A strengthening of the historic Norwegian links
The Norwegian Ambassador to the United Kingdom wants to promote Norwegian investment in the Outer Hebrides and “anything to do with the sea” is of particular interest.
During a two day visit this week, Ambassador Wegger Chr. Strømmen, said he was “looking for Norwegian opportunities in general” and identified offshore wind, fish farming and fishing as sources of interest. He also heard from Stornoway Port Authority about their harbour redevelopment plans.
“The energy sector is an obvious area for investment,” he said. “Norway has to decarbonise its own economy. We are a carbon producer and we cannot delay addressing that. Wind on a huge scale is an obvious one for us”.
It is understood a Norwegian company has applied for one of the ScotWind sites to the west and north of Lewis though this will not be confirmed until January when the successful bidders are due to be revealed.
On another area of potential investment, the Ambassador said: “Anywhere there is fish farming, there will be Norwegian interest”.
Ambassador Strømmen told the Gazette: “There is a kinship here. I really like these islands and recognise that there is something deep about the relationship. In a strange way, the sea does not separate people. It brings them together.
“If you are Norwegian, it comes naturally to relate to these island communities with social and cultural conditions that are so familiar”.
However, he recognised that little has been done to rediscover the strong historic links between Norway and the islands of the west and hoped that his visit would mark a strengthening of the relationship.
If tourism is to feature, Ambassador Strømmen had a word of marketing advice: “In Norway, everyone has heard of the Outer Hebrides. It is the first name in the weather forecast, five times a day. Nobody has heard of the Western Isles”.
The Ambassador and his wife also visited Harris Distillery, met Harris Tweed Authority chief executive, Lorna MacAulay, and visited the Harris Tweed Hebrides shop. “I come from a long line of textile merchants,” he said. “I am the first in six generations not to be in that business. Harris Tweed has a fantastic status in Norway, for sure”.
Comhairle convener, Norman A. MacDonald, welcomed him to the islands and there were discussions around various areas of potential co-operation and investment. Council leader Roddie Mackay said afterwards: "There is a clear affinity between the maritime communities of Norway and the Outer Hebrides. Both rely on fishing and tourism and both face transformational opportunities through the energy transition.
“Ambassador Strømmen, his Government and his energy sector will be powerful partners for the Outer Hebrides as, together, we embrace the green revolution in the North Atlantic.”
The Ambassador was accompanied by the Honorary Norwegian Consul in Scotland, David Windmill, who needed no introduction to the islands.
He was formerly managing director of MacConnell Salmon and Marine Harvest and is now chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and chairman of the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick.