Scotland is my home

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.

Comments (20)

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  1. Aileen says:

    So true. We’re in exactly this position. Husband Dutch, and after 20 years of both of us working, living, paying tax in UK are temporarily or of work. While job situ looks good for him, it’s crap for me. He’s just accepted a job back in the Netherlands because we don’t know what his status will be in the next couple of years here and with me not working, couldn’t “sponsor” him if I had to.

    1. Thomas Widmann says:

      According to John Curtice, “26% of those who were born in England, Wales or Northern Ireland voted Yes, little more than half the equivalent figure (49%) amongst those born in Scotland. In contrast, the division of the vote amongst those who were born outside the UK (many of whom would have been Irish, Commonwealth or EU citizens) was much less distinctive, with 41% saying they voted Yes.” Anecdotal evidence leads me to believe that many of those EU nationals who voted No were recent immigrants, while longer-term residents voted Yes in much bigger numbers.

    2. Thomas Widmann says:

      Sorry, attached my previous reply to the wrong comment.

      I’m sure lots of people will be considering the same – will it be better to move the family to another country while there’s still time, even if it means one of you will be unemployed as a result? And the longer the negotiations drag out, the more people will opt for certainty abroad rather than uncertainty here.

  2. muttley79 says:

    In regards to a second independence referendum, I am still not convinced that the pro-independence side is ready for it. There is no doubt that the Brexit vote is a major development, as is the chaos and shambles engulfing the UK Labour Party. In regards to the latter, I can see no other alternative but a major split in the British Labour Party, I think we are looking at irreconcilable differences between the left and centre/right. Of course that will almost certainly mean a fracturing of an already feeble opposition to the Tories in England. Therefore, the democratic case for independence is even stronger than it was in 2014.

    That said, no real work seems to have been done on the economic case for independence since 2014. There has been no real time for it in fairness, given the general election last year, the Scottish elections this year, and now the EU referendum as well. I am not convinced that Brexit on its own is enough to give Yes a convincing victory in a second independence referendum.

    1. JohnEdgar says:

      Interesting. 63% voted in Scotland to remain im the EU. Lead than that voted Naw in the 2014 Indyref1.
      The gulf between Remain and Leave was greater than between Aye and Naw.
      Democratically, the highest vote counts.
      As Scotland diverges more and more from England in the UK, then we must transform that into independence. The economic and politics outlook dahn sath does not look good; time to go and rebuild Scotland.
      Westminster has had ms ro economic, fiscal and total politics power on Scotland since 1707!
      We need to retake control. WE have just voted to remain in the EU. The arguments for remain outdid the arguments for leave. In the UK we are out of the EU.
      It is a no brainer!
      Remaining in the UK with EVEL means we are a subsidiary of Westminster and English politicians.
      In the EU we will have more rights than in the UK.
      Then we can build.

    2. tartanfever says:

      Patience Mutley, patience..

      Give it a couple of months when the economy goes into recession and the City boys are shouting loud to know what the hell is happening, then the full scale of the utter balls up will become apparent. Then the bargaining begins and the Tories have to tell the people that either

      a) we have to be in the single market or our economy is going to take a dive, therefore we have to renege on our immigration promise. Thats not going to be pretty. Vote of No confidence in the Tory Government, new general election and Farage and UKIP take a controlling position in a minority government. or,

      b) to keep our promise of no immigration, we have to leave Europe completely. No EEA/EFTA agreement and years of new negotiations. Plus because we are leaving the EU, we have lost our automatic WTO (World Trade Organisation) membership and we also have to start new trade negotiations with everyone.

      In the meantime, we should be collating evidence, like the story about New Zealand offering us trade negotiators because the UK don’t have any, because when the shit hits the fan as above, we will need these stories to ‘persuade’ other Scots to vote for Independence.

      It’s not our own Project Fear, we should call it Project UK reality

      1. Crubag says:

        The UK is already a member of the WTO. In fact, a founder member of GATT which predates the EU/EEC by about a decade.

        Lichtenstein is also a WTO member, so I think any current or new Europeam country would have no difficulty being a member.

        1. tartanfever says:

          Crubag – thats what I thought regarding the WTO, but according to the IOG (Institute of Government), WTO trade deals will have to be re-negotiated.

          This from their website:

          ‘Exiting the EU will mean having a separate seat at key international institutions. At the WTO for example, this will involve re-negotiating and agreeing the terms of UK’s relationship and commitments. If the UK wants to maintain the preferential access to non-EU markets it currently has, it will also need to negotiate deals with countries currently covered by EU trade deals – such as South Korea, Singapore and Canada. And, there is no way of avoiding negotiations with the EU spilling into NATO – given membership of the two organisations is broadly similar; the UK may well need to increase its contribution to the defence budget in return for deals struck as part of its divorce arrangement with the EU.’

          You can read more about it here:

          http://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/13972/negotiating-brexit-with-whom/

  3. Valerie says:

    I get genuinely hope there is no need for anyone to be worried, and hope our lifeline of indyref2 appears, and we win, and move forward.

    May is saying she will not guarantee EU rights, for exactly the reason the author raises – hostage to bargaining, but it’s heinous and shameful.

    Not sure if this helps, but some might want things to read, and places that can advise.

