A Love letter to Scotland from an EU immigrant

Scotland-map-web2All I remember is falling in love; fast, deep, lasting love. So I packed my bags, bid farewell to friends in Copenhagen and moved. This was in the early 1990s. My journey was as easy as it sounds because of the EU: no complicated border procedures, and my tuition fees were paid in full by the ERASMUS fund. I even received a maintenance grant (those were the days)!

How privileged I felt! I was studying Scottish Literature, History and Ethnology at the University of Edinburgh, every day brought new insights into the majestic and battle-scarred soul of my big love: Alba, Caledonia, Scotland. Aye, I am a cultural immigrant, and you have treated me with nothing but kindness and opportunities.

Born in Scandinavia in the 60s I consider my generation to be the lucky one; we have been in the enviable position of reaping the rewards of the EU. The open borders allowed us to hitchhike and couch-surf in Poland, Romania, Greece and Sweden. With ease, we have studied and worked in other EU countries, picked up snippets of language from natives and other visitors; we have made friends, business partners, marriages. We have also contributed to our host countries, sharing our culture and foods, inviting visitors to tour the sights we have come to call home, paying our taxes.

Europe is an exciting, vibrant continent with many diverse cultures, customs, languages and dialects, all within a relatively small geographical space. It is also a peaceful place. It hasn’t long been such – I am mindful of that. Our great grandfathers fought in the great war, our grandparents lived through it. Then they, in turn, fought in WW2, and our parents grew up during this dark time and its aftermath. My generation doesn’t know of war on our doorstep. I repeat: we are the lucky ones. EU nations have been at war with one another for so long, yet now there has been peace amongst them for 70 years. I feel such gratitude to the EU, not just for keeping this peace, but for the opportunities, subsidies and funding as well as all the vital human, environmental- and labour market rights.

For 23 years I’ve observed successive Westminster governments blame the EU for all the ills befallen on our society. At the same time, the advantages of being a member of the EU have never been made clear by our ruling politicians. Exacerbated by biased reporting from much of the mainstream media, we now find ourselves in this Brexit situation. Yes, the EU may need reform but surely that is best achieved by staying around the negotiating table.

There are around 3 million EU citizens in the UK, ca. 170.000 in Scotland. We work, employ people, pay taxes, and we spend what we earn here. We are integrated, sometimes intermarried; children were born here and thus have UK and/or dual citizenship. We have bought property and made plans for the future. We may still speak with foreign accents, but our dogs bark in Scots. And until the Brexit referendum most of us felt welcome here.
This week my French husband and I attended the Scottish Government’s Q&A session with EU citizens. Great sympathy was shown for our situation, and our First Minister kept assuring us that we have a place in Scotland and that our contribution is valued. Sadly despite this, we came away more confused than before, and the million dollar/euro/pound question to me remains: will we be able to stay here?

There are practical questions of course:

What are the implications of 3 million EU citizens leaving the UK? Will we be made to swap places with the approximately 1.2 million UK citizens in the EU? There would still be a huge gap in the workforce here – who would fill that?

Where would we even go post potential Brexit-expulsion? Denmark? France? Portugal? New Zealand? Sweden? Canada? Who would want us? Will the UK Government reimburse us for having to close our businesses? Will it help us with set-up costs elsewhere? Will it ensure that our houses sell at their market value? Will we be able to draw our pensions in full from another country, and will these be inflation-linked?
These financial and work concerns aside, for me the crucial issue is one of belonging. I belong here. My husband belongs here. Our dog belongs here.

People have been forced to leave their homeland for millennia, so I feel a certain degree of shame expressing the loss I would feel if we had to leave Scotland. There are many millions of displaced people on this planet at this moment; fleeing wars, famine and persecution; afraid to go back from where they came.

And yet, please allow me to whisper gently in your ear that I am profoundly, emotionally and culturally tied to this land.

