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24 November 2013 Last updated at 09:57 ET
h m o n S e o t a S l k h n r l o d c s u d c : l t e A ic t r o n ia ? n t r s p io r f
By Allan Little
Stand on the quayside at Aberdeen and you are closer, geographically, to Stavanger and Oslo than you are to London. In the centuries when travel was easier by sea than by land, the Norsemen came south to plunder, conquer and settle. Many of the place-names of Scotland are the legacy of a time Nordic Europe drew the lands bordering the North Sea around it and bound them into one ocean-going community of peoples. Sutherland is so called because it was once one of the southern parts of that community. Does anything survive of that distant time? Does the North Sea separate us from, or connect us to, our Nordic neighbours? One of Sweden's most popular tourist attractions is the 17th Century warship Vasa. Its hull is 70 metres long and decorated with oak carvings of mermaids, wild men and sea monsters - which are designed to celebrate the might of Imperial Sweden and to intimidate its enemies. It is a visually stunning reminder that Sweden once dominated the northern tier of Europe, drawing many of its Baltic neighbours into its orbit. Both Norway and Finland have, at different periods in their history, been joined to Sweden in a union. All three of these nations are broadly comparable to Scotland, whose people will take part next year in an independence referendum. At first glace all of these countries have;
Small populations spread across large territories Long coast lines (the word Norwegian 'fjord' is surely derived from the same root as the Scots 'firth') A traditional dependence on maritime activities, including fishing and shipbuilding And Norway has an oil industry that has helped turn one of the poorest countries of Europe into one of the richest in the world
They have also evolved a way of living, and of governing, which is the envy of much of Europe. They're often held up as an example of what Scotland could aspire to become - benign, nonbelligerent, socially harmonious and prosperous social democracies. This reading appeals particularly to the pro-independence left in Scotland.
Unemployment soared. says: "House prices were going up like never before. The government was forced to make drastic cuts in public spending in what was already a high-tax country. Paternity leave .Norway has free education from the ages of six to 18. And it thrived. good jobs. "You have this chain . students at state universities and university colleges do not pay tuition fees. Martti Sanna.From 0% up to 47. more or less the whole Finnish economy collapsed. women." says Robin MacAlpine of the Jimmy Reid Foundation. Generally. its dependence of the Soviet Union meant that in 1991 its main export market disappeared almost overnight. as well as prescriptions medicines. It provided a signature lesson on the key weakness of many small nations: that their economies are often dangerously dependent on a relatively small number of volatile sectors. It took years of pain but Finland recovered.9 Million (2012) Life expectancy (average) . Things got steadily worse. they did not strike. In fact it over-reached itself. with a state insurance scheme giving basic levels of welfare. dentists and specialists. In the late 1980s it deregulated its banking sector and entered a period that came to be known as the "casino years".000 students are at Norwegian universities with the majority receiving the state education loan fund.5% of the workforce Education .good economy. good public services." says Sanna.8% (2013) Unemployment .3. The Finns did not riot. would have sunk under the weight of the near-collapse of RBS and HBOS? Yes and no. N O R W Y A Population . "There was a feeling that we were more or less invincible. but visits to doctors." The economy shrank almost overnight by 10%.The Nordic model is "a high wage economy. an economic adviser to the Finnish government. Up to 14 weeks of this leave can be taken by the father. and high social cohesion.The system is funded by taxes. to the Better Together campaign. He explains: "You use the money that generates through tax. based on highly productive enterprise. had it been independent. Banks went bust Is this a cautionary tale.Men 77 years. This year it was rated No1 in Europe in a . "And very suddenly. good wages.46 weeks of parental leave at 100% of pay or 56 weeks at 80% of pay. In Finland's case. good taxes. Health system . or insist on spending money they did not have. to create extremely strong public services. useful. Inpatient hospital treatment is free.4. "The world economy was also in turmoil and this resulted in a large banking crisis. perhaps. they did not demand the ring-fencing of health budgets. it was almost entirely dependent on trade with the Soviet Union. incur charges. For decades after WW2." Then the crash came. 83 years Individual tax rates ." Finland illustrates well both the strengths and weaknesses of small independent nations on the periphery of Europe. Some 195. which argues that Scotland.
