the UK to remain part of the EU single market and customs union, pointing out that the five Nordic Council nations were all members.
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Describing the UK Government’s approach to Brexit as “deeply damaging and counter-productive”, she said staying part of the single market was the best way to protect jobs and citizens’ rights.
“It also forms the best basis for trading and co-operating with countries across the world – including the nations of this Arctic Circle Assembly,” she added.
“In all of this, Scotland is determined, despite Brexit, to remain an open, internationalist, outward looking nation. Strengthening our role in the Arctic Circle is an important part of that.”
Ms Sturgeon said there were “clear benefits” for closer ties with the Arctic nations, which account for half of the top ten sources of foreign investment into Scotland and half of its six largest export markets.
“That reflects the fact that we have strong ties – not just in energy and low carbon technology, but in areas from food and drink and sustainable tourism, to other fields such as education, life sciences and advanced engineering,” she added.
“I believe that all of us have a huge amount to gain from further integration and collaboration.”
The First Minister also spoke about the “moral imperative” of tackling climate change, but said renewable energy sources also provided a “major economic opportunity”, with Scotland already employing 60,000 people in low-carbon industries.
She also paid tribute to Finland’s “baby box” initiative, a container of essentials for newborns given to new parents which has been adopted by Scotland and rolled out nationally over the summer.
“Last month, I announced that by 2032 Scotland aims to eliminate the need for new diesel and petrol cars and vans,” she added.
“Scotland’s baby box generation – the children who received those first baby boxes in August – will probably never drive new conventional petrol cars.”