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Could Scotland be accepted as the next member of the Nordic Council?

Members of the Nordic Council speak at a press conference after a 2019 Session at the Swedish Government headquarters Rosenbad in Stockholm.
Members of the Nordic Council speak at a press conference after a 2019 Session at the Swedish Government headquarters Rosenbad in Stockholm. Copyright Jessica Gow/TT via AP
Copyright Jessica Gow/TT via AP
By Matthew Holroyd
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Following success in the recent parliamentary elections, a Finnish MP said he would push to make Scotland an observing member of the Nordic Council, but is there any substance to the initiative?


After securing 64 seats in last week's parliamentary election, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has focused its attention once again on an independence vote.

Despite falling short of a majority themselves, the SNP insisted it will push on with another referendum with the support of the Greens.

In her 2021 election manifesto, party leader Nicola Sturgeon stated that independence could foster stronger ties "in the rest of the UK and Europe".

And barely hours after Sturgeon had celebrated her party's gains, one Finnish MP had suggested those ties could be found in northern Europe.

Mikko Kärnä, a Lapland lawmaker for the Finnish Centre Party, expressed his congratulations towards the SNP for their "huge victory".

"I am confident, you will vote for independence soon after [the] pandemic is over," he added, before alluding to a pledge of his own.

"In the meantime, I will launch an initiative to Nordic Council: we will ask Scotland to join [the] council as an observer."

Kärnä has previously generated media headlines for his flamboyant political views, including when he urged Finland to recognise Catalan independence in 2017.

His comments prompted Finland's then-foreign minister Timo Soini to stress that the MPs views did not reflect his country's official diplomatic policy.

So does Kärnä's latest initiative to grant Scotland observer status in the Nordic Council hold any weight?

What is the Nordic Council?

Established in 1952, the Nordic Council lists its main aim as making northern Europe a region that "people want to live and work in".

Founding members Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden each have 80 members, including representatives from the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland - an autonomous region of Finland. Iceland makes up the final seven members of the 87-seat Council.

Members of the inter-parliamentary body are not directly elected but are instead nominated by their national parties.

The Council holds two annual meetings to co-operate and decide on issues that Nordic governments are then called on to implement.

Vidar Ruud / NTB scanpix via AP
Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May spoke at the 2018 Nordic Council Session at the Norwegian Parliament.Vidar Ruud / NTB scanpix via AP

Although exclusive on members, the Council has previously invited other European leaders to attend meetings, such as in 2019 when German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks with Nordic leaders on climate policy.

"The Presidium may invite representatives of popularly elected bodies and other persons to a session and grant them speaking rights," the Council states on its website.

But is there any scope for inviting new members, such as representatives of the Scottish Parliament?

So can Scotland join?

In theory, yes, but not soon.


In their 2021 manifesto, the SNP pledged to expand Scotland's international network and establish "new innovations and investment hubs for the nordic and baltic regions".

And Kärnä's tweet will have likely been received well by party members, but Euronews understands that no such proposal to invite Scotland has yet been received by the Nordic Council.

The formation of the Council is based on the 1996 Helsinki Treaty, which detailed how Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden would co-operate.

But while the treaty does not rule out members, the process to formally invite is an arduous one.

"If any further state would want to join the cooperation, as an observer or a member, a revision of the Helsinki Treaty would be required," a spokesperson for the Nordic Council told Euronews.


"Such a revision is a long and complicated procedure, and all decisions would have to be taken unanimously by the member states."

So while signatories to the Nordic Council have so far expressed positive relations with Scotland, and the UK more broadly, Nicola Sturgeon cannot hope for an immediate alliance with other northern European countries.

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