Norway consulate closure is 'snub' to Scots

NORWAY is to end formal diplomatic representation in Scotland after more than 50 years, with the loss of half a dozen jobs.

The move has prompted anger within Scotland's Norwegian community and is an embarrassment for Alex Salmond, the First Minister, who has forged closer links with the Scandinavian nation and holds it up as a model for an independent Scotland.

Michael Hansen-Just, a member of the Norwegian-Scottish Association, said:

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"The consulate staff were in a state of shock [at the news]. Given the strong links between Scotland and Norway and the amount of Norwegian business in Scotland, it's ridiculous. It's a terrible snub to Scotland and I don't think it's showing the country much respect."

Mr Hansen-Just said staff at the consulate, in the capital's George Street, told him they were being axed as part of a cost-cutting programme by the Norwegian foreign ministry.

The consulate has two full-time diplomats - although one of the Scottish posts is currently vacant. The Norwegian staff will be reassigned, while the four local support staff will be made redundant.

Norway's interests in the Scottish capital will be represented only by a part-time honorary consul. Much of the business handled by the consulate will be dealt with in London.

Mr Hansen-Just said Norwegians would be "very upset" by the move, adding: "A country which is supposed to be one of the richest in the world doing this to save money is ridiculous.

"There's a big Norwegian community in Edinburgh and Aberdeen and there are Norwegians all over the country."

He predicted a campaign to save the consulate would gather steam as news of the closure became public, and said: "I don't think the Norwegian government knows what it has done. They are going to be inundated with complaints."

ystein Hovdkinn, the Norweigian consulate-general in Scotland, confirmed the closure and referred questions on the issue to the Oslo-based Norwegian foreign ministry.

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There are up to 5,000 Norwegian nationals based in Scotland, mostly students and workers in the oil and gas industry. Of the 300 Norwegian companies with offices in the UK, 100 are based in Scotland.

Last night, Angus Robertson, the SNP's foreign affairs spokesman at Westminster, who travelled with Mr Salmond to Oslo last year on a trip aimed at forging closer links with Norway, vowed to fight the "inexplicable" closure.