Fiona Hyslop: Bergen 950th anniversary message

Citizens of Bergen, it is a great
pleasure to be able to send you the best wishes of the Scottish Government
on the event of the 950th anniversary of the founding of the city.
The founding of what is now the city of Bergen is an excellent example of our
shared heritage. The man who founded the green meadow amidst the mountains left
Britain in 1066 after the Battle of Stamford Bridge which effectively ended
the Viking Age. So Bergen symbolises the start of a new age in Norway founded on
peace, trade and an international perspective, something which still
characterises the Bergen outlook today. Just 28 years after Bergen was founded
Norwegian control over Orkney and the Western Isles of Scotland was formalised
in 1098. King Edgar of Scotland signed a treaty with King Magnus 3rd of Norway
and this treaty lasted until the Battle of Largs
in July 1266. In 2016 the Scottish Parliament celebrated the seven hundred
and fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Perth which set out much of the
modern boundaries of Scotland and ended the military conflict between Norway and
Scotland over the sovereignty of the Hebrides and the Isle of Man. The
ambassadorial style was rather different then as the treaty was signed at
Blackfriars monastery on the north side of the city of Perth. Even in 1266 there
was a strong appetite to forge a partnership and to set a diplomatic and
political context to foster trade and development links which have pervaded
ever since. Whilst the sea roots of the medieval and earlier period between the
Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland have been replaced by air links in the modern
world, the flows of people and cultures between our countries remains steady. And
it is perhaps natural that we would look to the north for some of our closest
neighbours. We share a cultural and philosophical outlook driven by a
similar climate and a culture strongly influenced by
topography. One of Norway’s most famous modern authors, Knut Hamsun, captures the
link between the landscape and the people in many books but this quote
could be just as much about Scotland as it could his native Norway: ‘Earth and sea
merged, the sea tossed itself in the air in a fantastic dance, into the shapes
of men and horses and tattered banners. I stood in the lee of an overhanging rock
and thought of many things.’ This captures the essence of the shared relationship –
topography, light and weather inform an approach to life – of standing back and
considering, thinking. A quiet people who take a considered approach. These ties
clearly remain strong and there is a powerful policy rationale for shared
work between Scotland and our Nordic partners. We share many challenges, from
empowering our rural communities to accelerating decarbonisation and
promoting a sustainable use of our marine resources. And there’s a lot we
can learn from each other and even more we can achieve together. It is to
strengthen this type of cooperation aimed at improving the well-being and
resilience of our communities that the Scottish Government published its first
Arctic Policy Framework at the end of September. As part of this effort we are
eager to build new opportunities for collaboration with our Norwegian
neighbours including the city and region of Bergen. We already of course have a
strong relationship with Bergen, who have gifted Christmas trees to Edinburgh and
Orkney for over 50 years. And every year students from Hordaland also study in
Scotland spending a year living and learning in Scotland and helping to
cement our ties for further generations. Strong cultural collaborations in the
heritage and arts sectors also support our economic ties extending well beyond
oil and gas into aquaculture and the service sector. Bergen is also embarking
upon an exciting new journey this year marking the beginning of the new Vestland administration, a reference to the historical connections the city had 950
years ago. As your steadfast partner to the west,
Scotland looks forward to being part of this new departure. Perhaps our
relationship is best summed up by a quote from Liv Ullmann which
demonstrates the benefits of the closeness which we still enjoy. ‘We all
need somebody to talk to. It would be good if we talked, not just pitter patter
but real talk. We shouldn’t be so afraid because most people really like this
contact; that you show you’re vulnerable makes them free to be vulnerable.’ Or
perhaps we should set our ambitions on a motto from Ibsen,
who eloquently suggested that a thousand words will not leave so deep an
impression as one deed. So I hope with this deed of wishing you many
congratulations on the 950th anniversary, the impression
of the depth of relationship between Scotland, Bergen and Norway is reinforced
and renewed for centuries to come.

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