THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD.

This in another article from Peter Young from Denmark who regularly writes excellent articles for this blog. Of course the views expressed here are Peter’s . I do not share all of them while I do others, but I am not here to censor a friends views and as always Peter writes very well, is moderate and balanced and usually, on most topics, we are pretty much in agreement. Especially when it comes to Scottish Independence. Peter runs Scotnews from his base in Denmark.

Thoughts from Abroad

It’s an early morning departure on the ForSea ferry, ‘Hamlet’. Up on deck, there’s a fine view of the entire Helsingoer harbour which, unlike most key Scottish ports, is fully owned by the local council.

The sea air is lovely, all the more enjoyable due to the distinct lack of diesel fumes on board. It’s also unusually quiet for a ship built in 1997. Forsea inform us it now meets the strictest EU emission standards, so there’s the explanation.

The ferry next to us has a large battery symbol just above its name. Being the curious type, I discover that this ferry, the ‘Tycho Brahe’, is even older than the Hamlet. The Tycho Brahe is from 1991, and yet it has been converted to fully electric operation. Locally owned ports, decades-old ferries running efficiently on electricity – is there something we’re not doing right in Scotland?

It takes just 25 minutes to cross to Helsingborg and arrive in another independent country. It’s only a short distance, but everyone here speaks another language, has a different cultural heritage, uses another currency, and the nation is still, unlike Denmark, a non-NATO member – though only just. And it has a border, heaven forbid we should forget that.

Only in Scotland is a border considered an obstacle to nationhood. Remarkably, I survive this national frontier, in spite of being Scottish, and the big sign says, ‘Välkomna till Sverige’.

I’m en route to interview a US solo sailor and adventurer – the popular Youtuber, Sam Holmes. Sam is getting ship-shape for the coming season in a small Swedish harbour in the scenic archipelago just north of Gothenburg.

The last time I met up with a blue water sailor was in the late 1990s. Back then, Denmark’s Svend Billesboelle had just published ‘Stormy II’, an account of his latest circumnavigation. A pensioner, who spent much of his autumn years at sea, Svend’s boats became progressively smaller as his funds ran low. His latest, and as it turned out, final round-the-world voyage, was in an 18-foot Lynaes, a small sailing boat that resembles an old-time lifeboat with a mast and enclosed cabin. If he’d been from an English-speaking nation Svend may have received international media recognition. But being Danish, and with his books never translated into English, he remained a local hero, and a slightly eccentric maritime vagabond. But I digress.

The main road to Gothenburg cuts through a more rocky landscape the further north you get. I’ve always liked this part of Sweden. It’s easy to see why the exile Scot community of previous centuries also did. Gothenburg Scots are referenced by Billy Kay in his book ‘The Scottish World’. And Professor Steve Murdoch has done fascinating research on this part of the Scottish diaspora. 

Just north of the city the turn-off is in the direction of Stenungsund. Sam’s 28-foot Dory has been laid up for the winter here. After crossing the Atlantic, he navigated the Irish coast and traversed Scotland via the Caledonian Canal. 

After acquiring a taste for haggis and indulging his fondness for single malt whisky, he dodged the oil rigs on a stormy crossing to Norway. As the autumn nights drew in, he made his way south into the Kattegat and to Rassö Harbour here on Sweden’s west coast. Sam’s YouTube channel is worth a follow for his venture into the Celtic and Nordic worlds alone.

Heading home that evening, Danes were voting YES to closer military integration with Europe. The decision (66.9% to 33.1%) will further militarise the EU and strengthen the hand of self-styled president of Europe, Ursula von der Leyen. The result aside, we Scots can admire the fact that a national referendum was announced, arranged, and carried out within three months.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, the Stockholm political elite are planning to abandon the neutrality that has served the country so well for centuries. This decision means the nation is now full-in with a US-run NATO, which is looking to expand into a global organisation – presumably to search for new enemies to justify its continued existence.

Ditching neutrality, at a time when there is a proxy war going on between NATO (aka, USA) and the Russian Federation, seems inexplicable. Basically, Sweden has now painted a target on itself.

The last time there was a generation defining event like this in the Nordic region was 36 years ago. On a freezing February night in 1986 the news crackled through the radio of my old VW Beetle – Olof Palme was dead, gunned down in the middle of Stockholm.

