Thursday, 25 March 2010
How very differently things turned out in Norway. Having become a Danish province in 1537, the country remained under Danish rule until 1814. In the same year, a Union was formed with Sweden. It was not until 1905 that Norway gained complete independence (albeit with one horrifying interruption in the form of five years of occupation during WWII).
The later part of the 20th century saw a welcome change for both Scotland and Norway as the discovery of black gold boosted our economies. So, with both countries having similar sizes of population, perhaps it is inevitable that the non-independent Scots look to Norway.
So yesterday, when a friend asked me to reflect upon what might have happened if King James VI had not succeeded to the English throne in 1603, I felt unable to concentrate on the historical aspect of this question. It was a day when UK ears were tuned into Westminster and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling (a Scot) as he presented his latest UK Budget. As a pre-election Budget, it was always going to be more of a crowd-pleaser rather than a dose of medicine, and sure enough, it turned out to contain few shocks (unless one happens to be a multi-millionaire property-dealer with a fondness for cider). Consequently, my mind leapt from 1603 to the present day and I was awash with the current differences likely to strike any Scot who comes to live here.
The list is, of course, endless, but to spare you, I have allowed myself only a moment’s reflection, as though answering under pressure. No doubt my thoughts might be a little different tomorrow, but here is what springs to mind.
Norway has :
1. More land per head of population
2. A far smaller gap between the wealthiest and the least well off
3. A lower rate of crime
4. A far greater general understanding and use of the countryside
5. Far lower speed limits for drivers
6. Tougher rules on drink driving
7. Heavier fines for driving misdemeanours
8. More road tolls
9. Higher VAT
10. Higher taxes
11. Compulsory Military Service for men
12. Very expensive food, especially meat
13. Horrendously expensive booze
14. A functioning, means-tested and affordable childcare system
15. Greater equality between men and women at work
16. Shorter working hours
17. Better insulated homes
18. A fondness for basements
19. More snow
20. A very cold bit called The Arctic
These were my first 20 immediate thoughts. I am now left to wonder if things would be so very different if Scotland were indeed an independent nation.
Posted by Returning Scot at 14:35