Graham Hogg: Finally Scotland is at the centre of debate on the Arctic’s future


Graham Hogg, director of research and design group Lateral North, will be part of a delegation bringing ideas for the High North to the Article Circle Assembly this week. 

HAVING spent the better part of 5 years researching, investigating and understanding the emerging economic region of the ‘High North’ there is some excitement within the Lateral North office as the Arctic Circle Assembly gathers in October.

Previous years of the conference have seen distinguished figures including Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and Ban Ki Moon speak at an event which aims to engage with those “interested in the development of the Arctic and its consequences for the future of the globe”. This year’s plenary sessions will see the first Scottish presentation. It will be the First Minister of Scotland carrying this year’s baton; and not only that, but Nicola Sturgeon will be the keynote speaker at the assembly – hence our excitement!

The last two years have seen delegates address Scotland, and in particular the Highlands and Islands. These regions we believe, should be engaging with the future of the Arctic. Over the past few years a number of initiatives have begun to spring up showcasing collaborative projects between Scotland and our North Atlantic neighbours. These range from Shetland who presented at the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromso (Norway) on the North Atlantic Energy Network, an initiative they are actively pursuing alongside Faroese, Icelandic, Greenlandic and Norwegian partners, through to Timespan in Helmsdale (Scotland) who have, for the past two years, worked on a project titled 58 degrees North as they reach out to 6 other villages of similar size around the globe at a similar latitude.

Nicola Sturgeon to address Arctic Circle with Ban Ki-Moon

So, the fact that the ‘High North’ is a challenge/opportunity (delete as appropriate) which is being addressed at a Scottish government level might not come as a surprise, but it is none the less still very exciting. The investigation of the ‘High North’ is, arguably, a reflection of Scotland and the outward approach which is evident across the country from a grass roots to governmental level.

Scotland, sitting only 300 miles south of the Arctic Circle line has a clear relationship with the region to be explored.

However, it is also a reflection of a worldwide geo-political shift. The Arctic is becoming a region which is no longer just discussed within the eight member countries of the Arctic Council (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States) and is clearly reflected in who makes up the observer states within the organisation. Countries several thousand miles south of the Arctic Circle (namely Singapore and India) actively engage with the region for a variety of reasons. So, Scotland, sitting only 300 miles south of the Arctic Circle line has a clear relationship with the region to be explored.

As a practice it is a theme we actively investigate and promote, so it is very exciting for us to be able to announce that we are going to form part of the Scottish group which will present at the Arctic Circle Assembly between the 7-9th of October this year. Not only will we present, but we will also be exhibiting as Prospect North travels from the warm canals of Venice to Reykjavik’s cold waterfront and we will also be hosting a workshop which aims to reflect the outward approach mentioned above. Our aim is to showcase community orientated projects throughout Scotland but to also highlight how design and technology can transform community engagement across the High North.

'Prospect North' project unveiled as Scotland's International Architecture Exhibition contribution in Venice

We have once again teamed up with our friends at Soluis who will be joining us as participants at our breakout session will be invited to take part in an interactive workshop to identify potential challenges, opportunities and outcomes from throughout the Arctic region.

We are keen to share as well as learn what community projects are active throughout the ‘Arctic’ at both a micro and a macro level, and then bring this discussion back to Scotland. Get involved through our blog and social media outlets and follow what we are up to in the run up to the Arctic Circle Assembly and beyond.

Picture courtesy of Lateral North

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