MANY have argued that Scotland should know its place and limit its ambitions, and if we are not careful, we will allow the same voices of self-pity and limitation reduce our opportunities after we regain the sovereignty so many of us have dreamed of. In many ways, I have campaigned all my political life not just to free our nation in the traditional sense, but importantly to free ourselves, we the people who will make up that society individually and collectively so we can reach our full potential. We have much to give the world and in the digital age we have even more ways of giving back to the world and enhancing what it means to be a democratic, modern nation state in the digital age.

In our ongoing digital journey through Estonia, it would be remiss of me not to mention the notion of belonging, and how in a world in which some seek to build walls, Estonia in its own small way is dismantling walls and extending the very concept of being Estonian as a global opportunity for all.

Transnationality is not a word that falls off the tongue easily, yet through a programme called e-Residency, the small yet not insignificant Baltic state is extending the very notion of being Estonian.

Born in 2014 via a conference, the programme sets out to extend opportunities for those not resident in Estonia, allowing you to set up a business which can access a range of services, such as access to the largest democratic single market in the world as an EU based company, banking services and online payments. You can also do all your taxes online and sign, authenticate, encrypt and send documents digitally.

Don’t imagine that this is a get-out clause for paying tax; you do – to the Estonian Tax Office. It is a lot easier to pay your taxes to the Estonian Tax Office than HMRC and you’re less likely to have access to so-called legal loopholes of reducing your tax.

It is noted that there are more than 60,000 e-Residents from 162 countries – and the number of applications from the UK has increased tenfold since Brexit, and who wouldn’t want to weather the Brexit storm in a safe EU port?

It’s a safe port that’s working for Estonia, bringing at least €14.4 million into the Estonian treasury since 2014 and by local reckoning at least €1.8 billion by 2025. Most of these e-Residents are setting up companies, channeling their innovation and skills through mostly small and medium-sized companies, enabling Estonia to be a real state-based counterweight to Silicon Valley and GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft).

Yet there are a few issues that bite like a midge in the mind about how Estonia sees the progress of e-Residency. For example, if you have been paying tax into a state for many years and have no physical recourse to that state’s social benefits, what’s the long-term social cost to you? Will the state you physically live in step in and help with long-term social benefits? Given that you have chosen to pay taxes to Tallinn, why should they? This and similar questions must be answered to ensure that liberal democracies work to secure and underpin our societies together and as equals and not force democracies to work against each other, while non-democratic states utilise similar technology to push forward their undemocratic agendas.

One key way of ensuring equality in digital democracies is very simple. As members of the largest democratic single market in the world, Estonia should first seek to enhance the understanding of e-Residency across the other governments of the EU, building a solid knowledge of what the programme is and importantly how it can work to the benefit of the union. That is only possible in a union of equals in which digitisation and access to digital services allow a level playing field in promoting equality and sustainability. Estonia has been blazing a trail in digital rights for some time and can lead the way with other EU members, notably the smaller and medium-sized members.

It should come as no surprise that Estonia is already ahead of us. During its presidency of the European Union in 2017 it sought to stress the need to develop a digital strategy in all areas of life, most succinctly brought together through the Tallinn Declaration on e-Government, a declaration which respects the individual journeys of each state and how they can in all their differences work to promote European digitisation, to the benefit of their citizens.

The declaration states: “The digital transformation of the public administration is our collective endeavour at national, regional and local levels within our countries as well as by the EU institutions, respecting the division of competences. Our efforts can be greatly facilitated by collaboration, interoperable solutions and sharing of good practices throughout public administrations and across borders.”

Such collaborative work is only achievable in a union of equals, with respect for state institutions and capabilities. In light of the UK Government’s power grab on our institutions and Parliament, we should be in no doubt that the UK will ill-serve our digital journey, undermine collaboration as equals and seek to reduce our national participation in the global digital agenda.

ESTONIA, with the respect of its peers and those outwith the EU, must now seek to bridge the divide between taxation and representation and I am in no doubt that Scotland can and must participate and play a part in developing and resolving these important issues. As an independent digital state, we can and must work with states like Estonia, not to ape its approach but to share skills and knowledge to enhance the opportunities programmes such as e-Residency offer digital democracies, supporting and promoting our collective health and wellbeing.

While authoritarianism seeks once again to stride the global stage utilising unbridled and unregulated disinformation to build barriers to our common human endeavour, we in Scotland should be in no doubt of our capability to become a borderless digital nation, dismantling barriers to health and wellbeing for all, yet it cannot and must not be to the detriment of other nations; it must be built on collaboration to promote democracy, transparency and the rule of law. We are all Jock Tamson’s digital bairns.

Radical digital proposal three: Scotland must collaborate in the creation of an international digital treaty, enshrining open and equal access to the internet for all.