Scottish independence: Icelandic president Olafur Grimsson enters debate

image sourceWorld Economic Forum
image captionOlafur Grimsson is the longest serving president in Iceland's history

The president of Iceland has given a cautious welcome to the prospect of Scotland becoming independent after the 2014 referendum.

President Olafur Grimsson told the BBC that small independent countries in northern Europe have fared well.

In an interview for Newsnight, he added that "independence was not a disaster" and "could be the road towards prosperity and a good society".

But he said it was a "decision for the Scots to take".

Iceland is beginning to emerge from the trauma of its banking crisis, and is showing strong signs of economic recovery.

In an interview to be broadcast early next week, Mr Grimsson told the Newsnight programme's Joe Lynam that his country was surrounded by an arc of successful, small nations in the North Sea, who were all doing relatively well.

He said: "If you take a long-term view of about 100 years or so, the history of northern Europe is that countries have become independent one after the other.

"Whether Scotland will follow that route is a decision for the Scots to take.

media captionThe president of Iceland gives a a qualified welcome to the prospect of an independent Scotland

"But despite difficulties that we have all faced, the moral of the story of independence in the North Atlantic - from Norway, through Iceland and growing self rule in the Faroes and Greenland - is of course that the nations have fared quite well.

"Independence is not a disaster, but can be the road towards prosperity and a good society."

Mr Grimsson is the longest serving president in Iceland's history, having held the post since 1996.

The country was part of the so called "arc of prosperity" along with Ireland and Scandinavia, which nationalists pointed to before the financial crisis as an example of what Scotland could become if it was independent.

But the financial crisis led to it being given a huge bailout by the IMF in 2008 as its currency plunged and its banks were allowed to collapse.

However, earlier this year Iceland was praised by the IMF after returning to strong growth having spared its citizens many of the austerity measures felt elsewhere in Europe.

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