It has been such a privilege to make my home here, to meet kindred souls, find inspiration and reasons to live, learn and create, to forge strong and important friendships, to run a business for 20 years, pay off a mortgage, make art and engage in the cultural, spiritual and political life of the land. My dogs and I have had enormous joy on our walks through so much of your landscape, high and low, barren, lush and waterlogged, sometimes even sunny and warm. I know this place so much better than my old country and I love it here: I belong here.

Bonny Scotland, I hope I never, ever have to utter these words: cheerio and thanks for all the guid craic.

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  1. Bill Low says:

    Why would you not be able to stay? Before the EU existed, people came from various countries and stayed. My maternal grandfather, en route to USA, got side tracked and stayed. After a year he brought his wife and year old son across to Scotland and they stayed. That son, born in Lithuania ultimately served over 26 years in the British Army, in a Scottish Regiment. Other siblings, born later all stayed and I have a myriad of first and second cousins who trace their ancestry back to
    Lithuania. They are however all Scots
    Bill

  2. Bert Logan says:

    You know, I know, Sturgeon knows. Once article 50 is applied, there is no turning back and sadly you will become a pawn for a Tory government.

    Thus, the SNP and Greens are ready, as are the ‘Yes’ community to take us ‘back’ to the EU. It is an urgent issue on ’50’, but rest assured you will be living in Scotland for as long as you suffer us.

    Handy hint. I’m looking forward to #indyref2

  3. Valerie says:

    A moving and heartfelt letter. You are a Scot by choice, and feel more for your chosen country than many who were born here.

    Sturgeon means what she says, she will be fighting with every fibre to keep you and others here. Even those who don’t agree with her, know it makes no sense whatsoever to see you leave.

    We are in a holding position, but we will be ready when the timing is right.

  4. Annette says:

    I agree with this so much. I moved to Scotland because I married a Scotsman, but I also fell in love with the country, with its achingly beautiful landscapes, its vibrant culture and wonderful people. I don’t want to leave. I want to see this country free, deciding its own destiny and claiming its rightful place among the nations of Europe.

  5. Taduesz says:

    I too am an immigrant to Scotland. I have been here 6 years and love the country, but am thinking about leaving, due to Brexit, also because of a sense of being used as political pawns by many, including Scottish nationalists – do they really care about us or do they just want to use us for their cause?- Also many Scottish nationalists either voted for Brexit or worse abstained (Glasgow and Dundee had the lowest turnout in the vote, so they didn’t care that much). Also, their is the attitude to Russia and the blind eye that has been pointed out elsewhere on this site. Let’s just say the current system is not hopeful, in Romania, Ukraine, Baltics and Poland they have infiltrated many human rights and civic movements to spread disinformation, on social media and with other media outlets that follow ‘the Orthodox’ idea that the West is degenerate and that their should be a pan Slavic only Christian state. Also I do not believe that UK should leave NATO or get rid of Trident. This I know will anger many Scots and I understand this. But my country is closer than yours is.

    1. Malcolm MacKinnon says:

      Your comments appear like others emerging on this site not to make sense and solely intended to attack the SNP or undermine independence.

      I do not believe you are an immigrant, by looks of it you are a dyed in the wool tory.

      I am in favour of freedom of speech, but comments like yours will wreck this site if action is not taken.

      1. Polack says:

        I suggest you visit Poland or actually speak to Lativians, Lithuanian and Estonians if you think the threat from Russia is nonsense.

        1. Graeme Purves says:

          Where does Malcolm Mackinnon say that the threat from Russia is nonsense? He doesn’t say that at all. What is certain is that NATO’s ham-fisted belligerence has only served to feed Putin’s paranoia about encirclement, to the detriment of the security of the Baltic nations.

      2. Polack says:

        ‘…I am in favour of freedom of speech, but comments like yours will wreck this site if action is not taken…’

        So your in favour of free speech until it diverges from your opinion?

        1. Stuart Murray says:

          Pollack are you and Tadusz one and the same?

          Point being you are not on here to stimulate debate, or provide alternative views, you are on here to destroy, mislead and poison!

