In the context of the generation of Structural Fund operational programmes and the referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014, there is much discussion on Scotland's place in Europe. In particular, Scotland has been increasingly compared and contrasted with other small nations, and of the Nordic countries especially. These countries individually and collectively are leading most international league tables of wealth, health and happiness, while the regions of the Nordic and Celtic countries have been leaders for many years in the development of innovative and institutional approaches to sustainable economic development. While each region and nation across Europe is experiencing its own form of crisis and austerity package during the current period, there are the possibilities for international networks and cooperations to provide the forum for learning and collaborating.In this environment, there are discussions over what relationship Scotland should have with Nordic Europe and with the UK, respectively, after the referendum. In particular, there might be expected that there would be an enthusiasm for the concept of a North Sea Macro-region. This paper offers some background as to what a macro-region around the North Sea might be based upon. It examines how institutions such as the regional development agencies and European Partnerships have been involved and responded to the crises in these environments according to a triple helix and smart specialisation approach to regional economic development and whether macro-regional approach is consistent with the foundations for closer cooperation.