Hear me, Despot, I will be your bane, as long as I last. For Norway's law, in the peasant's hand shall smash your slaves’ bonds.
This book is a comparative study of the economic, social and political development of Norway and Scotland since about 1800. Our main question is about how the development of these two small countries at the north of Europe, whose histories were intertwined from about the year ad 795 when Norse raiders sacked Iona Monastery, and whose economic, social, cultural and political structures had certain similarities in the early and late medieval periods, nevertheless diverged sharply in economic, social, political and other ways from the eighteenth century on. In seeking to answer that question, we inevitably move closer towards an understanding of the political, social and economic conditions that make an ‘ alternative’ development possible. In this way we hope to inform debates about the future of Scotland after the referendum in Autumn 2014, as well as contribute to debates about present and future policy choices in Norway.
In this referendum, the Scottish electorate faced a choice of whether or not to vote for independence from the rest of the UK. In the political developments of the recent past that have led to this situation, there has been growing Scottish interest in Norway and the wider Nordic region, exemplified by Lesley Riddoch's lively ‘Nordic Horizons’ group. This interest has focused on issues such as education, land ownership, urban transport, green cities, elderly care, NATO, the management of North Sea oil and gas, local government, the welfare state and Nordic cooperation. The general tenor of the Nordic Horizon debates, as well as the White Paper on Scottish Independence produced by the Scottish Government in the Autumn of 2013, is that Norwegian – and wider Nordic – policies might offer some interesting ideas for Scotland should it become a nation-state again. Beyond that, some form of future alliance with the structures of Nordic and wider Scandinavian cooperation, in particular the Nordic Council of Ministers, is also under discussion. These issues, and in particular the perceptions around them, are further discussed by Hilson and Newby in Chapter 10.