In My Opinion: Paul Holleran: Our friends in the North

IN the stressful environment of the European economic crisis, there is one indisputable oasis of well-being.

The Nordic region continues to deliver economic growth, ensuring decent provision of health and education and an overall sense of optimism.

And tomorrow (Wednesday, August 21) the Edinburgh Fringe is hosting a debate featuring three exciting speakers, highlight the benefits of ‘the Scandinavian way forward’, for Scotland and other British countries, even England.

Titled ‘Common Weal: A Light from the North’, the event is free and starts promptly at 12.30pm in the Spiegletent in George Street.

The event is sponsored by the NUJ in line with the union policy of campaigning for a constructive and expansive debate on the independence referendum. It will be a challenge for me to chair three very eloquent speakers within the time frame as well as allowing time for questions and answers but it promises to be a stimulating 60 minutes.

The Jimmy Reid Foundation is promoting the Common Weal concept as an alternative way of running things north and south of the border and Foundation director, Robin McAlpine, will provide a rollercoaster ride through as many of the ideas in his introductory speech.

Needing no introduction, Lesley Riddoch (who is apparently learning Norwegian) will explain how the Common Weal has borrowed many of the inspirational ideas from the Nordic countries. Scotsman columnist, Lesley, will argue that the UK should consider changing its insular nature and adopt a new way inspired by our Scandinavian cousins. She will also be signing copies of her new book, Blossom, on sale on the day.

For some years, James Meadway has been arguing for alternative economic and social agendas to the neo-liberalism we have been subjected to in recent years. A senior economist based at the New Economics Foundation in London, he hopes to oil the wheels of debate and stimulate some positive conversations across both sides of the border.

My own interest in this model is mainly tied to the concept and practical elements of a different model of press/media ownership.

Co-operative ownership is a model working well in Scotland in the form of the West Highland Free Press, but – in Northern European states – there is greater recognition of industrial democracy and partnership as a way of staying out of the pernicious influence and control of the banks.

Has the success of the Nordic model been exaggerated or even idolised? Or is it a model that will not fit into the British psyche?

You can get a clearer picture by coming along to the Speigletent or signing up to the Jimmy Reid Foundation and seeing what is on offer as an alternative to the status quo.

Paul Holleran is the Scottish Organiser of the National Union of Journalists.