On May 9th 2017, Kezia Dugdale took part in a “Europe Day” publicity stunt, claiming “Together We Are Stronger”.
Despite having voted against giving EU nationals voting franchise in a future Scottish Independence referendum, the Labour party in Scotland suddenly felt the urge to speak up about the rights of EU nationals.
This letter is our response.
Thank you for finally speaking up about EU nationals in Scotland, and in the UK, but I’m afraid you’re a little late if you think this will warm us, our Scottish families, or our friends to your Party.
As you surely know, we cannot vote in UK General Elections. That leaves a great many of us, having faced the EU Referendum, and now facing this General Election, disenfranchised.
These 2 votes are possibly THE most impactful in our lives, and yet we had no voice in whether the UK maintained its relationship with the EU, and now have no voice in the manner in which the UK leaves the EU.
So instead, we put our trust in our Scottish families, friends and communities to vote with consideration for us, and other non-UK/Irish/Commonwealth nationals on June 8th.
But we are certainly not encouraging people to vote Labour.
You lost us when you instructed your Party to further disenfranchise us; When you did not support the Scottish Government’s motion to for a 2nd Independence referendum, which, with the Greens’ amendment included voting entitlement for EU nationals (as well as 16 & 17 year olds) resident in Scotland, you voted against giving us a chance to actually participate in the democratic process, increasing the likelihood of Brexit rendering us politically impotent for as long as we remain settled here, as non-UK citizens, in a Scotland still part of the union.
Seizing this chance of a publicity stunt on Europe Day doesn’t make your our champion. It makes you an opportunist. While EU nationals in Scotland take some comfort in the clear Remain vote here in 2016, we are dismayed that your address regarding our right to remain seems merely a token gesture with no real conviction. Indeed, it has made you sound rather like your boss, Jeremy Corbyn; A reluctant “Remainer” throughout the past year, he has made mildly placating noises about our residence rights, but has yet to put much weight behind his words.
Let me be clear though; This is not just about OUR rights as non-UK EU nationals in this country. This is about the rights of everyone resident in this country. We have several generations, including native born, other UK nationals, immigrants, and children of immigrants, who have had the rug pulled out from under them with Brexit. Young people who have known no other world but one in which they have been able to travel freely, work in freely, further their education abroad with ease, and even take advantage of the Erasmus program. This is not just about whether those of us with non-UK EU passports get to continue living and working in the UK. It is about everything else that goes with EU membership; countless rights and freedoms that are under threat from Brexit, hard or soft, Blue or Red.
Do not dare paint us EU nationals as victims, and yourself as our potential saviour, when you are part of the gang who bullied us into this position.
Do you realise just how angry many EU nationals are at you and your accomplices for the lies told to us as part of Project Fear in the run up to IndyRef 2014?
Many of us were told we shouldn’t even be included in the vote; that we were foreigners and as such did not understand the history of the union, and should not “interfere” with constitutional affairs.
But worse, we were told that voting NO was the only way to protect Scotland’s place in the EU, and that if YES won, we would be deported back to our countries of origin.
Some of us were even old that if Scotland became independent, the UK government would not be able to/be required to pay the pensions we had contributed to through our taxes.
YOUR representatives told us these lies on our doorsteps, with their “Better Together” badges and Labour Party branded clothing.
Many believed you then, but we won’t now.
9 months is all it took to show the truth of such lies. On June 23rd the UK voted Leave…or rather, England and Wales voted Leave.
In the almost year since the vote, our lives have been lived in a haze of disbelief and uncertainty.
Though in the immediate aftermath, the unity of the Scottish Government in looking to secure a special deal for Scotland gave us some hope, the masks have since slipped, and now we see you and your fellow British Nationalists for what you are: Unionists at ANY cost.
Conversely, the resounding support the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party have extended to our communities gave us hope, and filled us with energy and commitment to see Scotland become Independent and take responsibility for it’s own relationship with the EU.
In her speech at Stanford University, and also at her Party Conference, we were assured by Nicola Sturgeon that even an Independent Scotland outside the EU would guarantee our residence and working rights; Our rights to live, love, build families and careers here, as equal, valued, and indeed NEEDED, members of this country and our communities.
We have yet to hear anything so thoroughly welcoming and reassuring from any Scottish unionist party, and certainly don’t expect such from Westminster parties any time soon.
While The UK Government prepare their Great Repeal Bill, we in Scotland worry for the devolved Parliament, and Scottish Law, since so much of both are tied quite tightly int EU laws and regulations. We worry, not just for ourselves and our fellow EU nationals in Scotland, but also for native Scots and new Scots alike, and the acquired rights ALL of us have shared as EU citizens.
Your buzzwords and lip service do nothing to ease these concerns. But there is one thing that could: Join us.
Join us in supporting Independence for Scotland. Join us in working to retain a positive, mutually beneficial relationship with the EU. Join us in securing the retention of our EU rights and freedoms for ALL of Scotland, not just the “right to stay” for EU nationals in Scotland.