This post was contributed by Ian Close.
I was travelling through central Europe and had taken a stop in Budapest, one of my favourite cities. There I met an Erasmus student from Spain on a dating app, and went for a romantic stroll along the Danube. The conversation was flowing, laughs were shared, flirtatious exchanges were made. After a while, we stopped for a seat by the Széchenyi Chain Bridge with a beer in hand. He turned to me, looked straight into my eyes, and uttered: “can I ask you something?” I could immediately feel the dread come over me. I knew where this was going – where it always goes. He leaned in closer to me, holding my free hand, his eyes full of curiosity – “what do you think about Brexit?” This question has plagued me since that day in 2016 when my Kiwi boss offered me a pity croissant. Employers, friends and love interests from across the world just really want to know what I think about Brexit – often with the addition that I’m from Scotland so surely, I must have a strong opinion on it. If you take a look at the results map from the referendum you will notice every single area in Scotland voted to remain – and yet here we are, being forced to take part in a political decision most of us don’t want.
A couple of years before Brexit we had our own referendum in Scotland to decide if we wanted independence from the UK.
The results were kinda close – with 55% opting to stay in the UK – but still fairly decisive. One of the big promises made by the campaign to stay in the UK was that Scotland would lose its EU membership if we went for independence. In less than two years, the UK voted to leave the European Union.
Scotland isn’t alone in being screwed over by this decision. Though Wales really let the side down on this one, our Celtic brothers and sisters in Northern Ireland also voted to remain in the EU. For them, this decision has much scarier consequences. The implementation of a hard border on Ireland has the potential to reignite violence in the country. We definitely have a lot less to lose from this in Scotland, but we absolutely still have a right to be angry.
There’s a feeling up here that we’ve been ignored. In the run-up to the referendum, our first minister campaigned for the results only to be implemented if a majority of the constituent nations supported it. Had this happened, we wouldn’t be suffering Brexit right now. Throughout the negotiations, the Scottish Government have asked that the desires of Scotland be considered. When the UK Government considered giving Northern Ireland special status within the EU, we asked that Scotland have the same. These requests were laughed off, not that it mattered because Northern Ireland aren’t getting it either.
Most of all, many of us in Scotland are sickened by the way anti-immigrant attitudes have increased across the UK since the result.
I won’t claim that racism doesn’t exist here, but the attitude towards immigration is much more open and relaxed. Most people don’t care where you’re from – as long as you don’t support the wrong football team. Our cities are made vibrant by French cafés, Spanish bars and monuments to Iranian bears that served in the Polish military.
Haggis pizza is the food of the gods.
Even from a cold economic standpoint, we need more people to move to Scotland. European citizens that live in Scotland were allowed to vote in the independence referendum. They were excluded from making a decision on Brexit.
I’ve personally gained a lot from the European Union. As a journalism student, they allowed me into the European Commission in Brussels to question them on their most controversial policies. Just last year I was able to live and work in Portugal thanks to freedom of movement. Our lives are enriched by EU membership. My worry is whether or not others will still enjoy these freedoms. I have a teenage brother that wants to study German and Spanish – but will he only be able to do this in a dreary classroom? With less than two months left we still don’t know.
They may take our lives, and it turns out they can also take our freedom… of movement. What would Mel Gibson do?
Sadly there are no plans to gather at Stirling Bridge on horseback with blue face paint, but there are rumours of a second independence referendum in Scotland. We don’t know if we’ll get one, if people will vote for it a second time round, or if we would get back into the EU as an independent country – but right now it is looking like our best shot. We love Europe, and we just want them to love us back.
So, to any other curious Tinder dates in future, I say this. We’re angry, we’re confused and we’re incredibly stressed. Nobody knows how this will affect our rights or the rights of EU citizens in Scotland – and the vast majority of us didn’t want this.
Also, no, I won’t show you a photo of me in a kilt.
Meet Ian: Ian is a freelance writer, photography tour guide and frequent napper from Scotland. His interests include spending too much on flat whites, walking for hours to save on minor bus fares and pretending to understand whisky flavours. Keep up with him on IG.
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