We live in very uncertain times, with the prospect of a punitive Brexit diminishing rights that many of us, as EU citizens, have enjoyed our whole lives. It is now clear that the deal the UK Government has negotiated to exit the EU is against Scotland’s interests and jeopardises the rights of EU citizens who have made Scotland their home.
This so-called deal removes our right to travel, live, work and study in other EU countries and seeks to limit the rights of EU citizens here. It proposes a more costly and complex new trading, movement and customs relationship with the EU. It is also, of course, against the democratic will of the Scottish people, who voted to remain in the EU.
As an independent Edinburgh councillor, I see how acute the issue is here in the capital where we have a large, settled population of EU nationals making a valuable contribution to our economy and society. Edinburgh voted overwhelmingly – 74% – to remain within the EU, showing that residents across the city recognise the continuing value of our membership of the EU and the benefits that this membership has delivered for us as a city.
We are privileged to have EU nationals working for us at all levels across our local institutions, from high-profile skilled professionals to colleagues carrying out vital work in the social and care services. We have already lost staff from local businesses and the NHS as a result of Brexit and can anticipate that this trend will accelerate if we continue on this damaging path. In my ward, we have, in Gorgie-Dalry, one of the most populous EU communities in the city, twice the Edinburgh average. In our rich, multi-ethnic community, one in seven of our population is an EU citizen.I have spoken to many constituents whose lives have been completely destabilised following the Brexit referendum.
Many are very worried about their status here: parents from the EU who worry about the rights of their Scottish-born children and family; established workers contributing to our tax and welfare system who fear they could be summarily expelled.
I find it disgraceful that people who have made Scotland their home and have made a valuable contribution to our country for years or even decades now face an arduous application process to be “allowed” to continue to call Scotland home.
I am determined to stand up for my constituents to ensure their rights as Scottish citizens are protected.
I have submitted a motion to today’s full council meeting highlighting the importance of exploring all possible options to remain in the EU, including a People’s Vote. I am meeting with diplomatic colleagues to better understand the concerns of their citizens here in Edinburgh. I will also be holding open-door surgeries for EU citizens in my ward in December to listen to the views of my constituents. Our EU friends, colleagues and neighbours are highly valued members of our society and community and they are welcome here. They must feel absolutely confident that they are represented in government, that their rights will be protected, and their voices heard.
Published in The National | 22nd November 2018