David Cameron has just made another of his fleeting visits to Scotland to lecture us on the benefits of staying in the UK. Benefits which are so vague as to be almost invisible. He is however rather good on extolling the past. He tries to wax lyrical about how the UK is the greatest and most successful union in history. Clearly Mr Cameron did not learn much history at school or at university. For there has been at least one other long lasting and successful union. The union between Denmark and Norway. This particular union lasted for 434 years. A pretty long time by anyone’s standards. It was on the whole a peaceful and stable union. At least compared to the bloody imperial aggression of the UK. The Danish-Norwegian union ended in 1814.
The Norwegians wanted the end of the union with Denmark to lead to independence, and to this end they developed their own constituion. Today, 17th May is Constitution Day in Norway. Not just any constitution day, but the 200th anniversary of the proclamation of Norway’s constitution. What is most interesting from our perspective in Scotland and the rest of the UK is that to celebrate this historic 200th anniversary, the Norwegians invited Mogens Lykketoft, the current speaker of the Danish parliament, to come to Oslo and give a speech in the Norwegian Parliament. Only the second non Norwegian to be so invited. The other was Winston Churchill.
Mr Lykketoft’s speech is a wonderful expression of how the relations between two countries that were once united can improve and blossom with the independence of both. Moridura has kindly provided a translation of the speech, which you can read in full here. I just want to pick out a couple of points from this speech which I think are most relevant to us, not just in Scotland, but to our friends in the rest of the UK.
- Today – 200 years after our divorce – Danes and Norwegians have at least just as much in common as we did back then when we were a common realm. Our mutual relationship is far more equal. (Note that Mr Lykketoft does not shy away from using the divorce word)
- We hold no mutual mistrust and we make it a premise that the people of the sister country think, believe and act as we do ourselves. This immediate understanding, a stronger case of which is unlikely to be found between other nations in the world….
- (this immediate understanding) is based on
- that we so easily understand each other’s speech,
- that we are deeply shaped by the common history and culture,
- that we socially, economically and politically has so much in common and
- that we trade a lot more between ourselves than with the rest of the world.
Mr Lykketoft in his speech on behalf of the Danish people to the people of Norway shows all of us the way forward. There is little, if anything, that unites the people of Denmark and Norway that does not also apply to the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK. Yet as Mr Lykketoft makes abundantly clear, this relationship has prospered with independence and is now a more equal one. Let us hope that when Scotland does become independent, we do not have to wait 200 years for the speaker of the Westminster parliament to come to Edinburgh and say to all of us: Congratulations Scotland!