Our National Coordinator, Ash Burnett, had the honour of addressing the FORWARD AS ONE rally in Dunfermline’s Pittencrieff Park on Saturday 26th August, sharing the stage with a great number of wonderful speakers, including Robin McAlpine, Lesley Riddoch, IndyCar Gordon Ross, and Ariel Killick.
This post shares the content of her speech.
In 2014, EU nationals resident in Scotland were entitled to vote in IndyRef, but a great many of us did not. There were various reasons, including a lack of understanding on the issue, and a feeling that we shouldn’t interfere in such a question of national constitution. For others still, who came to this country, as a means to pursue a better future, there seemed a sort of unspoken sentiment, that we should be grateful to even just be here, so “don’t rock the boat”.
For more though, there was a nastier narrative preventing our voting, or worse, pushing us to vote NO; Lies being told to us in our media, and on our doorsteps, that with Independence, Scotland would be booted out of the EU, and subsequently EU nationals would be made to leave Scotland.
Less than 3 years after IndyRef, after a narrow NO vote, we find the UK mid-way through the process of leaving the EU anyway, despite a clear majority in Scotland wishing to remain.
Since the Brexit vote, EU nationals in Scotland have been living with stress and anxiety over our continued rights, not just to remain living and working in the UK, but what a post Brexit-Britain will mean for our other rights too.
We see families being torn apart under the stress and uncertainty, and for what?
So the UK government can use us as bargaining chips, and at the same time generate income from PR applications, Settled Status applications, and the despicable Immigration Skills Charge.
Our group, founded by and run by EU nationals has been campaigning for Indy since 2013, and we saw this struggle to engage the EU nationals’ vote first hand. But I have good news for you; we are waking up!
Our support numbers are growing, and we are seeing an increase in support from within EU member countries too. We are even seeing EU nationals resident in other parts of the UK moving their jobs and families to Scotland, swelling our ranks, ready to do our part in helping build a country fit for the 21st century and beyond.
Now, we recognise there is division on EU membership among the Indy movement, but as we have been hearing recently in the news, the votes of the 181,000 EU nationals in Scotland could be crucial in winning a new Independence referendum.
It seems clear that even if you are anti-EU, the rights of those 181,000, particularly our right to vote in an Independence Referendum, is no insignificant detail.
I’m here today to tell you that our group is ready to reach out, not only to those 181,000, but to families, friends, employers, and communities too.
To share the positive case for Scottish Independence, benefiting of course the entire country of Scotland, but individually also benefiting migrant and immigrant families and communities within Scotland too.
We celebrate growing support, but we must also share with you our concerns. While we have numbers on EU nationals, we do not have numbers on how many lives, and livelihoods, are connected closely, perhaps even dependent on, EU nationals.
We are already experiencing a “Brain Drain” – the first wave of BREXODUS, with some of our best and brightest, finding their jobs, research, academic and social & cultural funding at risk.
While of course many EU nationals may simply stay under whatever detrimental changes to their rights, there are many who will leave.
We are already hearing of increasing numbers leaving the UK – not just “going home” as the media terms is, but rather exploring their options in 27 other EU member countries.
Scotland should take notice of this first wave of leavers. We are no strangers to the mass movements of people out of Scotland, and what follows has never been good for those left behind.
And we must also recognise that is not just the 181,000 at risk of leaving, of their own volition or at the behest of UK immigration officials.
In my own personal circumstance, as the child of a French immigrant, the ripple from one single EU national family member extends to 9 additional family members: that is 3 generations, with my siblings and I holding dual French and British citizenship.
And as a close family, we are making contingency plans for what we will do if Scotland does not achieve Independence before the completion of Brexit,
Before the UK government renders our mother, our matriarch, a second-class citizen with depleted rights,
And we find ourselves in a country in a race to the bottom with deregulation, defunded public services, and removal of a whole host of other rights.
In speaking with other EU nationals, both as members of our group and as individuals seeking information and advice from us, we find our family is not alone in considering this option.
BUT, crucially, we don’t WANT to leave. So, thankfully, we now see more and more EU nationals waking up, becoming politically active and vocally pro Scottish Independence.
We have seen the Scottish Government do what it can, within its limited powers, to try to protect our rights, and unlike Westminster, assure us that not only are we welcome here, but we are valued and respected as fellow Scots.
Conversely, we see how the UK government treats us, EU nationals and other non-UK, non-Irish, non-qualifying commonwealth citizens alike; as commodities, to be bargained or used for political point scoring, and worse, to be metaphorically sacrificed on the altar of the far-right elements among their ranks.
This is why I joined EUCIS. This is why I do all I can to champion both Scottish Independence and EU membership. I believe Scotland can be can be a strong, leading example of combined civic nationalism and internationalism for a new age of Europe.
We, as a country, have the imagination and determination to take us there. Scotland’s people, native and new alike, have the skill, resources, and dedication to build a better future, together, as equals; valued for our contribution to our society, not for the nationality on our passport or because we meet a certain salary threshold.
Native and new Scots alike, we are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. We are students, teachers, doctors, carers, scientists and artists. We build businesses, we volunteer.
We are the same. We are Scottish and we are European.
And so with a nod to THAT wonderful speech by Alyn Smith in the European Parliament last year, we say:
Scotland, don’t let us down – because come the new Referendum,
We, EU Citizens in Scotland, will not let you down.