Local Democracy

Municipalities & Local Democracy

NEW PODCAST Powerful pint-sized Nordic democracy

Scotland has the largest units of ‘local’ government in the developed world with just 32 councils for 5.3 million folk. Norway has almost 400 councils for roughly the same population. The Faroes – with fewer folk than Falkirk – has 29 local councils. What difference does that make to dynamism and democracy? Don’t small councils run the risk of nepotism, inefficiency and high costs? Listen as Lesley Riddoch chairs a discussion recorded just before Scotland’s local elections in May 2022 with with Norway’s State Secretary for Local Government Ole Gustav Narud, and Dennis Holm, the former Mayor of Vágur on the Faroes island of Suðuroy.   More info The EU average council has a relatively meagre 10 thousand inhabitants. And Vágur, on the isolated southern...Read More

Events in 2016

“Co-operation in Finland” will be the topic of the next Cross Party Group on Co-operatives in conjunction with Nordic Horizons on Tuesday 23 February at 6pm in the Scottish Parliament, sponsored by Willie Coffey MSP. The speaker is Kari Huhtala, Director of co-operation with Pellervo, the Finnish co-op trade association. Kari will discuss the scale of Finland’s 5,000 co-operatives across traditional agriculture, retail and banking sectors as well as the new wave of co-op start-ups as a response to the economic depression of the 90’s.’ General info and updates on speakers will be posted on our Facebook page and website www.nordichorizons.org. Please keep checking there rather than sending individual emails – NH is a small, self-administering, volunteer-based gr...Read More

Is Small Still Beautiful?

Is Small Still Beautiful – Digital Notes With Professor John Bryden, Aberdeen University Chaired by Lesley Riddoch, writer and broadcaster   Edinburgh City Chambers Wednesday 27 May – 6.00pm-8.00pm Norway has 428 kommuner (councils) The average size of a kommune is just 12,000 people. In Scotland the average council serves a whopping 178,000 people. How do these tiny Norwegian kommuner function and avoid bureaucracy and uneven standards? Whatever the answer it seems they are doing something right. Turnout at elections is 64% – almost twice that of Scotland. And 1 in 81 Norwegians stands in council elections compared to 1 in 2071 Scots. The new Norwegian Government has proposed mergers which would bring the average kommune size closer to 15 or 20 thousand people. Even this...Read More

New event announced “A world heading towards equality – through technology”

"A world heading towards equality – through technology"  Committee Room 2 , Scottish Parliament 5th March 2015 6pm  Speaker ; Uffe Elbæk MP  Sponsor ; Jean Urquhart MSP  Chaired by journalist and NH Director Lesley Riddoch 

Events 2015

‘Nurturing nature’ Comparing land quality and land use in South West Norway and Scotland Dr. Duncan Halley, Research Ecologist, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research – NINA Sponsored by Rob Gibson MSP Scottish Parliament December 1st 6pm South West Norway and Highland Scotland are closely similar in climate, geology and landforms; but very different in land cover, human population and land use. SW Norway is rapidly reforesting but Scotland is not. Rural areas are more heavily populated. Is that because southwest Norway is so very different in the basic conditions of life – or because land use history differs profoundly on either side of the North Sea? Duncan Halley (a Scot who has lived and worked in Norway for 20 years) describes how moorland in Norway has transformed to far...Read More

November meeting – ‘Small is Powerful’.

