NEWS of Finance Secretary Kate Forbes’s recent fact-finding visit to Scandinavia reaffirms Scotland’s interest in our Nordic neighbours’ blueprints for success in business and sustainability.

With a focus on best practice and innovation, she had her sights firmly set on exploring some of Denmark and Finland’s most ambitious projects in fair work and the green economy to gather inspiration for policy development in the National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

As chair of the APPG on the Nordic and Arctic Council at Westminster, I applaud her efforts to continue to expand Scotland’s sphere of influence and inspiration northwards. We have much in common and it is vital to explore the many opportunities for collaboration and knowledge exchange between Scotland and the Nordic states. When I attended the 73rd Session of the Nordic Council in Copenhagen last Autumn, I was delighted to observe mutual areas of interest across social justice, renewable potential, sustainably and wellbeing.

At this critical stage, with the multiple global threats of climate change, post-Covid economic downturn and the energy crisis, it’s never been more important to nurture closer ties with our neighbours and explore shared expertise on solutions to these unprecedented and challenging times.

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In Norway, for instance, their foresight and joined-up thinking on incentives for electric vehicles and a robust charging infrastructure has led to their accolade as the first country in the world where EVs outsell traditional combustion engine cars. Now they have turned their attention to green hydrogen in the race to curb greenhouse gas emissions in hard to abate sectors such as shipping and heavy-duty transport.

In Denmark, successful cluster models across academia, the private and public sector and government boost entrepreneurialism with healthy collaborative eco-systems, scoring high in the past on the Global Entrepreneurship Index in terms of start-ups, tech absorption, human capital and competition.

With the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, Forbes is keen to establish Scotland as a world-class entrepreneurial nation, creating a culture that encourages, promotes and celebrates this activity across sectors. Denmark and Finland have obviously produced much food for thought in this area in terms of fair work, opportunity, economic and environmental resilience.

I believe we are in a good position to realise these goals. Scotland has some incredible expertise and innovatory small to medium-sized businesses, something that has been brought home to me in the past few months on two particular visits to businesses working in the circular economy and new forms of agriculture to adapt to our changing world.

ReBlade in Glasgow is the UK’s first specialist blade and nacelle decommissioning company, pioneering new approaches to wind turbine blade handling without the use of landfill. Their core business model is based around sustainable values. Recycled blades have been transformed into park benches, roofs on bicycle parks, indoor furniture and an elegant podium used at COP26.

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In my own constituency in Dunfermline and West Fife, some incredible innovations in agriculture are taking place at Inverkeithing-based Intelligent Growth Solutions, which specialises in vertical farming, where plants are grown indoors stacked high on towers. This new technology creates microclimates for optimum growth of crops as a response to the many challenges facing traditional farming methods in our changing climate.

Already another burgeoning company in my constituency, Greenfolds Systems Ltd, are a key part of the IGS supply chain. Vertical farming tech offers a glimpse into the future of food production and has great export potential for this Scotland-based company.

That’s just a taste of some of the entrepreneurial and innovative work and ideas coming out of Scotland at the moment. We must ensure that we support these businesses to scale up and bring on board local companies and supply chains to realise their potential as well as reaching out for possible collaborations with Scandinavia and across the world.

It’s good for Scotland, good for our economy and good for the planet. And good for international relations. Now there’s a blueprint for success we can all get behind.