Scotland should look to ally with Nordic nations, not EU, says legal expert

Country can succeed as an independent state outside of the UK and EU, according to woman behind new Iceland constitution

Scotland could succeed as an independent country outside of the UK and the EU, a constitutional expert has said, advising it to ally with Nordic countries instead.

With Spain threatening to veto any future independent Scotland from joining the EU, the woman who drew up Iceland’s post-crash constitution said the Scots should not fear being outside Brussels’ sphere of influence.

Katrin Oddsdóttir, elected to draft a new Icelandic social contract after the financial collapse, said her country’s recovery showed that smaller nations could survive outside big unions.

Speaking at the weekend following a lecture during the Galway international arts festival in Ireland, Oddsdóttir said that if there was a referendum to join the EU in Iceland, she would vote no – describing the union as a “gang” and a “bullying association”.

On an independent Scotland, she said: “I still think the people of Scotland could do quite well as independent nation outside of the EU. Firstly, because the EU is in a cul de sac in a way as it facilitates global capitalism which is destroying everything. Scotland could be very progressive and say we will follow the path of Iceland and Norway, which are countries that trade with the EU but are not part of the Brussels camp. I think an independent Scotland should look further north towards Reykjavik and Oslo rather than Brussels.

“My feeling is that Scottish people are looking further in terms of their country becoming independent and there is no condition that that future has to be as part of the European Union.

Tourists in Reykjavik, Iceland
Tourists in Reykjavik, Iceland. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

“Of course there are plenty of people who want to remain in the UK and many pro-independence people who want to join the EU. However, I am not sure Scotland could be really independent by being in the EU. In my opinion the Scots have nothing to fear being outside the EU like we are in Iceland. We got over our banking crisis and our disastrous recession ourselves and by our own efforts.

“There is a great beauty and a great strength in being a small nation that is truly independent. Which means making your own decisions more freely.”

In 2011 Oddsdóttir was elected by a national vote to be one of 25 experts and ordinary citizens tasked with creating a new constitution, which the Icelandic parliament has to decide whether or not to endorse after the country’s general election this autumn.

It was drafted with checks and balances to ensure Iceland does not repeat the mistakes hat led to it allowing its banking system to get out of control. It also states that any move to dilute national sovereignty, such as by joining the EU, must be put to a referendum.

Oddsdóttir said that while Brexit was a mistake, the UK could continue to prosper. She said being in the European Economic Area free trade zone but not inside the EU was “the best of both worlds from an Icelandic viewpoint”.Oddsdóttir said that post-Brexit Britain could also learn from Iceland’s recovery as a non-EU nation.

“I think Britain can more than survive because like Norway, like Iceland, a lot of countries outside of the EU are doing fine,” she said. “A lot of officials in Iceland have been saying after the Brexit vote that we can cooperate with Britain more.

“Now of course we are a small country on the outside but there are many like us and Britain could now have new allies. Iceland has done fine standing on its own outside the EU. That is a lesson for the Scots if they go independent and it is a lesson to the UK overall. If you allow your people to really participate in your democracy, in your law-making, this is the only way to be able to keep your sovereignty whilst trading freely from the outside with the EU.”

The Icelandic constitutional expert was speaking as part of the arts festival’s “first thought talks” series. On Friday night, Elvis Costello, playing a gig in the city for the festival, opened his set on the stage by telling his audience: “It’s great to be back in Ireland, it’s great to be back in Europe.”


Henry McDonald Ireland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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