Sanna says: "We tried to keep it at a fixed rate against other currencies.5. Erkki Ormala. At the same time. a former senior executive at Nokia. tiny Finland dominated the world's mobile phone market. Universities do not charge tuition fees. "But we had to give it up and let it float. rather than economic reasons. They did so largely for political. and many .from 6. Paternity leave is 54 working days altogether (approximately 9 weeks).State healthcare is only available if you are employed and paying into the healthcare insurance fund or if you are a dependant of an employed person or if you belong to one of the vulnerable groups like the disabled.given what has happened since . Sweden and Norway came second and third and these were the only three European nations to make it into the top 10 of that league table.recent global dynamism index. in any similar crisis in the future. The whole banking sector was completely overhauled. only the Finns. . It was a series of factors that illustrate the fleet-of-foot flexibility of small independent states. Among the Nordic states. now an academic. The size of each person's contribution depends on how much they earn. It devalued considerably and this helped exports. But it wasn't only currency independence that brought Finland back from the brink and made it one of the continent's most successful societies. "The rest is history.Men 76 years. An independent Scotland. an old Finnish company that had built itself up over more than a century decided to take a major gamble. While hospitals and schools were being squeezed.1% of the workforce Education . It is deducted directly from people's wages. the government increased spending in this field by 25%. would not have this option. joined the Euro. The one area of public spending the government did not cut was research and development. The sale of Nokia to Microsoft this summer marked the end of the company's dominance. Norway and Denmark have all kept their own currencies. We let a couple of major banks go bust and the ones that were left merged. says: "The decision was made to divest all the other businesses and to concentrate on mobile communications. By the late twentieth century it also made electrical cabling and rubber boots .now regret the loss of their currency independence. because under current plans Scotland is not to have an independent currency. At the height of its success. Nokia had started life in the nineteenth century in the wood pulp business. women 83 years Individual tax rates .Education in Finland is free to all beginning at the voluntary pre-primary level and continuing through upper secondary school." For 20 years. Paternity leave . higher than Scotland's.5% up to 51% (2013) Unemployment .hardly the stuff of the digital future and the knowledge economy. Nokia was supplying 40% of the global market. Sweden. the Markka.000 workers globally. Health system . ironically.Paid maternity allowance for 105 working days. The company has laid off 10.8. The secret of Finland's successful emergence from economic catastrophe was its independent currency. Unemployment in wealthy little Finland is 8%.4 million (2012) Life expectancy (average) ." N A L D I F Population .
0% of the workforce Education . Preschools and university education is funded by the government in part. In Sweden 10% of the public health service is contracted out to private companies. Their computer game Angrybirds has sold 1. He adds: "In everything. The games manufacturer Rovio is one. Walgreen. They're showing that there need not be a tension between freemarket ideas and progressive ends." she told me." It is not uncontroversial even in Sweden.if Finland were still in a union with Sweden.60 days for each parent are counted respectively as maternity and paternity rights. told me: "I think the important discussion is not whether the care provider is public or private but what it can deliver. looks to Sweden for inspiration.The Swedish system gives everyone who lives or works in Sweden equal access to heavily subsidized healthcare. Tax autonomy is vital to the success of the Nordic model." he says. "We have a contract with the local authority to provide care as part of the public health service. and we are able to discharge a patient two days early.Male 78. we are paid the same but our cost comes down. Paternity leave . Finnish investment created scores of smaller. of which 270 days are paid at 80% of earnings and the 90 remaining days paid at a flat rate. The is 60 remaining weeks of parental leave. is key to the Nordic model's success. Sweden and Norway all now have right-of-centre governments.Schooling is free in Sweden. Swedes also pay a fee to visit their GP.From 0% up to 57% (2013) Unemployment . Would such a policy fly in Scotland? . "would still be making rubber boots". It is funded by tax and patient fees cover only a small percentage of costs.But it has weathered the storm because during the years of Nokia's ascendancy. It is not only the left in Scotland that applauds the Nordic model. because some public money ends up as private profit. I asked the CEO of a small but highly successful internet security company a simple question . But if we improve the service. Britta Walgreen is the chief executive of St Goran's hospital on the outskirts of Stockholm.8." he said. too. Fraser Nelson. independent hi-tech enterprises selling services to Nokia. Health system ." This flexibility. the Scottish editor of the far-from-left-wing London weekly The Spectator. "Just being publicly owned is no guarantee that the quality is high. the Swedes are at the forefront of liberalisation." W S D E N Population . Sweden is "one of the few countries in the world that is cutting tax and getting growth as a result. Finland. and its tax regime was decided in Stockholm rather than Helsinki. "We are paid for each patient we treat.7 billion downloads worldwide. what would the Finnish economy look like? "Nokia.9. and wishes David Cameron would have the guts to be as right wing in some of his thinking as the Swedes are. from pension policies to the way you run public services.5 million (2012) Life expectancy (average) . Female 83 Individual tax rates . a former anaesthesiologist. Is there a lesson here for Scotland? A decade ago.