There was something deeply unreal about the reports. Palme was the embodiment of Sweden as a humanitarian superpower. A non-aligned voice for peace and detente between East and West.

The ‘known knowns’ were that Palme had been walking home from the cinema together with his wife. He had no bodyguards that evening. After all, Sweden was not a country with a reputation for political murders. If anything, it was an oasis of peace. Politicians felt no fear of walking unguarded in public.

Palme was the last Swedish leader, and perhaps among the last politicians anywhere, to merit the title of world statesman. 

His still unsolved murder is a very murky affair. Swedish authorities followed one dead end after another from the start. The 34-year investigation was shut down in 2020 with the authorities pointing the finger of blame at an original witness to the event – Stig Engström, also known as ‘Skandia Man’. Conveniently, Stig had been dead for two decades. So that was that. He’s now been granted the posthumous ignominy of ‘prime suspect’ in the murder of Sweden’s greatest statesman.

Recommended reading (or listening) on this topic is Jan Stocklassa’s ‘The Man Who Played with Fire’. Much of Stocklassa’s book is based on the private research of the late author and investigative journalist, Stieg Larsson.

In the decades since the assassination, Sweden has taken a slow swing to the right. Sadly, more political violence followed. In 2003, the Social Democrat rising star, Anna Lindh, was assassinated in a Stockholm department store by a ‘crazed attacker’. At the time, Lindh, who was foreign minister, was tipped to become Sweden’s next leader. She was a critic of the Iraq War, a supporter of Palestinian rights, and for a pro-European power block. She was an ardent supporter of international cooperation through the United Nations. In fact, early in 2003 Lindh had helped broker a peace deal that avoided civil war in North Macedonia. She seemed ready to continue the foreign policy legacy of Palme. Alas.

By 2010, a now hawkish Sweden helped facilitate the arrest and ultimate detention of Julian Assange. Inverse Finlandization had finally occurred – Sweden was now publicly in the US sphere of influence.

If Sweden’s move to the right has been gradual, Scotland’s has been anything but. Less than a decade on from indyref, the ruling party is now in the grip of an unashamed neocon leadership. The First Minister extols people such as Alistair ‘sexed up dossier’ Campbell, Hillary ‘we came, we saw, he died’ Clinton, and Henry ‘what ethical concerns’ Kissinger. Stewart Hosie, Stewart McDonald and Alyn Smith big-up security service reports based on ‘research’ by the highly dubious character, Christopher Steele. Long before the current Ukraine conflict, they were full-in with the rampant Russophobia of the Integrity Initiative. And Sturgeon herself has been running around like a Clinton clone, calling for an NFZ in Ukraine, triggering a possible WWIII.

Of course, during the past decade we Scots have witnessed a political assassination of our own. It happened in plain sight.

No one died, though. It was the murder of a reputation – that of the former First Minister, and champion of Scottish independence, Alex Salmond. It was an ambush by a gang of civil servants, political advisors, former staffers, and the CEO of the SNP. An unsuspecting Salmond was caught in a ‘triangulation of smears’ by character assassins, all hidden from public view by the powers that be. 

Getting the media on-side is key to any successful plot, and the London-centric mainstream media has, so far, played its supporting role. “Truth is treason in the empire of lies”.

The late ferry from Helsingborg, the Tycho Brahe, leaves quietly and without a hint of diesel fumes. As mentioned earlier, this 31-year-old ferry now operates on electricity. 

En route, we glide past a Kronborg Castle finally free of scaffolding. The care and upkeep of Danish heritage sites never stops. If there is something rotten in the state of Denmark it’s certainly not its historic castles and architecture. 

However, in a generation lacking politicians of real substance, there may be dry rot undermining the foundation of the nation’s national soverignty in foreign policy matters. An ancient maritime nation, Denmark has just sent 130 Harpoon anti-ship missiles to the Zelensky regime so that it can sink Russian Federation ships in the Black Sea. Now, whatever our views on the conflict, pumping yet more weapons into the region will not solve the underlying issues or bring peace anytime soon. When did international diplomacy become so unfashionable?

I learned later that during my journey back, Scotland was busy failing to qualify for yet another World Cup. A shame for the Tartan Army. Still, the recently self-appointed Aberdeen presidium of the Yes movement probably consider the Scotland team an expression of blood and soil nationalism anyway. Either that, or phobic in some respect.