        2. Alexander Gibb says:

          You conflate freedom of speech with freedom to lie.

      3. Jack Collatin says:

        Malcolm, if it walks like a duck. ‘Taduesz’ is clearly one of Better Together’s Black Ops trolls. Pathetic really.
        I’d like to see an English based Government try to drive my fellow Scots citizens out of Scotland. Quite literally, over my dead body.
        Meanwhile Andrews Neil and Marr, the pet Scots of the London Oligarchy continue to belittle their native land, from their well paid little BBC sinecures in London.
        May I thank the author for this tremendous Letter To Scotland, which is in all reality an independent nation now, and it is clear that more and more Scots citizens are more determined than ever to sever ties with an Arch Right Wing Establishment in the SE of England.
        May I thank the author for choosing to come here, work here, and contribute to our economy.
        The tartan worm has turned.

    2. Agatha Cat says:

      I’m surprised you spelled your name wrongly, Taduesz.

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        Tsk! They just can’t get the staff these days.

    3. Danny Boy says:

      Taduesz… Why not Tadeusz? ‘Pan Tadeusz’ is the greatest Polish poem by the greatest Polish writer, Adam Mickiewicz. Every child reads it at school. But you somehow misspelled this name? Are you sure you are Polish?

  6. bringiton says:

    My guess is that once England leaves the EU,those EU nationals living here will be offered British citizenship should they wish to stay.
    However…..they will no longer have the rights of current EU citizenship and will be subject to whatever England’s Tories decide they should be.
    That will in all likelihood will not amount to very much.
    England will be completely unfettered and able to pursue it’s aim of being a low wage,low skilled banana kingdom,so people may wish to consider whether they wish to continue living in such a country.

  7. Hamish says:

    Your questions remain unanswered because they don’t know. Having lived through the Scottish referendum campaign where every issue was dissected and debated to the nth degree – with all manner of dreaded threats as a consequence of ‘separation’ – we saw this followed by a campaign to leave Europe that received little or no scrutiny as to the end result, and its campaign leaders promptly jump overboard like rats from a sinking ship. But not to worry – we have ‘reclaimed our Democracy’ – they trumpet in the shadow of unelected Lords and a sectarian monarchy, Hoorah!

  8. Kate Malcolmson says:

    What a kind and intelligent woman you are….no wonder Scotland wants to keep you.
    It’s in our culture to be welcoming and we have the ability to recognise the strength that other nations and their peoples can bring with them to our country .
    We need you…please fight hard to stay.

  9. Barry says:

    There once were clearances. I believe sheep and deer took the place of those Scots who got the boot. Nah! No way you are leaving! We’re having too much fun the way things are.

  10. Joseph Tierney says:

    Louise, a beautifully written heartfelt plea to the ordinary Scottish people. This is why ‘Brexit’ is a game changer, the UK wants to rip away from the EU, Scotland does not. We are in limbo right now, the worst possible place. The EU is waiting for The PM May to press the article 50 button. Independence supporters are like kids waiting for Article 50 Xmas buttons, so we can begin the path to independence! The Tory’s gambled on Brexit and it has been an abject failure. The pound is the worst performing currency of 2016. Banks and Businesses that deal in the Euro are planning to leave the UK on Brexit. Scottish (and some UK company’s who’s main customers are the EU market) are openly declaring to stay in the EU, if Scotland (through independence) can give that to them. You, Louise and your husband are the reason why Scotland will get independence. You were lied to by the Tory government who told you to vote “No’ to stay in the EU. 2 years later the called for a Brexit referendum and denied you and your husband the vote. They are now stupidity are leading us out of the EU. Remember that even without your clear vote to stay in the EU, Scotland choose to remain a part of the European community. When we get that chance for Indy2 which you and all the EU citizens living in Scotland can vote in. We can send a clear message to the Tory’s and the EU. We want to be an inclusive part of Europe and not of inward thinking little Westminster.
    In the ‘Undef one Banner’ March to George Square in Glasgow. There was Scottish, English, Welsh, Catalionian and EU flags. Louise please please come along with your husband and bring your Danish and French flags. Wave them tall and proud along with us because your heart beats with Scotland like ours. Makes you one with us. You ARE one of us. Scotland needs you, the Scottish people need you.
    You are At Home with us.
    Bless you.

