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Events 2014

There are no more events planned for 2014. However, there will be a full programme planned for 2015 – details to be released soon.


Past Events 


Women’s Quotas – The Norwegian experience

NORDIC HORIZONS with Mai-Lill Ibsen and Arne Selvik

Lecture Theatre Moray House,  EH8 8AQ    6pm  2nd  December 2014

Free but please register

In 2002 the Norwegian conservative Trade Minister announced a ‘Quota Law’ requiring publically listed companies to appoint 40% of the under-represented gender to their boards or face being closed down. Despite criticism the law came into force in 2006. Around 500 PLC’s were affected and during a two year transition period a hundred opted to delist from the Oslo Stock Exchange – some to avoid the quotas. 


Since then numbers of women on PLC boards has risen from 10% to 40%. Research suggests board selection is now more professional and international, and female board members are more risk averse than men and in tune with customers. Norway’s legislation was a world first but the country does have a long history of quotas in other parts of public life. Nonetheless Spain, Italy, Belgium, France, Iceland and the Netherlands have followed suit and the European Parliament has backed mandatory 40 per cent quotas by 2020. Britain looks set to opt out – Scotland looks set to forge ahead. If it can.


Equality legislation is reserved to Westminster, but a 2009 report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission described it as a grey area of devolution and suggested UK ministers could give Scottish ministers the power to impose “positive equality duties on Scottish public bodies.” They could. But will they? Or could the Scottish Government act now? And are public boards the real problem — female representation in Scotland is 35% but numbers on corporate boards are far lower. So should 40% be the Scottish target? The campaigning charity, Engender wants a 50% target.


Two Norwegians with years of practical and academic experience in business and corporate governance share their thoughts and observations of the Norway experience. 


Mai-Lill Ibsen is a business woman with more than 20 years of top level management experience in financial institutions. Mai-Lill has been a board member of listed and private companies and foundations. On the Quota Law she says: “We got there in terms of quantity, but did we succeed in terms of quality? The jury is still out. There is also disagreement on how to measure quality. But board culture is changing and women are in for the long haul.”


Arne Selvik has been a Programme Director and executive trainer at the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen with extensive experience as a member and chair of private and public companies in five countries. While he warns against ‘copying’ Norway he believes it may be a good model for Scotland.


Please book through the Facebook group (join the group, go to ‘events’ and click ‘join’) Or send an email to


Through our partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands, UHI, we are allowing connections to the event through their video conference facilities. So, if you live in the highlands or islands then you may be able to join in via this UHI video facility. Importantly, you don’t have to be a UHI staff member or student. The options are to join at one of their partner locations ( ). or, if you are not able to make it to one of these locations we have provisions in place to add a few non-studio sites to the conference. If you would like to take part then please email by Tuesday 25th November for more joining details.



Restaurant Day – Timo Santala  

Lecture Theatre Moray House, EH8 8AQ 

6pm  22nd October 2014  

This year Nordic Horizons theme is democratic renewal – we thought that would be relevant however the vote goes on September 18th. The first event is a novel way to engage ethnic communities, cut through red tape and let people feel in charge of their cities.

Three years ago some friends in the Finnish capital Helsinki had an idea. Tough health and hygiene regulations had stopped Antti Tuomola from being able to set up a city restaurant. So he called on friends Olli Sirén and Timo Santala for help. They discovered restrictions didn’t apply to “pop-up” restaurants which opened for one day only. Restaurant Day was born.

After a brainstorming session, Facebook page, and social media campaign that captured imaginations 21st May 2011 became the first Restaurant Day with 40 one-day restaurants in towns and cities across Finland. On street corners, in public parks and in private homes, even on the beach, everyday folks set up restaurants, cafes and bars selling everything and anything, from gourmet hamburgers to exotic delicacies. There were no permissions, no requests, no barriers, no asking what is possible or what is allowed. And there was no trouble.

City officials wisely decided not to interfere and the idea spread. Now Restaurant Day is the world’s biggest food carnival and takes place in 55 countries, four times a year for 24 glorious, unregulated hours.

And according to Timo Santala, it really is glorious. “People used attics, basements, boats, wine cellars and unused railways tracks. Streets were filled with people talking to one another. Liquorice herring, mars bar cheesecakes and even grasshoppers were on sale. The creative energy released was amazing. There was a sushi auction where you had to bid to get the food. Blinis in a basket were lowered from a third floor window. One guy took a week off work to catch fish for his pop up restaurant. There was a finger food restaurant for babies, a restaurant for dogs, a hot chocolate moustache café, champagne tasting on a hot air balloon, a Viking menu in a tattoo shop, hangover pizzas complete with painkillers and a traditional Somali dinner served in a Somali home.”

