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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-05014: Joan McAlpine (South Scotland)

Scottish National Party

Date lodged: 24 November 2016

To ask the Scottish Government what information it can provide regarding the First Minister’s visit to Iceland in October 2016.

Answered by: Fiona Hyslop 25 November 2016

The First Minister visited Reykjavik in Iceland from 6-8 October to participate in the Arctic Circle Assembly at the invitation of former Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.

The First Minister gave a keynote speech at the Assembly, which was attended by around 2000 delegates from Arctic Circle countries and the wider international community. In her speech the First Minister highlighted Scotland’s achievements in tackling climate change and its commitment to international cooperation on Arctic issues. She also announced £1m of funding for the Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency.

Other plenary speakers included the Premier of Quebec, the US Special Representative for the Arctic, and the Swiss Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, all of whom the First Minister had the opportunity to meet on the margins of the conference. The First Minister also had a bilateral meeting with the Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs to discuss the outcome of the EU Referendum and emphasise the importance the Scottish Government places on working to protect Scotland’s relationship with the EU.

The First Minister spoke at the launch event of the Prospect North exhibition, which was displayed for the duration of the conference. The immersive exhibition, created by Scottish architecture and design firms and supported by the Scottish Government, examined Scotland’s position in the northern region and how design and technology can play a role in shaping the future of communities across the Arctic and beyond.

This was the subject of a break-out session at the Assembly which was chaired by the Scottish Government’s Chief Architect and involved participants from a wide range of countries. The Chief Scientific Adviser for Rural Affairs and the Environment also attended and chaired a break-out session on international Arctic science research.

Outwith the Assembly the First Minister participated in a number of engagements to strengthen the relationship between Scotland and Iceland, including meetings with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to discuss existing links, explore opportunities for future collaboration and to explain Scotland’s position following the EU referendum. She also attended a dinner hosted by the President of Iceland, along with Icelandic party leaders and academics.

To promote trade and investment links, the First Minister addressed a reception at the UK Ambassador’s residence, attended by Icelandic business leaders and the Icelandic Tourism Minister. There she witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Visit Scotland and the Icelandic Tourism Agency on exchanging best practice and information in areas of strategic benefit to both organisations; a prime example of the positive existing collaboration between Scotland and Iceland.

The First Minister, along with representatives of Scottish Development International also visited Össur, the Icelandic company which recently acquired Touch Bionics, based in Livingston, to discuss their investment in Scotland and their future plans.

Overall the visit served to deepen diplomatic ties with Iceland and countries represented at the Assembly; promote trade and investment links; showcase Scotland’s expertise in areas such as climate change, research, and architecture and design; and communicate to a large international audience Scotland’s ambitions to work with international partners and play a positive role in the world.

More information about the Assembly and a video of the First Minister’s speech can be found at: http://www.arcticcircle.org/assemblies/2016