In the run up to the 2014 IndyRef there was one key moment for me that utterly confused me, then made me sick to my stomach. Members of the “Better Together” campaign, holding positions within their local Labour and Conservative parties, speaking of their fear of their families being split by a border and becoming “foreigners.”
“What’s so wrong with foreigners?” I thought. “How can someone truly believe that having a potentially different nationality or an extra passport suddenly excludes people from being family?”
But then my partner got “love bombed” by a NO voting relative.
“I am Scottish, a True Scot, and I am British” it read. “…and I have no recent immigrant blood…” it continued.
Well, wow! You see, I’m a dual national, having been born here in Scotland to a French mother and Scottish father. Look into my mother’s parentage and we then become Italian and Spanish, and look at my dad’s and there are Irish and English.
I am full of “immigrant blood” and my partner’s family knows it. In all my then 36 years I had never been made to feel like a 2nd class Scot before, and to be made to feel this way by the extended family I felt I had become part of in the 12 years my partner and I had been together, it hit me like a brick in my guts.
I am Scottish and I am European. I am a citizen of the world. I was raised understanding “foreigners” to mean nothing other than people who happen to live in a different country.
My life is in Scotland, as is my heart, but my family is spread far and wide, across Europe, across the world. “Foreigner” and “family” have never been mutually exclusive, and with such a background, family histories passed down are incredibly interesting.
From a young age, my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins twice and three times removed, all made sure to share tales of how our family came to be where we are.
I learned of my family fleeing Franco’s fascist regime in Spain, and setting up halfway houses over the Pyrenees to help fellow refugees.
I learned about WWII from several perspectives, including that of my Irish grandfather serving in the British army, of the occupied French by my Spanish great-grandmother, and of my unfortunate Italian family forced to serve under Mussolini.
Through family marriage I learned about Armenia, the genocide, and the tens of thousands of refugees who made their way, on foot and by boat, to the relative safety of France, and I learned the part played by Armenians in the French Resistance.
I learned the history of Europe, of wars, unrest, and fascism.
I learned of mass movements of peoples, of resistance and revolution, and of the relative stability the new unity in Europe brought in the post WWII period.
I learned we are all connected in one way or another, and that national identity can be flexible and multi-faceted, ever changing as we grow and explore the wider world, and as that world also changes around us.
Through these events and more, I learned that “Othering” of people, fellow citizens and “immigrants” alike, is a dark and dangerous path, with only one disastrous end.
And yet, I look at the path the UK is on now, and I am filled with despair. And with Scotland being dragged along despite a clear vote to remain, I feel genuine terror for a future without independence, and without a place in the European Union.
Scotland has consistently voted against the tide of the right-wing, but without independence, how long can it keep the creep of 21st century fascism at bay?
Post-Brexit, how much, or rather how little, responsibility, will the Scottish Parliament be left with? And what will become of we so-called “separatists”, or Independence supporting politicians, campaigners and activists, without the protection of the European Charter on Human Rights and the European Court of Justice?
It is not just a UK phenomenon that is for sure. But if we look to our friends, families, colleagues and allies in Europe, they have managed to stifle this resurgence of the far right in so much as they have kept them from gaining political control. We look to Westminster, and we find them not just firmly seated in the cabinet, but sitting on the benches of other parties too, controlling the media, heading up industries, and bleeding citizens dry through deregulation and a race to privatise everything and anything, while cutting essential services for all.
So today, more than in 2014, more than ever, I am committed to campaign for Scotland’s independence from the UK. But additionally, I am committed to campaign to secure our continued relationship with the European Union.
More than ever, I believe Scotland needs to recognise the value and contribution of people like my family and friends. People, who have lived, loved, contributed economically and socially to our country, and who are prepared to work alongside all of us in our campaign for independence, but are disenfranchised from UK polls. People who have been made to feel that while we may be entitled to vote locally and at Holyrood elections, we should just be grateful to even be here, and not rock the boat, bringing “foreign” ideas to our political debate.
While we have seen the SNP and Scottish Greens work to ensure inclusive representation at Holyrood, we have seen others do their damnedest to exclude us. Perhaps because we bring with us a different perspective of Scotland’s place, in the UK, Europe, and the wider world? We see this country, not through the myopic lens of Westminster, of those who would have us believe we have chosen to settle in some backwards “too wee, too poor, too stupid” backwater, but rather we see it as a beacon; a great place to live, work, raise families, to socialise, integrate, and become a real part of.
We also bring with us a wealth of experience, understanding, ingenuity, entrepreneurship, education, and culture, to merge with the greatness already found in Scotland’s own history, culture, innovation and long, long list of advancements, breakthroughs and accomplishments. And crucially, we bring with us a firm belief in a nation’s right to self-determination.
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.
We see how the EU has been used as a scapegoat by successive UK governments, with it’s purpose, structure and function distorted by both British politicians and press. We have seen Brits flocking to sunnier climes across Europe under Freedom of Movement, and even TV franchises built around “aspirational lifestyle” moves “abroad”, but when “foreigners’ have come to the UK to work hard, build businesses, raise families, and contribute in countless ways to the fabric of our country and society, it has been a scourge.
We see this and we know that if the current UK government gets their way, if we face endless bureaucracy, elevated visa charges, the new “Immigration Skills Charge”, exclusions to political participation, and other hurdles to continue our working and family lives here, we will be forced to leave. And once the EU and EU nationals are gone, who will become the next “other”? Who will be their new scapegoat or “whipping boy”?
The answer is obvious. Scotland.
So this is why I joined EUCIS. This is why I do all I can to champion both Scottish Independence and EU membership. As “New Scots”, EU nationals, as well as migrants and immigrants from the world over, are ready to do our part to build a country fit for the 21st century and beyond. One that celebrates global family and friendship, and recognises a persons’ societal value as more than the salary they make or tax they pay. A country that does not seek to undermine the accomplishments and advancements we have achieved together, making our continent safer, more stable, and creating a level playing field for all members.
I believe Scotland can be that country, 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.
We have the love and respect for Europe, and recognise the enormous benefits the EU brings. At the same time, we acknowledge its challenges, but do not see them as insurmountable, but rather we are ready to play our part in reform and change.
Native and new 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.