historically. a thousand people still own 60% of the privately-owned and. But it is still costly. for people who do not work. Many take unpaid jobs for work experience. He says: "You get 360 degrees up here. It is not generous to the unemployed. not to reward them for being out of work. look like the privatisation of the health service? Sweden's welfare model is also little understood here. But what is Stockholm's tallest building? There it is and it symbolises Sweden's love affair with the state: that is the headquarters of the national tax authority. rather than to drain from it. women 80 years. Individual tax rates . There's not a lot of compassion for loafers.From 0% up to 45% (2013) (as part of the UK system) .men 76 years. and where only in recent years has the number of people owning their own homes passed the 50% mark. the county is required by law to provide children with day care. as the journalist Lesley Riddoch points out in her book Blossom.Would any government here dare to propose reforms that would. she pays £200 a month. That put them in a different relationship with the power of the crown than their counterparts in Scotland where. and a senior executive at Ericsson in Stockholm. The unemployed are stigmatised in Sweden.5. In Sweden. It is welfare spending designed to sustain and support wealth creation. Where does it come from? Can Scandinavia's social harmony be taken off the peg and made to fit a non-Nordic society? The Nordic world has been. They had title deeds property rights." But Sweden spends more on childcare for working parents than it does on its armed forces. This is not a generous welfare state. The historian Lars Tragardh told me: "Sweden is in many ways a harsh society." As a result. much more classless than Britain. C S O A L N T D Population . If you are on the dole for more than 12 months your welfare payments fall drastically and you are required to attend seminars and training workshops. Tragardh took me out onto the roof of his university building and in a bracing Nordic wind we looked down onto the rooftops of Stockholm. if you're only reasonably well-off. There's the fairground. It is designed to keep people in employment." Scandinavians pay the highest taxes in the world. For two children under school age. the Nordic countries have more women in work than almost anywhere else in Europe. She explained: "And this includes food and nappies and everything. It is a condition that Swedes have reconciled themselves to over the years. in our ideologically binary political culture. There's the royal palace. In the eighteenth century Swedish peasants owned the land they worked. Land ownership It is the egalitarianism of Nordic society that appeals to many in Scotland. Anna Nyborg is a young mother-of-two. From the age of 12 months. They have a tradition of land ownership that is radically different to anything that Scotland has experienced. you surrender close to two-thirds of your income to the tax man.3 million Life expectancy (average) . We don't have a lot of welfare queens.