It was fabulous meeting Sam. His innocent abroad persona encapsulates everything good about Americans. And the west coast archipelago north of Gothenburg looks much as it did two decades ago when I holidayed there wi ma bairns. With its old-style Swedish charm, it’s the kind of place where you can easily forget there is an outside world. And I expect the people there did in August 1914 and again in September 1939. But of course, non-involvement in two European catastrophes was one of the benefits of being a neutral state. There may be a lesson there for a future independent state.

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19 thoughts on “THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD.

  1. I enjoyed that – I’m ashamed to say I knew nothing about the political murder but you are right there is more than one
    way to damage a political reputation and all you need is a dodgy lawyer or two and the media .

    Liked by 11 people

  2. Excellent blog From Peter, Ian, and I know it might not chime exactly with your views on the situation in Ukraine and its origins, but good on you for giving it a place on your site. If only our mainstream media had these standards

    Liked by 14 people

  3. Another excellent article from Peter Young.

    And plenty to ponder on for Scotland after it finally regains its full sovereignty and nation-state status, especially regarding whether or not to join military alliances i.e. NATO and what we should do in respect of the weapons of mass destruction currently based at Faslane/Holy Loch.

    One thing’s for sure, regardless of your views, these matters are far too important to be decided in a bubble by the SNP alone- we, the people, should have our say and whatever we decide should be coded up in a written constitution.

    Liked by 18 people

  4. I always enjoy Peter’s articles though I can do without his conclusions on SA. I just don’t accept them.

    Having had a few trips in Zealand and the west coast of Sweden Peter’s descriptive powers immediately bring to life fond memories. One being the Swedes with miller’s trolleys coming off the ship to collect booze in Denmark to take home.

    I visited the Nordic naval bases a few years ago with Angus Robertson . Among the many interesting information we garnered was the Danish proud boast that it had been involved in more UN peace keeping and NATO operations than any other member state. That may come as a surprise to many who look on Denmark as cosy with its hytte. Its immigration policy actively promoted by the Social Democrats also indicates a certain belligerence.

    As for Sweden we were advised by its spokesperson at the Carlskrona Base that twice in the Cold War neutral Sweden had “ dealt with” Soviet Union submarines in its water. It sounded final.

    Much has been written about Swedish neutrality during WW2. A bit like Switzerland it was a convenience to the fighting powers and was breached on a number of occasions. It wasn’t an easy option and is still an embarrassment to many.

    Whether Scotland should so willingly flirt its strengths to current NATO members is a political judgement call on our road to the referendum just like the Head of State issue.

    While much of Scotland’s potential global aspirations as a good player requires positive responses from states already in the various ‘clubs’, the cosy image of Denmark masks elements of a willing fighter.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Graeme, the mention of the booze trollies made me laugh. It was sad to observe, though. As you’re probably aware, the state-run ‘System Bolaget’ controlled all sale of alcohol in Sweden and actually promoted wine rather than spirits. There are fewer restrictions these days. A few off licences in Helsingoer are run by Swedes and cater to those who still like to shop liquid refreshments on a day trip.

      There were a number of very public submarine intrusions in Swedish waters in the 1980s. A ‘Whisky Class’ submarine ended on the rocks, that event generated a memorable headline 🙂 Western nations’’ intrusions were dealt with discreetly.

      There are several historic issues around Swedish ‘neutrality’. That said, the resentment among its neighbours is less these days, and just by the harbour in Helsingoer there’s a monument in memory of the asylum it offered to Danish Jews who were smuggled across to Sweden during WWII.

      Stieg Larsson of the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, was an investigative journalist who focused on Sweden’s hard right and neo-Nazi elements. There was a ‘police lead’ looked into during the Palme investigation which he was interested in. This involved the possible involvement of a group of outright neo-Nazi elements embedded within a department Stockholm’s police.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Dag_Hammarskj%C3%B6ld
        The 2 examples cited in your piece above are not the only eminent Swedes who died in `mysterious` circumstances, as this entry on Dag Hammarskjöld demonstrates.
        The 1984 murder of English anti-nuclear campaigner Hilda Murrell and the 1985 murder of Willie McRae, who was a fellow anti-nuclear activist and knew Hilda Murrell through this activism, are significant. The source documents on the following website dedicated to Hilda Murrell reveal a number of other people were murdered or were the victims of years of threats and intimidation. Why anyone should be stupid or egregious enough to portray these happenings as `conspiracy theories`, in the light of the Spycops scandal, where women who were simply ordinary environmental activists were targeted by state spies, I leave up to the reader to work out.
        https://www.theguardian.com/law/2012/mar/20/who-killed-hilda-murrell
        https://hildamurrell.org/
        https://hildamurrell.org/source-documents/

