Letter:Slovakia sets a fine example

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From Mr J. Derrick McClure

Sir: What, I wonder, did George Foulkes MP actually see in Slovakia to make him imagine independence has been so disastrous for that nation? ("Another View", 14 February). His impression certainly does not agree with mine, formed when I was there last summer. I saw not only a country of great interest and beauty but one whose citizens, or such of them as I spoke to, are uniformly proud of and confident in their country's independent status.

Furthermore, attempts by Mr Foulkes and his kind to present Slovakia as a fearful warning to Scotland against reclaiming independence happen not to be supported by the facts. It is true that in the first year of its independence, the Slovak economy was set back by the loss of a subsidy from Prague, but ground lost was more than regained in 1994. From 1992- 1994, the Slovak gross domestic product progressed from a growth rate of minus 4 per cent to 4 per cent.

Slovak heavy industry is rapidly recovering, and companies are successfully seeking markets in Asia and the West to replace the former Soviet Union. Inflation is falling, foreign currency reserves are rising at a healthy rate, and investment is being attracted from abroad. Small private companies in Germany and Austria as well as multinational giants, all of whom have probably studied the prospects for Slovakia more closely than Mr Foulkes has, are willing to risk their capital in that independent country.

When we consider that Slovakia became independent when it and its partner state were (as they still are) in the throes of a fundamental transition from a communist to a capitalist economy, I think we have to agree that this is not a bad show for a dire example of the dangers of independence.

Incidentally, the Slovak citizens to whom I have spoken of late are not pleased at "Scottish" Labour politicians' attempts to denigrate Slovakia in order to undercut Scotland. One Slovak's comment to me on the prospect of Scottish independence was: "You just have to do it!" We will.

Yours faithfully,