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by Nicholas Owens
22 March 2021
Associate feature: We must invest in our links with the Arctic

Associate feature: We must invest in our links with the Arctic

With Lerwick closer to the North Pole than London, the people of Scotland have had close and mutually beneficial connections with the Arctic region and its people for centuries.

The climate crisis has hit our Arctic neighbours early and hard with record warming that harms wildlife and affects livelihoods.

The changes in the Arctic are now also affecting our environment. We need to strengthen our Arctic collaborations and together prepare for and adapt to climate change.

I thus congratulate the Scottish Government on implementing its first Arctic policy framework and developing a thriving Nordic and Arctic Unit that fosters engagement with the Arctic Nations, promotes our interests in the Arctic and opens doors for new collaborations.

The Highlands and Islands of Scotland face many similar challenges as Arctic countries. Many of the partner institutions that make up the University of the Highlands and Islands therefore study the Arctic.

Research ranges from the changes in the marine and terrestrial environment to the history of its people, and the new approach to deliver health care and education in such dispersed rural communities.

As a founding member of the University of the Arctic, we have recently agreed a university-wide strategy for Arctic engagement and to develop an Arctic Gateway to make access to our expertise easier.

Experiencing the Arctic first hand matters if we are serious about closer Arctic connections. At SAMS we run a unique BSc Marine Science with Arctic Studies programme that sends students for 1-2 semesters to the University Centre in Svalbard.

We witness the transformational impact of such an experience. I feel strongly that we need to continue supporting our young people to attend such programmes in the Arctic despite the UK’s exit from the Erasmus programme and call for mobility and exchange programmes with Arctic partners.

This article was sponsored by the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).

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