It felt like the sun had broken through the heavy clouds of an unexpected storm when Nicola Sturgeon made her statement the morning after the Brexit referendum.

Press_conference_of_Scottish_First_Minister_Nicola_Sturgeon_on_EU_referendum_and_Scottish_independence_on_24_June_2016As a New Scot and EU migrant, her direct message to us brought a tear to my eye – and I know many Scots, old and new, felt the same. It was such a contrast to the UK politicians and media that didn’t seem to care about us.

I moved here in 2002 from Denmark (I have a Danish mother and a German father) because I got a job in Bishopbriggs, which was really easy and straightforward because of the EU. From then onward it was the usual story: I fell in love, bought a house and had kids. So Scotland is my home, but I don’t have a work permit or anything else that demonstrates my right to be here.

I might have applied for a UK passport earlier, had Danish legislation not made this unattractive before last autumn – although, to be honest, I always felt the “Life in the UK” test rather off-putting, given that I feel Scottish, Danish, German and European, but not British at all. The test includes questions such as these: “What Palace was a cast-iron and plate-glass building originally erected in Hyde Park, London, England, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851? Crystal Palace / Dream Palace / The Great Palace / Gold Palace.” “Roast beef is a traditional food of which country? Wales / England / Scotland / Northern Ireland.” “Who mapped the coast of Australia? James Cook / Admiral Nelson / Sake Dean Mahomet / Sir Francis Drake.”

How are these relevant to life in Scotland?

The morning after the Brexit referendum, EU citizens and their families and friends throughout the UK were watching the result in disbelief and despair. Nicola’s speech created an enormous split between Scotland and the rUK: Those of us fortunate enough to be living in Scotland found new hope and new pride in our adopted homeland. Those south of the border sank even further into desperation and despondency.

The morning after the Brexit referendum, EU citizens and their families and friends throughout the UK were watching the result in disbelief and despair. Nicola’s speech created an enormous split between Scotland and the rUK: Those of us fortunate enough to be living in Scotland found new hope and new pride in our adopted homeland. Those south of the border sank even further into desperation and despondency.

However, even the EU citizens and their families in Scotland are feeling very fragile at the moment. The explosion of racism in England is deeply worrying, and although Scotland feels very different, some contagion cannot be ruled out. This is causing people to take preventive action. For instance, one of my Danish friends in Scotland just put this on Facebook: “I have now scrubbed my main social media account of my Danish origins. My EU migrant-ness is still there, but you have to dig to find out. Just to protect myself at the moment.”

Reaching out to EU citizens – like Nicola did in her direct message to us – is very important, and it is something everybody can do. Talk to people, reassure them, shop in immigrant shops, encourage them to teach their language to their kids (many of the racist incidents in England have been caused by people speaking foreign languages).

However, reassurances are not as good as legal certainties. So long as there is any risk that Scotland will find itself outwith the EU, people will be very stressed and think hard about the way forward. Many – and especially the ones that are high skilled – will start thinking about moving back, rather than facing years of uncertainty. If it is realistic to move back, of course. Many people will face negative equity if house prices start falling again because of the economic mess left behind by Brexit, and that’s on top of moving the kids to another education system, finding new jobs in another country and another language after a career here, and in some cases dealing with divorced partners who’re staying and suddenly won’t see their kids again very often. If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t see how you can remain here, chances are that your spouse would find similar obstacles to living abroad, because countries tend to engage in a tit-for-tat when other countries treat their citizens badly.

The heartbreaking story of the Brain family demonstrated that Westminster will happily deport families who have made Scotland their home, and there is very little Holyrood can do to stop them. At the moment, EU citizens are exempt, but that protection will stop if we find ourselves outside the European Union. For instance, the rule that foreigners have to earn £35,000 a year to be allowed to remain might suddenly start applying to us – and very few people make that much money in Scotland, unlike the London salaries the Westminster politicians probably had in mind when they wrote the rules.

Even if we don’t get deported, there is also a huge risk that the Tories will impose new rules on foreigners here once the EU’s anti-discrimination rules cease to apply. If we were made to pay for using the NHS and barred from claiming child tax credits, it could become economically impossible to live here.

Scotland must therefore act fast to prevent people and companies from leaving. From an EU citizen’s perspective, Indyref 2 cannot happen soon enough, because it will provide us with much-needed certainty.

Scotland must therefore act fast to prevent people and companies from leaving. From an EU citizen’s perspective, Indyref 2 cannot happen soon enough, because it will provide us with much-needed certainty.

In the meantime, however, what can Scotland do to ensure that EU migrants here won’t get sent home? It is really encouraging that Patrick Harvie and Nicola Sturgeon are proposing that the UK Government must grant the right to remain with emergency legislation. However, it’s very likely Westminster won’t listen to them, because it would prevent them from using us as hostages to achieve better rights for UK citizens in the EU, so it won’t allow me and my fellow citizens to sleep much better at night.

Many EU citizens will therefore conclude they need to get a registration certificate to confirm the right to live in the UK as soon as possible. There are different ways to get this depending on your status, but for most the relevant form is probably this 35-page one, which costs £65 and among other things asks about your employment, criminal convictions, and any public funds or state benefits you’ve ever claimed here. It’s not the most off-putting form I’ve ever seen, but it’s still quite easy to make an error completing it.

It would therefore be wonderful if the Scottish Government were to set up a dedicated helpline or office to help EU citizens with this process – it could perhaps be called the “EU Citizens’ Advice Bureau”. They could provide guidance on filling out the form, checking it before passing it on the the Home Office, and fighting any rejections. They could perhaps also provide help with becoming a British citizen. This would really help us.

In return, all of us EU migrants in Scotland should do our best to fight Scotland’s corner. We should all talk to family and friends in our home country and explain to them that Scotland is a European country and very different from England. Tell them that Scotland deserves to remain within the EU when the rUK leaves. Put pressure on the politicians back home to make them help Scotland into the EU.

Back in 2014, I know many EU citizens felt that voting No was the safe option because it guaranteed continued EU membership, and some also misunderstood the nature of Scottish nationalism, mistakenly believing it was similar to far-right movements in their home countries. I was passionately pro-Yes, but opinion polls showed that EU citizens were almost evenly split, just like the rest of Scotland.

If Indyref 2 gets called soon, all of this will have changed. All EU citizens will know that voting Yes will be the best way to ensure their adopted home remains within the EU. And Nicola’s fantastic speeches and European diplomacy have shown the whole world that Scottish nationalism is an outwards-looking, civic nationalism that welcomes foreigners.

This means that EU citizens in Scotland are almost certain to vote Yes enthusiastically and in great numbers to help bring about an independent Scotland within the EU.

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