    We simply must win indyref2, because there will be many Scots leaving if we don’t, in anticipation of what’s to come.

    http://righttoremain.org.uk/toolkit/index.html

  4. Annette says:

    So true. My heart soared when Nicola spoke. She worded things so beautifully to counter the nasty anti-immigrant rethoric. Still, after a lifetime of beign prepared to stand up for others, I now feel, for the first time evr, that I might have to rely on peopel standing up for me.

    1. Thomas Widmann says:

      Yes, I agree. It’s not nice to be disenfranchised and suddenly feel that some right-wing politicians are targeting you. If only there were more Nicolas!

  5. tartanfever says:

    Thomas,

    Thanks for writing this. Those descriptions of having to fill out forms, especially the citizenship test with those questions – sent a shiver up my spine. I suppose all countries do this in one form another, but you never equate it to your own country.

    Pleased to hear that you consider yourself a Scot amongst your other family nationalities, with your activism and contributions we are lucky to have you living here. Long may it continue and hopefully in an Independent Scotland within the EU.

  6. Sonny Crocket says:

    I m with u all the way. I am german, wife irish (republic) here sine 13 years kids 8 and 5 born here, i am an a&e medic, fixed/saved around 300000 folk /souls in last 8 years in edinburgh, most of em scots. Wife is in itu transplant kidney, liver. Countless lives saved. We re engaged at community level, campaigned for YES and snp thereafter (though i am now green) electric car, solar panels, scout leader, first sid volunteer whenever asked/ needed, donating a tenth of my weekly shop to foodbanks, fundraise for countless uk charities – crowdfunded thousands for bella, wings, the orkney 4, damn it even bought a lifeboat for st abbs!!! WTF guys?! First day after brexit – two seperate incidents of racist hollowskulls at my door – “you polish immigrants go home” ?!?

    1. John says:

      The ones at your door are ignorant , uneducated, scumbags Sonny ,you will get them in every corner of the world , treat them with the contempt they deserve . I honestly feel you do not need to be concerned about having to leave , I truly , truly don’t . Scotland needs you and your wife’s skills , any government worth it’s salt knows that . This is a great big political game dreamed up by the Tories because their backbenchers are afraid of UKIP , it all backfired on them . The Tories are now running scared of what they started . Over the coming months things will start to take a cooler head , things will settle , common sense will start to work it’s way back , I don’t for a minute see any kind of mass exodus of people already here , borders may be slightly tightened in the coming years but immigration won’t stop .

    2. Justin Kenrick says:

      Really really sorry to hear that SC.

      Thank you for all you both do.

      By caring we belong.

    3. Thomas Widmann says:

      It’s horrible when such things happen. I have nothing but contempt for the Leave politicians who were playing with fire in order to further their own careers.

  7. Crubag says:

    The post-referendum poll found that non-UK citizens were majority No voters. Though not as much as rUK voters.

    Whether non-UK citizens get to remain will largely depend on what the rEU does. If there is a mass expulsion of UK ex-pats (1.2 million) in the EU you might see something similar (3.3 million rEU citizens in the EU), if only to house the returnees.

    But I don’t think that will happen. It looks like the member states are taking charge of negotiations, rather than the Commission, and they are likely to be more pragmatic.

    Charges for using the health service etc. are likely to mirror whatever conditions are applied to UK citizens in the EU member states. The European Health Insurance Card system also covers non-Eu countries.

    1. Thomas Widmann says:

      Perhaps. The thing that keeps you awake at night is the uncertainty. Of course you can be optimistic, but many people will choose to take a pessimistic approach instead if they don’t get certainty soon.

  8. Kenny Smith says:

    In Indy ref 1 the vast majority of EU nationals voted no if reports at the time are to be believed. At the time I had a short burst of anger when I found out that yes had won over most of the naturalised Scots. After I thought about it I couldn’t blame them if the better together campaign had got to them about Scotland being outside of the EU, obviously wanting to avoid the situation they are in now. Again after I calmed down I was proud that unlike Westminster, Holyrood gave a vote to anyone who lives and works here calling Scotland home and not refuse just because of where they are from. How can they vote in elections but be barred from such a major decision. Another difference between our parliaments. I’m going to finish by saying that if Indy ref 2 does come about I hope that is a fair chunk of voters that can help us push Yes into the high 50,s at least. Scots have traveled all over the world and despite some historical bad behaviour while part of the empire, and have been welcomed with open arms so we must extend our hands and welcome others as they have done for us.

  9. John Peters says:

    This is all very starry eyed about the nature of the EU. Like many remainers you conflate the EU with the idea of the solidarity of the people’s of Europe. What is so progressive about the EU as an institution? At the heart of the Maastricht treaty lies the toxic theory of monetarism which has wreaked havoc in Europe for thirty years. Moreover, I see not a word of criticism in your lament about the nefarious role played by the German government whose wage-dumping policies have exported unemployment to its partners in Europe. Mass unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, is the direct consequence of the failed economic policies pursued imposed by German capitalism. And it is this, the resulting inequality which explains In large part the rise of right wing parties across Europe. Read about this in detail by following the works of Professor Flassbeck at Makroskop. If you don’t engage with these ideas then you are closing your eyes to the malaise tearing Euopre apart. Finally, the rise of reaction across Europe, with AfD in Germany, for instance, or what just happened in Sweden, not to mention the unspeakable politics being pursued in countries such as Hungary and Poland, raise serious questions for all those who in recent years have written of their disappointment in Brexit Britain and their wish to go back to a life of cosy liberalism on the mainland. Where exactly? To Chemnitz maybe?

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