In the next of our series asking European citizens living in Scotland about their response to Brexit, Emanuele de Vito writes…
My idea of Britain before the Brexit vote was of a profoundly divided place, with different cultures and attitudes existing on either sides of the border. The Brexit vote hasn’t changed that. In fact, it has highlighted the difference of attitudes existing between Scotland and England on the issue of immigration, which was the most important issue for many voters . I am not going to say that the English (or anyone who voted Leave) are racists, because I think the responsibility lies with some politicians and the media, who normalised xenophobic ideas for decades. There is also the issue of jobs, pay and housing to be taken into account. Many industrial cities lost a lot since the years of Thatcherism. Industries shut down and people had to take up less-paid and less-secure jobs, in retail or hospitality for instance. Rents have been going up and the same time a lot of people came in. Furthermore, many politicians and newspapers blamed all this on migrants. You see why people ended up believing in that narrative and feel that migrants have been stealing their jobs or houses. Migrants have been blamed for the shortcomings of three decades of Neoliberal, Thatcherite policies.
In Scotland, things have been remarkably better. Leading politicians never used that divisive narrative, and I like to think that the Remain vote we saw here wasn’t a consequence of enthusiasm for the EU but rather a rejection of the disgustingly divisive narrative we saw coming from down South. This doesn’t mean that racism does not exist up here, but it is surely not legitimised by the institutions and it is more limited.
How has the Brexit vote altered your view of Scottish independence?
I voted Yes in 2014 and I would vote for Independence again. However, many on the Yes camp are making a mistake in trying to link the issue of independence to that of the EU. What persuaded many people to vote Yes in 2014 was the radical message of change that shaped the Yes campaign, and we need to make that message stronger (for instance, on the issue of currency and jobs). To simply assume that anyone who voted Remain would vote for Independence is wrong, for the reasons I outlined above. Also, I feel this time the SNP’s central message in case of a new referendum would be that of continuity with the status-quo, as opposed to that of change. This may alienate previously Yes supporters and it needs challenged.
What are your fears of what will happen as a result of Brexit?
My fears were that the Brexit vote would translate into a triumph of the xenophobic Little Englander narrative. This has turned out to be true, see for instance the Home Secretary’s speech the other day. Nevertheless, I am happy that Brexit brought the issue of Independence to the fore again. Although the EU won’t win us another referendum, it is increasingly clear that we cannot rely on Westminster to take decisions that reflect the democratic will of people living here.
Would you support Scotland to remain a member of the EU?
I would. However, I am a Socialist and I ultimately believe that the EU is a neoliberal institution that puts the interest of big business first. There are risks related to retaining the EU membership. Namely, the EU may expect Scotland to carry out austerity programmes or undercut wages to retain competitiveness. I believe in a radical, independent Scotland and that would be achieved best outside of the EU.
What are the consequences for you, your friends and family?
I have lived in Scotland for 5 years and I feel Scottish just as much as I feel Italian. This is my home and I have never felt unwelcome here, that’s why I am planning on living in Scotland for the foreseeable future. For all these reasons, I am struggling to come to terms with the reality: my right to stay here is at risk.
At the moment there are no consequences, we will need to find out what Brexit actually means. What I know for sure is that many of my friends from other EU countries are making alternative plans in case they can’t stay anymore.