Small is Powerful – Event Notes Small is Powerful Åland Prime Minister, Ms Camilla Gunnell Sponsored by Mike Mackenzie MSP Scottish Parliament 6pm November 25th 2014 How does home rule in the tiny Åland Islands work? Almost seven thousand islands (most uninhabited) lie midway between Sweden and Finland in the Baltic Sea. Most of the 28 thousand Ålanders speak Swedish, but their territory is part of Finland. In fact, Åland is the only Finnish province with significant legislative powers granted through the Autonomy Act of 1921. The island group has its own regional assembly and executive with powers over education, health, culture, industry and policing (though not taxation) and elects a single representative to the Parliament in Helsinki. No Finnish parties compete on the islands and...Read More

The Nordic Phoenix Rises – Digital Notes

The Nordic Phoenix Rises – Digital Notes Harpa and the cultural revival of Iceland Halldór Guðmundsson — Director Harpa concert hall and conference centre, publisher & biographer of Nobel winning writer Halldor Laxness & author Wir sind alle Isländer on the Iceland crash Weds April 23rd 2014 Committee Room 2, Scottish Parliament 6-8pm Hosted by Linda Fabiani MSP Chaired by journalist and NH Director Lesley Riddoch Background. The new centrepiece of the Reykjavik skyline is Harpa, a magnificent concert hall which opened in 2011 — against all the odds. In 2008 it was part of a doomed waterfront redevelopment including a 400-room hotel, luxury flats, shops, restaurants, and new bank headquarters. The quarter-built project went on hold once the financial crisis hit an...Read More

Nordic Cooperation

Nordic Cooperation – Event Details Nordic Co-operation   Members Restaurant Scottish Parliament 5th November 6-8.30pm   Hosted by Helen Eadie MSP  Chaired by journalist and NH Director Lesley Riddoch  Speakers: Johan Strang of the Helsinki-based Centre for Nordic Studies and author of the Nordic Communities report describing a “third Nordic Golden Age” and Mary Hilson author of The Nordic Model from UCL London. The Nordic Council was set up in 1952 – a few short years after Iceland declared independence from Denmark, and Finland backed the ill-fated German invasion of Russia whilst two Nordic neighbours endured Nazi occupation. No-one would have blamed the Nordic nations for being huffy with one another. But they weren’t. The five Nordic defence ministers already co-operate on Scheng...Read More

Small is beautiful

Small is Beautiful – Digital Notes Nordic local government works in much smaller units than Scotland or England. Their municipalities gather taxes and run education, health and housing. The average Norwegian municipality has a population of 12,500, the average Scottish council 162,500. Scotland has the largest “local” councils in Europe and politicians want functions merged further to save money. How do small Nordic councils avoid post code lotteries? Do Nordic voters feel there’s expensive duplication? Do small burgh-sized councils transform communities? And how have recently merged municipalities fared? Nordic Speakers included – Bertil Klintbom, Gotland Municipality, Sweden and Professor Roger Buch, Aarhus University, Denmark. Contact Us

McKommunes – People-sized local government?

McKommunes – People-sized local government? – Digital Notes The success of the Nordic nations seems tied to their systems of small and powerful municipal government. Join our round-table discussion on whether ‘McKommunes’ might help to create a similarly successful society here and reverse the trend towards merger and centralisation. With guest speakers Rob Gibson MSP (SNP, Caithness, Sutherland & Ross), Sarah Boyack MSP (Scottish Labour, Lothian; Local Government Spokesperson), Eberhard ‘Paddy’ Bort, Academic Coordinator of the Institute of Governance at Edinburgh University and Professor Mike Danson, Reader in Economics and Management at the University of the West of Scotland. . Professor Mike Danson, Reader in Economics and Management at the University of the...Read More

Small nation culture

I've been thinking we should have more debate between meetings of the Nordic Horizons group. (for more info see www.nordichorizons.org ) And maybe your responses can help us get the best focus for meetings currently being planned – and one is being planned about small nations culture. So here are some thoughts about the cultures of small northern Nordic nations– are they suffocatingly couthy or devastatingly dynamic? Every nation constructs an identity and Scotland and Norway are no exceptions. But for a Scot who has become used to seeing the distinctive culture of Scotland tucked away in corners as "alternative" or "traditional" it's been moving and massively thought-provoking to visit Norway and see the collective life experience of Norwegians take centre stag...Read More


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