HOW I HOPED

HOW I HOPED It was May 1993 when I first set foot on Estonian soil. The country was in turmoil having re established Independence in August 1991 from the Soviet Union. Russian Troops still occupied the barracks in Tallinn. My first impression was quite mixed. There was the beauty of The Old Town of Tallinn,Continue reading "HOW I HOPED"

HOW I HOPED

HOW I HOPED

It was May 1993 when I first set foot on Estonian soil. The country was in turmoil having re established Independence in August 1991 from the Soviet Union. Russian Troops still occupied the barracks in Tallinn.

My first impression was quite mixed. There was the beauty of The Old Town of Tallinn, completely walled going back many centuries with its watchtowers. It was however badly rundown, paint where there was any,  peeling from the walls, holed gutters and down pipes. A trip outside the centre revealed the Soviet designed estates, buildings of poor design and construction, many riddled with damp and their concrete construction crumbling.

The people, once they overcame their initial shock at these high spirited Scots with their kilts overcame their traditional shyness, delighted that the first football visiting support since they had been accepted into FIFA, and were now facing their first game in the World Cup, was against these friendly folk, who while noisy and boisterous went out their way to be kind and respectful to their hosts.

I was with a group of my friends, mainly from the SNP and we all hoped this newly independent nation would prosper. The population numbered some 1.4 million and it was clear they were poor, very poor.

We quickly learned they were clever, many spoke excellent English, learned from watching American films shown on Finnish TV. Helsinki being so close across the sea, just fifty miles, it was impossible for the Soviet Union to block transmission. That TV access also explains the success of the fashion industry in Tallinn as they had access to Western design and fashion. Many Estonians then spoke multiple languages fluently, often three but frequently five or more.

One of the reasons for this was that there was little difference between being a student or working in a low level job. So many did multiple degrees in University. When one course finished you signed up for the next. The average wage at the time was $40 dollars a MONTH!

We all enjoyed our week an Tallinn and we all decided we wanted to be part of helping them build the new Estonia. Several of us started businesses in Estonia and one Chris MacLean, the former SNP Press Officer went a step further and married his Estonian wife.

We picked a winner, not sure they needed our assistance as Estonia elected a hugely competent and ambitious government who had a clear plan and a determination to make it work. It really worked brilliantly, reforms came at breakneck speed, as the Soviet factories closed, new jobs were created to replace them. Modern technology was the route to go and Estonia became not just European leaders but World Leaders  putting the internet at the forefront in private business but quite spectacularly in digitalizing the entire public sector. Amazingly for the last decade or so Estonia is now the first point of call for Governments wanting to modernize their public sector. 

So as 2022 looms, that previously tiny poor wee country, now sits on the UN Security Council, is a full EU member and has created a thriving, prosperous country with living standards soaring. A full member of NATO as well, their twin key objectives of joining the EU  and securing their borders through NATO membership having been achieved long ago Tallinn is now a modern dynamic city, capital of a country that is still marching forward at a pace.

During the same period Scotland has gone nowhere. Initially there was hope with the creation of the new Scottish Parliament and the innovative measures introduced by the first SNP Governments. Sadly all that impetus was lost with the loss in the 2014 referendum. Since then Scotland has at best stood still, many would argue any movement has been backwards.

This lack of progress is dispiriting, the more so, if like me you have seen another country, with a fraction of the resources available to us, make such a stunning success of putting their Independence to use so effectively. I know if everyone in Scotland had witnessed the transformation I have seen over the last couple of decades in Estonia, achieved with the power of Independence, we would be free already.

I do not despair however. I have seen it done. I know it can happen quickly and speedily if the right people are in place.

We have many talented people in Scotland. Many share a love and commitment to do their best for this country.

I am sure it will be enough. We just need to get them into Government.

I am, as always

Yours for Scotland.

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