An urgent call has been made to Prime Minister David Cameron to repeal legislation that prevents Vikings from visiting the North-east of Scotland.
The call comes ahead of the arrival of a delegation of Vikings who are to be special guests at this year’s Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy.
Organisers of one of Scotland’s largest maritime events have made a formal approach to Mr Cameron after an ancient law banishing Vikings from the North-east of Scotland was brought to their attention.
This legislation followed a fierce battle between the Norsemen of King Malcolm II and natives of the North East in the early 11th Century. Casualties on both sides were very high and a peace treaty was signed, including the terms that the Vikings had to evacuate the North East of Scotland. The legislation banning the Vikings has never been repealed.
Without a lifting of the ban, festival organisers fear they may be forced to turn away Vikings from Shetland’s famous Up Helly Aa Jarl Squad, who are due to arrive by NorthLink Ferries and whose visit is being billed as among the main attractions of this year’s event.
They are due to share their knowledge and traditions within a Viking-themed harbourside marquee, supported by NorthLink Ferries, and their visit has been widely promoted in the festival’s marketing strapline “The Vikings Are Coming”.
Festival organisers are counting on Mr Cameron’s pro-Europe stance to secure an emergency bill to repeal the historic ban.
In a letter to the Prime Minister asking for his intervention, festival chairman Roger Goodyear wrote: “We have found no evidence to suggest that this ban has ever been revoked so it would appear that Vikings are still banned from our area to this day.
“Visitors from all over the world come to our festival, including people from Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway. Rather than see our Viking visitors facing the threat of arrest or incarceration, we want to give them a warm and friendly welcome and ensure they enjoy the very best of Scottish hospitality.
“Our festival starts just two days after the EU Referendum poll and regardless of the outcome of the vote we require immediate action in order that we can extend to the hand of friendship to all of our visitors, including Vikings.
“Given your support of Britain remaining within the EU, we trust we can count on your support to maintain harmony and show that Vikings are our friends and not our foes.”
Dressed in full Viking fear, the Up Helly Aa crew will carry ceremonial swords and axes, although organisers have been assured the weapons are for decorative purposes only.
Provided they are allowed to land in Portsoy, they will mingle with festival visitors and share stories about their annual winter celebration in which they build and set fire to a traditional Viking Longship. In keeping with the Norse theme, there will be a Viking treasure hunt and the chance to win a return trip on one of NorthLink Ferries’ sailings from Aberdeen to Orkney or Shetland, following historic Viking routes, every hour that the marquee is open.
Mr Goodyear took the opportunity to invite Mr Cameron and his family to the festival to learn more about the area’s Viking past and maritime traditions and added: “After spending many long weeks on the campaign trail the festival offers the perfect Post-Referendum escape for yourself Samantha and the family.
“Please come and join us in our celebration of local maritime heritage and culture at a festival which has beautiful boats, exhilarating skiff races on the open seas, in addition to music, dance and crafts.”
One of the most popular events in Scotland’s tourism calendar, the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival attracts more than 18,000 people to the Banffshire village of Portsoy every year, with around 12% of the visitors attending from overseas.
The 23rd annual Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, sponsored by Ace Winches, takes place on June 25 and 26 and promotes maritime links and heritage, as well as maritime crafts, food, music, traditions and local sports.
For tickets and further information visit stbfportsoy