With the independence referendum looming, the Scottish people are faced with a decision that could result in a newfound sense of freedom, or equally could invite destructive isolation. Given how drastic the consequences of a ‘wrong’ decision could be, it would be decidedly foolish to make a blind choice without thorough analysis of the possible outcomes.
Recently I stayed in the Kyrgyz Republic (or Kyrgyzstan), a country that previously belonged to a union of states, in fact the largest ever: the USSR.
During my travels through Kyrgyzia, it was not a rare occurrence to observe the old Soviet ruins: hospitals, factories and many other institutions. It was indeed saddening to see the vast majority of factories to be deserted and derelict – often only ruins remain. Factories, previously producing felt (one of the Kyrgyz Republic’s largest industries), were abandoned, leaving many workers unemployed, a fate an elderly woman we stayed with encountered. With no employment, the elderly lady was left to fend for herself, making carpets and mats at a snail’s pace.
Meanwhile,many of the hospitals looked like they had seen better days, with the housing conditions poor to say the least. Rugged corrugated iron roofs (that rather resembled the WW2 bomb shelters) combined with collapsing wooden beams and crumbling, grey concrete walls summed up the poverty in Kyrgyz society.
This change for the worse directly correlates with the break-up of the Soviet Union: surely fueling the argument that combined states increase general prosperity. In March 1991, in a national referendum, nearly nine out of ten people voted in favour of preserving the Soviet Union. Despite this clear vibe emanating from the Kyrgyz people, in August independence was declared as ordered by the Supreme Soviet, and the Republic of Kyrgyzstan was formed.
Scotland is the smaller country in its respective union and so was Kyrgyzstan. The difference? The Kyrgyz people never had the choice of independence. We do.
Image: Scottish landscape © Moyan Brenn, flickr