I HAVE in the past made reference to the Faroe Islands as a place of interest and I have mentioned them in debates at Westminster and in articles. My mild fascination for them grew recently after a short visit.

They are an exemplar in many arenas.

An archipelago of 18 islands in the middle of the North Atlantic, halfway between Iceland and Norway. The Norse settled there in the ninth century. To survive they had to be problem solvers and risk takers. They still are.

Of the 18 islands, 17 are inhabited but the majority of the population are based on seven of them. They are part of the kingdom of Denmark but effectively operate as an autonomous country. Their parliament, the Løgting, is the most powerful devolved parliament in the world.

Decades ago they took the very sensible decision that to survive and then thrive in the 21st century they had to prioritise connectivity, digital and physical. The outcome is that Faroese Telecom is at the leading edge of broadband and Wi-Fi provision and in most of the land and sea areas high-speed 4G connections are available.

READ MORE: MPs to visit Faroes to survey idea of tunnels linking Scottish islands

They also have the SHEFA-2 ­undersea fibre optic communication cable linking the Faroe Islands to ­mainland Scotland. But due to UK ­Government legislation we can’t take advantage of that.

To improve physical connectivity they became world leaders in ­building tunnels on land and under sea. They have 20 road tunnels totalling 44 kilometres of which three are subsea. And that number is increasing all the time.

The most spectacular is the Eysturoy Tunnel. It links the islands of Streymoy and Eysturoy. It also crosses the southern part of the fjord to the towns of Runavik and Strendur. To accomplish this they built the world’s first subsea tunnel ­roundabout.

The most recent subsea tunnel, the Sandoy, is from Streymoy to Sandoy and is 10.8 kilometres long. It cost £86 million to build and will require about £1m a year to run but, as they carry a toll, it is expected that it will pay for itself over 25 years. And during that time the customers will not need to worry about the weather, cancellations or breakdowns or even observe a timetable, it will be 24/7 access every day of the year.

The National: Faroe Islands

But that doesn’t mean shipbuilding is finished on the islands. On the contrary, the two shipyards are ­thriving and are building for the ­foreign and domestic markets. They are doing so well that they are building a ­bigger dry dock to supplement the one they ­already have. The yards employ around 500 people.

And the tunnel system makes the commute to work much shorter and allows the workforce to live outside the capital, Torshavn.

Being remote the islands need to be self-sufficient in energy and these days that means aiming for 100% clean green renewable energy by 2030. The main player is SEV, which is a non-profit company 100% owned by all the municipalities.

The plan is to use wind energy on both land and sea, mixed with hydro, solar, biomass, tidal and wave. And they are well on the way to achieving that goal.

They will have the same issues with battery storage facilities as ­everyone else but they go to great lengths in their design to make them more ­pleasing on the eye. And there is a link between energy and the freight line Smyril.

READ MORE: The bank of the Faroe Islands can help guide Scotland

Acutely aware of the dangers of fires in lithium batteries and the runaway effect, Smyril have designed and built a system that will isolate a burning car on their ferry and stop the spread to other cars, preventing a ­dangerous situation from becoming a disaster at sea.

The system involves cooling brine to minus 19 degrees and using that to make the surrounding area so cold that the fire can’t spread. A ­system conceived, designed and built in the Faroe Islands.

Not content with the service provided by other airlines the Faroese government now owns Atlantic Airways and operates a fleet of Airbus A320 – to augment this they have a helicopter fleet that provides domestic flights and provides cover for search and rescue duties.

A few years back the population of the Faroe Islands was dropping and one of the reasons was students leaving the islands, primarily to go to university in Copenhagen, and not returning. The solution was to invest and expand the Faroe Islands University.

The National:

The population is now growing and recently it was the fastest growing in Europe.

When the people of the Faroe Islands come up against a problem they work together to collaboratively find a solution. If they can do it themselves then they do. If they require expertise from outside, they use it. If they need to borrow to fund schemes, then they do.

They have built a community that encompasses 75 different ­nationalities and has no crime to speak of. They have a strong work ­ethic and an ­ability to let their hair down and enjoy themselves.

Their “can do” attitude may be born out of the fact that they have “to do” because no one else is going to do it for them. They have a confidence in their own ability and there is no sign of “too wee, too poor, too stupid”.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf’s vision for SNP seems to forget voters have power too

But amongst all of this the most amazing thing to me is that the ­Faroese population is only 54,000. That’s roughly 1% the size of ­Scotland’s population.

Some 54,000 people with their own ­language, ­airline, ­energy company, telecoms company and university. And amongst the fishing, shipping, ­engineering and ­telecommunications expertise the most powerful attribute of the ­Faroese is their ­attitude.

Rather than identifying as a rocky outcrop on the edge of civilisation, the Faroese see themselves at the ­centre of the world and live and work accordingly.

With a life expectancy of 85 for women and 81 for men, they are healthier than your average Scot.

Like any country they have ­problems but importantly they have the powers and the mindset to seek solutions.

As we seek to define Scotland in the 21st century as a ­sustainable, ­environmentally friendly, ambitious and confident country, then we should look north to the Faroe ­Islands for the inspiration.