Restaurant Day is now the world’s biggest food carnival and happens worldwide four times a year. All together 8500+ one-day restaurants by estimated 35 000+ restaurateurs have catered for estimated 930 000+ customers in the past Restaurant Days. The next scheduled date is 15th November — could a Scottish city joint the pop up restaurant movement? And might this be the perfect way to start cutting through the red tape, regulations and council bureaucracy that stop people making food, friends, new business ideas and fun?

We are going to base ourselves at Moray College – part of Edinburgh University and located between the Royal Mile and Holyrood Road on St John’s Road. There is no limit on numbers, it’s near parliament so MSPs and researchers should still be able to come and there is no limit on the number of events NH can hold there. At Holyrood we are limited to two per session. And we will have a video link in every event to UHI. It still helps us to know who intends to come. So please email as usual to confirm seats –

Wednesday 23 April – The Harpa Concert Hall (Reykjavik)

The Nordic Phoenix Rises

Harpa and the cultural revival of Iceland


Halldór Guðmundsson — Director Harpa concert hall and conference centre, publisher & biographer of Nobel winning writer Halldor Laxness & author Wir sind alle Isländer on the Iceland crash

Weds April 23rd 2014

Committee Room 2, Scottish Parliament 6-8pm

Hosted by Linda Fabiani MSP

Chaired by journalist and NH Director Lesley Riddoch


The new centrepiece of the Reykjavik skyline is Harpa, a magnificent concert hall which opened in 2011 — against all the odds. In 2008 it was part of a doomed waterfront redevelopment including a 400-room hotel, luxury flats, shops, restaurants, and new bank headquarters. The quarter-built project went on hold once the financial crisis hit and two massive upright beams created a very visible “V” to the city. At one point campaigners argued it should stay that way as a reminder to the folly and greed that had nearly destroyed Iceland. But the government and council eventually decided to co-fund construction of the venue. The result is a home for the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and Opera and an awe-inspiringly beautiful, shimmering glass cathedral – a tribute to a new economy built on what’s real, not leveraged or illusory. And with 90% occupancy of a 1600 seat stadium – a tribute to the support of native Icelanders for every type of arts event. Creativity in Iceland is very real. There are seven thousand creative arts businesses in this population of 320 thousand people – famous names like Bjork, and aspiring names like Dogma (the makers of provocative T-shirts like “What part of Eyjafjallajokull don’t you understand” and the uncompromising; “We may not have cash but we have ash”). Tourist companies like Icelandair were also quick to realise the crash made Iceland affordable at last and even the volcanic eruptions had a silver lining – demonstrating how close the island is to mainland Europe. Although Iceland has only 7% of Scotland’s population, this remote “basket case” appears to have regained its confidence – opting recently not to seek sanctuary in EU membership — and transformed its economy. This smallest part of the Nordics puzzling “bumble-bee” economy has resumed its ungainly, science-defying flight. According to Nobel Laureate and economist Paul Krugman; “Iceland broke all the rules again and yet things are not too bad.” But is a culture-led revival sustainable?

As soon as the meetings are confirmed, bookings for places will be possible. To keep right up to date, please join our Facebook Group, follow us on Twitter @nordichorizons or visit this page.

General info & new speakers will be posted on our Facebook page and website Please keep checking there rather than sending individual emails – NH is a small, self-administering, volunteer-based group with a list of new meetings to arrange. Thank you!

Wednesday 19 March – Helsinki Waterfront Developments

Finns can only get better – Helsinki Waterfront Regeneration

Wed 19 March Members Restaurant, Scottish Parliament 6-8pm

Speaker Heikki Mäntymäki, City Planning Helsinki.

Sponsored by Kezia Dugdale MSP

Chaired by journalist and NH Director Lesley Riddoch

It’s the remotest European capital city with the least winter daylight and the hardest to learn language – and yet Helsinki has some of Europe’s most satisfied residents. How do they do it?

Well it could be great city design. It could be the world’s best education system with the greatest use of public libraries. It could be because Helsinki council owns 66% of the land. It could be district heating for almost all. It could be having city beaches for Baltic midwinter dips. Or it could be because Finns are capable of taking big decisions.

Twenty years ago Helsinki decided to move its enormous port out of town. In 2008 the move was finally finished and 20 kilometres of prime waterfront land were freed up for housing. While Scottish cities consider one Waterfront regeneration proposal ambitious, Helsinki is currently masterminding five. Now planners have decided to urbanise suburbs to cope with population growth.

In short over the last two decades Helsinki has been undergoing the biggest construction boom and urban redesign in Finnish history. But there’s been relatively little disruption. And it’s not over yet. How did Helsinki Council do it, afford it and take city people with them?

Heikki Mäntymäki from the City Planning Department explains how private and public money have worked together to build housing and transport links, how all building designs are selected through open competition, how the council can plan ahead (there is no formal opposition and all parties have a share of power) and how the public has been involved throughout.

A 15 minute film by NH Director Lesley Riddoch and webmeister Chris Smith gives a flavour of the Helsinki in December – Watch it here.

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