Nordic Horizons

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 a smaller population than Falkirk - has 29 local councils. What difference does that make to dynamism and democracy? Listen on 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.

Show Notes

Since Scotland's 'local' elections in May 2022, there’s been much debate about coalitions and control. But there’s a bigger question – are Scottish councils with an average of 175 thousand inhabitants really local at all? And does that not matter?

The EU average council has a relatively meagre 10 thousand inhabitants. And Vágur, on the isolated southern Faroese island of Suðuroy, has just 1377 folk. But they’re doing pretty well after self-building a Sports High School and a 50m swimming pool to honour their local swimming champion and witnessing a population boom after 70 years of decline. All pioneered by their ultra local municipality. And although the Faroes is tiny (just 55k population) and has its own devolved parliament (the Løgting), there are 28 other local councils – one with just 80 inhabitants.

It’s a similar story in Norway with 356 councils – a total set to rise as municipalities forced to merge by the recent Conservative Government, are starting to separate again. But in Scotland no change is proposed in our 32 ‘local’ authorities. Even though Highland Council is the size of a small European state.

So big or small local government – who’s got it right?

What is Nordic Horizons?

How do the Nordic nations consistently top international league tables?
Between Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland they are the world's best democracy, the best place to be a woman, the best educated people and the happiest. They regularly top UNICEF's child wellbeing index, lead on the Green Transition and have an enduring emphasis on equality that's the envy of the world.
Nordic Horizons is a Scottish-based group that's been interested in learning more from our nearest European neighbours since devolved government resumed 20+ years ago. We've invited experts over to speak in the Scottish Parliament on Norwegian outdoor kindergarten, Finnish prison reform, Swedish electoral systems, Iceland's crowd-sourced constitution and Copenhagen's claim to be the world's first eco metropolis. Since the pandemic, our events have gone online - but all were recorded and will now be available - updated and edited - via this podcast on a monthly basis.