I WRITE trying hard not to appear sycophantic in applauding your Friday edition as a beacon for discussion of the burning questions of our time.

In the space of a single edition not only do we have Patrick Harvie’s contribution (We need to be prepared for the new territory of indyref2, August 9) but also Greg Russell’s informative pieces on Angus McNeill’s support for tunnels to replace island ferries and re-engineering redundant oil rigs in the service of carbon capture for the benefits of saving the exorbitant costs of de-commissioning and contributing significantly to CO2 reduction.

I’m intrigued by Angus MacNeil’s fascination for Faroese-type tunnels and their toll revenue for our own inter-island links. Despite those islands having 19 tunnels for a population a little short of 50,000 – that’s one tunnel per 2600 (the population of Mull) – the idea of a double-carriageway tunnel emerging from the Sound of Mull and sweeping around Craignure in a cloverleaf interchange heading to the A849 and Fionnphort rather stretches the imagination.

For both local residents and visitors who have been afflicted by the chaos on single-track roads on the HC500 circuit or indeed have encountered Skye as full up, expensive investment for improving access to the islands is of questionable value until we decide what to do when the traveller emerges at the destination. Converting single-track roads in scenic areas into dual carriageways to allow better traffic flows destroys the character and experience of the landscapes that visitors have come to see.

Take the 11 miles of single-track road between Torridon and Sheildaig. What value the alternative approach of 22 sections of traffic management using the familiar red, amber and green technology to control alternating convoys of traffic on the 11-mile stretch?

Whether or not it’s cost effective, the Faroese Government have invested millions of euros over the years to physically connect their island communities and the really important lesson for us is simply that’s what small, independent (practically) countries can do if they run their own affairs and set their own priorities.

By contrast, the Norwegians with their mighty petro kroner are embarking on a 683-mile, E39 coastal highway revamp serving about a third of the country’s 5.3 million population. With an engineering cornucopia of floating bridges and tunnels as submerged tubes attached to the sea bed by cables, it truly is a feat of futuristic engineering. The deepest and longest undersea tunnel in the world will include an undersea junction to connect the smallest island community of Kvitsøy, population 531, to the mainland for the first time. The computer generated images and animation present distinctly macho symbols of modernity.

But our discussion has to go beyond the macho visions of the future.

Unfortunately for us, denuded of our petro dollars, we can only look on with envy but it does pose significant questions for the rural economy of modern Scotland. Getting more people there – wherever there is – faster is a technical challenge, but what happens when they’ve arrived? Is this investment is essential infrastructure for existing rural communities to exploit the tourist economy, or to allow them to become the vanguard of repopulating the land of the Clearances with easier access to facilities in major centres?

Now I have no view on whether Angus’s love affair with inter island tunnels is good or bad or value for money. Perhaps instead we need to lead the charge for slow tourism and to ensure that sustainable action rather than elastic definitions of sustainable development are the basis of visions for our independent Scotland.

The real value of Friday’s edition is encapsulated in Harvie’s conclusion “... asking about independence isn’t about deciding simply Yes or No but about re-imagining what kind of country we want to be.”

Iain Bruce