Is Scotland similar to Scandinavian nations?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
February 13, 2023, 9:09 AM GMT+0

Scottish nationalists see more in common with the Nordic nations than with England, but Swedes and Danes don’t see Scotland as distinctly similar to them compared to England

That Scotland has more in common with Scandinavian nations than with the UK is an argument that has long been made by nationalist politicians.

In 2006, Alex Salmond described Scotland as part of an ‘arc of prosperity’ running through northern Europe that included Ireland and the Nordic nations, but not England. SNP MP Angus Robertson has previously called on an independent Scotland to join the Nordic Council.

New YouGov Political Research data shows this view of Scotland as having more in common with Scandinavian countries is reflected among the wider nationalist movement.

At least half of those who currently intend to vote for the SNP (52-61%) consider each of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden to be very or fairly similar countries to Scotland (compared to only 31% who say the same of England).

By contrast, far fewer (22-31%) of those who intend to vote for one of the major unionist parties (Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat) see Scotland as similar to any of the Nordic nations, while 62% see much in common with England.

The good news for Scottish nationalists is that most people in the two Nordic nations we surveyed – Denmark and Sweden – do see Scotland as similar to their own countries. The bad news is that they do not see Scotland as distinctly similar to them compared to England, or the wider UK.

While 58% of Danes and 56% of Swedes feel that Scotland is either very or fairly similar to their own countries, for England this figure is 62% and 61%, respectively. The slight discrepancy is because Scotland is slightly more unknown to the Nordic publics, rather than because they are more likely to see Scotland as dissimilar.

Similarly, 62% of Danes and 59% of Swedes consider the UK to be similar to their nations.

This is also a substantially lower level of similarity than Danes and Swedes give to other Nordic nations: 82-83% of Swedes see Denmark, Finland and Norway as similar nations, and 65% say the same of Iceland, while 86% of Danes see Sweden and Norway as similar to them and 71% say so of Finland and Iceland.

See the Scotland results here and the Denmark/Sweden results here

Photo: Getty