        Liked by 6 people

      1. It’s rather a bad typo on Graeme McCormick’s part then, isn’t it? If Graeme doesn’t accept Peter Young’s conclusion on Salmond, what does he think is actually happening as regards the SNP’s `plan` for independence?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. A very clever piece on how Scotland will find it’s place in the world. There’s is lot to gain from our Nordic neighbours and we can contribute much in return. Scotland can be a cornerstone of northern Europe – part of a family of small nations, particularly if you include the Baltic states, that punch well above their weight and contribute to the rest of Europe and the world rather than seeking to dominate it.

    Liked by 9 people

  6. Excellent stuff, Iain and Peter. I must admit that I have always thought that America has its claws in Sweden, and, from there, the whole of Scandinavia (+ a huge presence in Iceland). Palme was always a man living on borrowed time precisely because he was a real statesman who bent to neither (extreme) right nor (extreme) left, and he understood the issues all too well. We always think of Russia invading neutral territorial waters, but we don’t stop to think that America does this, too, possibly even more so. Today’s politicians, right across the globe, understand nothing, but have the arrogance and temerity to think they do – which is a recipe for disaster. The SNP lot given as examples are lightweights.

    Zelenskyy, by leaning towards America and not embracing neutrality, has been, unwittingly, perhaps, the architect of Ukraine’s destruction. When you have supposed friends on either side (Russia and America) you would do best to keep both at bay by declaring your neutrality. Mostly, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t (Hitler invaded several neutral countries) but it cost Germany dear in the end. Scotland’s politicians really need to learn the lessons that this conflict has thrown up, but, I’d bet that they learn nothing because their arrogance is so pronounced and their capacity for learning diminished to nothing through their own hubris. There are experts out there, but they will not be listened to because they do not chant the mantra.

    The ferries in Denmark and their efficiency is testament to what can be achieved. The infection of the UK has tainted Scottish sensibilities, but an extra layer of stupidity and arrogance has overlain so many decisions taken here. The UK way or the highway. The useless and dangerous equipment for the NHS during the pandemic is indicative of corruption at its worst, and we are seeing that attitude replicated here with the ferry situation. Not listening, not changing tack to meet new requirements. The mark of a decent politician is to be open to changing tack at any given moment when circumstances change, and it, primarily, to listen to advice from those best able to give it, not, emphatically not, self-interested and agenda-based civil servants and careerists.

    I, too, have always found Americans I have come into contact with very different from their political elite. They are an open, honest and decent people and they don’t deserve the messes that their politicians get them into any more than we do from both their politicians and our own in the UK.

    Liked by 7 people

  7. Very good article, if a tad depressing that Denmark offers a vision of what Scotland could be, if we had anything like some competent, professional politicians who understand and share that vision. There is no objective reason Scotland couldn’t be like Denmark. Imagine – working, green ferries – an impossibility under the current regime, and then think of all the other benefits that are possible for Scots, yet we are denied, told it is impossible etc

    Liked by 8 people

  8. Took me back! I was living and working in Gothenburg (working in the GVA yard) at the the time of Palme’s assassination. I have never seen a Nation so shocked by the loss of a political figure.
    Until I had gone to Sweden I had very little knowledge of how influential he was on the global stage. This was probably another one of those lightbulb moments when you realise once again how inward looking the BBC is as regards Europe.

    Another good article. It highlights once again the great pity that we have Sturgeon instead of an Independence champion.

    Liked by 10 people

  9. “I, too, have always found Americans I have come into contact with very different from their political elite. They are an open, honest and decent people and they don’t deserve the messes that their politicians get them into any more than we do from both their politicians and our own in the UK.”

    Most people will act decently, in my experience, if given the opportunity to do so. For many, such opportunities have become increasingly fewer and further between, unfortunately. How many of us would object, for example, if Johnson, with Patel and the rest of his cabinet were to be herded onto the first available flight to Rwanda?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “the first available flight to Rwanda”

      Tomorrow, I believe. It’s taking eight people, so plenty room for the cabinet.

      Eight people on an aeroplane; how green…

      Liked by 1 person

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