Following the collapse of three major banks in 2008, Iceland had to seek an International Monetary Fund bailout to extricate itself from a financial hole.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.. Icelanders lost trust in their government, institutions and representatives after the crash, but the bleak days of international speculation and limitless credit are now hopefully past. For a start, Iceland have proved that banking fraudsters can be prosecuted and jailed.
The country’s economy has been growing since 2011; visitors are flocking to what is indeed a tourist hotspot. In 2016 Iceland sees itself as a responsible global force.
© Gunnar Gestur, the featured image comes from ‘Collection Iceland: a miracle of Nature’ – a series of photographs from Demilked that will take your breath away.
Nordic Landscape Nature Photography – Iceland is considered to be a new ‘poster country’. Now accessible by air directly from North-East Scotland, it is certainly photogenic.
ICELAND -THEY CAN
There’s criminal activities that are clearly beyond the law and the murky reach of justice. Often the actions of a financial elite, these acts don’t register on any legal or ethical compass. Class war has been declared; not that it was ever off the agenda, and the poor and the vulnerable are targeted. The fixing of lending rates, corruption, tax evasion and havens, offshore companies, cosy cabals and colluding mandarins – all are greeted by indifference, shrugs of sloping shoulders and a sheep-like, unquestioning narrative bleating:- ‘It’s common sense. You can’t change the system; it’s how things work, the natural order. The banks are too big to fail.’
Greece’s subjugation by the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) after the election of a progressive, anti-austerity government was a salutary harbinger. Though attracting less attention, the lesson from Iceland over the past decade offers a preview of what Scotland could face and achieve. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
After the collapse of its three main banks, Iceland had to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund to extricate itself from a financial hole in 2008. Icelanders lost trust in their government, institutions and representatives, but citizens showed that banking fraudsters can be prosecuted and thrown into jail. Icelanders didn’t acquiesce and throw in the towel; they threw the bankers into the can.
The days of international speculation and limitless credit in Iceland are hopefully over. Citizens are encouraged to develop ideas and projects that will improve their neighbourhoods, to live better at a macro-level. In our new connected digital epoch, the old institutions have become outdated: from the bottom up, Icelandic folk are seizing the moment. And at the top financial lending and public spending are regulated. A small Nation can change course, connecting to master ideas, big and small. In 2016 Iceland sees itself as a responsible global force.
Here in Scotland, Unionists are claiming that the falling price of crude oil vindicates the rejection of independence and their ‘No’ campaign in 2014, although conflating OPEC overproduction, contango, stockpiling oil, struggling currencies and the value of the US dollar with Scottish sovereignty is risible. More absurd was the spectacle of Unionists the world over rubbing their hands in glee at the collapse of banking systems in independent small countries like Iceland, ignoring the fact that the nation won independence from Denmark way back in 1944. The Unionists became less than pleased when the Icelandic Króna was devalued. They have been quiet about the prosecutions of the vilified bankers, not too big to jail, not to mention their silence over the return to growth in the economy since 2011, repayments of debt, a surge of interest in the country’s literary output, and the increasing number of visitors flocking to what is indeed a tourist hotspot, boosted by the international success of the national football team at Euro 2016 and the popularity of ‘Games of Thrones’. Conversely there is a scarcity of hotel rooms. and, to an extent, the country is in danger of becoming ‘Disneyfied’.
Recall the referendum campaign in Scotland – ‘Better Together’ concentrating on money, fear and negativity. With positive energy, in contrast the ‘Yes’ campaign interconnected, embracing our culture in particular, exploring the hopes and possibilities offered by the inevitable – our independent future.
The Harpa Concert Hall on Reykjavik’s waterfront was built with money recklessly lent by the banks before the crash. To make a point, the third annual Arctic Circle Assembly was convened at the Hall in October 2015. Gas reserves, cutting carbon emissions, ice-breakers to open up Arctic trading routes and exports were worthy issues which the Assembly debated. Inherent contradictions were not fudged, but a radical overview must investigate tackling melting permafrost and halting coastal erosion, for example. Displaced people in the Northern areas of the Arctic present a growing, urgent problem.
A Scotland-Iceland energy network is being proposed. Subsea cabling could bring renewable energy from Iceland to power a ‘green battery’ in Scotland. Iceland gets 95% of its energy from renewable sources: 25% per cent is geo-thermal energy from the volcanoes. Iceland’s total population is not much more than that of Aberdeen, the Scottish city over-dependent on fossil fuel exploration, third largest conurbation in a country with a target of 100% electricity generation from renewables by 2020.
‘Panama Papers’ – Fraser Stewart
The Panama Papers – Iceland’s Prime Minister’s video
Panama Papers: Could Pirate Party Co-Founder Birgitta Jónsdóttir Become Iceland’s Next PM?
Why Iceland is the best place in the world to be a woman
Iceland’s Pirate Party Gains Popularity After Prime Minister Walks the Plank over “Panama Papers”
‘The core policy of the Pirate Party’ – Modern Scot
Walk the Crash. Reykjavik CityWalk
Coca-Cola and petrol signs are banned, but the workshops of local craftspeople are extravagantly signposted. Djúpivogur in east Iceland has been granted international Slow Town status.
Janice Burns reports in the National on Scotland’s First Minister’s trip to Reykjavik to address the Arctic Circle Assembly in October 2016. ‘Planning to work together on improving tourism, climate change and business links’
Related reading/research/of interest:
Alaska: Record-breaking temperatures ‘have robbed the Arctic of its winter’
‘Reykjavik Rising’: film from Danny Mitchell
Democracy in the digital era