    1. Norrie Muir says:

      …..is the apostrophe on plurals now de rigeur amongst ‘ professional ‘ Scots ?….spelling and punctuating accurately , are a sine qua non in establishing credibility…..(I.M.A.O)

      1. Jack Collatin says:

        Tighten up your grammar and syntax, my lad.
        “…..is the apostrophe on plurals now de rigeur amongst ‘ professional ‘ Scots ?….spelling and punctuating accurately , are a sine qua non in establishing credibility…..(I.M.A.O)”

        Really?

      2. David Edmunds says:

        Theirs always one!

  11. K. A. Mylchreest says:

    In much the same vein as this article, just listen to these two extracts from the meeting referred to; 45:58 — 49:10 and Nicola´s reply to that at 57:06 — 1:00:22. Really that´s all that needs to be said, but it´s nice to see it coming from the heart, not least from our FM. Wha´s like us?

  12. John Dalrymple says:

    Thanks, Luise, this is lovely

  13. Crubag says:

    Um, Denmark sat out WW1, though they did get part of Schleswig-Holstein in the carve up.

    But I don’t see any particular barrier to you staying, whether becoming a UK/Scottish citizen or relying on the goodwill of rEU – I don’t think Brussels will argue for expulsions so there will be no tit for tat. Brussels itself is on the ropes and future decisions will be made by the big powers.

    40% of Scots voted for Brexit, including a third of SNP voters – and that was in the face of a fear campaign the equal of 2014. When we see the sky isn’t going to fall, there will be no going back to that union. Disengaging from the other union will need to be post-Brexit, but there is no rush.

    Sturgeon has got the SNP stuck on the fence on this, but she is an able politician and will manag the eventual climbdown

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      The author doesn’t say anything about the nationalities of her great grandparents. Why do you assume they were Danish?

  14. Crubag says:

    It’s what I took from her “Our great grandfathers fought in the great war, our grandparents lived through it” in the context of Scandinavia’s involvement in recent European wars. Denmark was only half a century on from having the wheels beat off it by the Prussians, so I can see why they’d sit it out.

    Tensions remain – Denmark is now defending its beach huts against the southern menace, including a derogation in the Lisbon Treaty.

    And of course keeping its own currency – the people voting against despite the efforts of political parties and the media.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      Luise only says that she was born in Scandinavia in the 1960s and that she left Copenhagen in the early 1990s. She doesn’t say anything about the nationalities of her great grandparents, which makes your snippets of Danish history of dubious relevance.

      I doubt that the European ideal will founder on the issue of beach huts.

      1. Crubag says:

        No, the euro will do that all on its own.

        Though the kind of ethnic issues that drive concerns about beach huts – or land ownership or immigration – haven’t gone away either. Whatever people in the Berlaymont building like to think.

        1. Graeme Purves says:

          I remain skeptical as to whether “ethnic issues” over beach huts will be remembered as one of the defining conflicts of 21st Century Europe.

          1. Jack Collatin says:

            At least we now we know that ‘Crubag’ is one of McTernan’s nexus of trollers.
            Perhaps the ubiquitously framed MacDougall himself? Beach huts indeed.

  15. Crubag says:

    Are you searching for ideological purity? That’s a pastime for ideologues – they don’t get elected.

    Scepticism about the EU institutions is a cross-party phenomenon (not that I’m a party member any longer) and indeed a cross-national phenomenon.

    The only thing that is holding the euro together is the hope that the Germans might open their purse and the fear that being outside it would be even worse.

    And beach huts matter to the Danes, in the same way that ownership of Highland estates matter to us. It’s only a matter of scale.

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