Norway declared independence from Sweden in 1905. let its declining old industries die. Northern Ireland and Wales.the Swedes seem more posh. in time. and reported from Scotland during the 1997 referendum campaign.has been used as part of the overall tax take. The Norwegians allow themselves to spend only 4% of the interest each year . that every other sector of the productive economy becomes uncompetitive and collapses. in effect dissolving what had been a United Kingdom." The warship Vasa sank. Health system . For Norway understood very early that its oil wealth. and under-graduate courses generally run for four. Wales and Northern Ireland in 2011-12 because Scots students do not pay tuition fees in Scotland. In sport. What's more 96% of the interest on that fund is reinvested in it. There was a lot of public pressure on the government to use the country's new oil wealth to rescue the industry and save jobs. if mismanaged. They were. Prescriptions are free in Scotland. "I saw these same traits in the Scottish view of England. It is a quiet Nordic rebuke to the rest of us. investing in companies overseas. But the Nordic country that is arguably most similar to Scotland is Norway.Unemployment .4% of the workforce Education . Norway. with 39 being paid through statutory maternity pay. of the wealth that was there has now gone. They agreed not to spend a penny of the oil revenues in Norway itself. maternity allowance or contractual maternity pay. The health service in Scotland is the responsibility of the Scottish government. It didn't happen. Norway's political parties entered into a self-denying pact. and much. The Scots are like the Norwegians .of course much smaller as a proportion of GDP .Scotland spent more per capita on tertiary education than England. It's still there especially among older people . Britain's oil wealth . would be a curse rather than a blessing. Twenty years ago. If you'd sailed into Oslo 30 years ago. start an oil fund. "The Swedes were the big brother of the Nordic countries. They ruled over Norway till 1905.New mothers have the right to take 52 weeks leave. But there were negotiations at the end of which the Swedish King renounced his claim to the Norwegian throne. the received wisdom in Europe was that the Nordic economic model had had its . New fathers are entitled to at least two weeks' paternity leave on the birth of their child. The Scottish government argues that it could.they are outgoing and so on. She told me: "Norwegians used to have an inferiority complex about the Swedes. and we are still like farmers and fishermen and so forth. Windfall resources like that can have the effect of so inflating a nation's currency. So they save it all instead. by then. The Norwegian journalist Marie Simenson worked for a time as her newspaper's correspondent in London. Echoes of that tension remain. just 120m from the shore. on its maiden voyage in 1638.and none of the capital. it is the most important thing to beat the Swedes. but if you push their buttons. they're a bit touchy. not three years.The NHS is free at the point of use for anyone resident in the UK. would need to spend its oil revenues to meet existing commitments.7. already in terminal decline. But even that is enough to pay for 10% of the annual public budget. It's the same with the Swedes. more sophisticated. It keeled over under the weight of its own grandiose. There was tension between the two nations and even the threat of war. Paternity leave . initially at least. ruthlessly. you'd have passed shipyards and marine workshops on the waterfront. unsustainable ambition. Its oil fund is now worth £400bn. perhaps most. And an independent Scotland. But the Norwegians have a 40-year start on us.
day . Read more. creating new businesses. and flexibility." Could an independent Scotland emulate the model? And if it could. We have a high level of social capital. in the Nordic context. sounder public finances. the state. "But we've seen over these last years that the Nordic countries come out on top when it comes to innovation. Cable hands RBS file to watchdog [/news/business-25077124] Possible date set for Scots independence [/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-25070576] BBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. top heavy. given the extraordinary degree of interdependence and co-operation that exists between them and the rest of Europe. safe and solid public welfare. "We have higher employment. told me: "We were told that we were doomed in the new global economy. Jonas Store. I wonder this . why couldn't a strongly devolved Scotland within the UK do the same? For what. in what sense is any of these countries (in the parlance of the Scottish constitutional debate) "going it alone"? It's not for me to answer the questions.the public sector was too big.shouldn't we at least try to see the choice we face next year in its broader European context? Watch Allan Little's Nordic documentary: "Our Friends in the North" on BBC Two Scotland at 22:30 on M onday. like the Vasa. because we have unions that take collective responsibility and strike responsible deals. Norway's former foreign minister. as well as financial capital. But as an old foreign correspondent returning to my own country at a time of historic decisionmaking. . o t sd n al t o ce S M r o Catholic church calls in ex-moderator [/news/uk-scotland-25082741] A former moderator of the Church of Scotland is asked by the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland to look at its safeguarding procedures. does "sovereignty" mean? And.
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