SCOTLAND should brand itself as a Nordic nation in order to boost tourism and trade regardless of whether it becomes independent, an influential think tank has argued.

Developing stronger links with the Arctic countries could bring opportunities in tourism, shipbuilding, fishing and technology, according to the Polar Research and Policy Initiative (PRPI).

The call has been made in evidence submitted to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry on Scotland and the High North, also known as the Arctic region.

The document points out that the north of Scotland is geographically closer to the Arctic than London and argues that taking on a Nordic identity would allow the country to “embed” itself more effectively within the Arctic community than presenting itself as a “near-Arctic” state.

Last October First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was one of the keynote speakers at the Arctic Circle Assembly, a conference held annually to discuss the future of the region.

Dr Dwayne Menezes, director of the PRPI, which describes itself as independent think-tank and has Conservative, SNP and Labour MPs on its advisory board, said he believed Sturgeon's presence at the assembly was symbolic of the importance Scotland would have as an Arctic nation.

He said: “There is a great deal of excitement in the Arctic about having Scotland more involved.

“We feel Scotland has a genuine and legitimate case to be more involved in the Arctic – whether independently or through Westminster it doesn’t matter.”

The PRPI paper submitted to the inquiry suggests increasing promotion of Scotland’s Nordic heritage – including Viking festivals such as Shetland’s Up Helly Aa and studies of Scottish Arctic explorers such as John Rae, the Orkney-born surgeon who discovered the final portion of the Northwest Passage.

It says Scottish shipbuilding could be revitalised by becoming involved in the construction of icebreakers, support vessels and specialised cargo ships for the Arctic and airports in Scotland could be established as ‘gateways’ to the Arctic, both for tourism and cargo.

The PRPI says Scotland – and the UK – could also benefit from energy schemes such as Icelink, a plan to directly export hydro and geothermal energy from Iceland through undersea cabling.

The paper calls for Scotland to develop its own Arctic strategy and for the Scottish Government to set up a dedicated division to implement it.

The Scottish Affairs Committee is holding the inquiry to examine the opportunities and threats posed to the Arctic region, such as climate change and scrutinise if Scotland's interests are best represented in UK policy towards the area.

The last report setting out the UK’s official policy towards the region was published in 2013, but the Scottish Government was not consulted for this. In evidence submitted to the inquiry the UK Government has stated the UK already has “excellent relations” with the majority of Arctic nations.

It also noted: “It seems logical there are a number of spheres where cooperation between UK and Scottish Governments and their respective departments and agencies…and business could be further developed.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said Scotland enjoys “strong connections” with countries in the Arctic and had engaged in international forums on Arctic issues.

She added: “We all face similar challenges, such as climate change and the sustainability of remote communities, which are best addressed through collaboration with other states.

“We’re currently evaluating the scope for strategic engagement on Arctic issues so it is important that the UK’s approach to its relationship with the Arctic and High North is developed in collaboration with the Scottish Government.”