Letter from Scotland

Tony Fitzpatrick reports from north of the border on Brexit and a sense of loss.

Britain has left the European Union. I say Britain, since the term United Kingdom no longer seems to accurately describe who we are. A contrived political fix daubed ‘Brexit’ triggered deep divides across the four nations, within communities and between families and friends.

Social media descended into what was accurately described by one topical comedian as a “chaotic inferno of hate”. All this will not disappear as we now move into what is truly the difficult part; realising the consequences of the decision.

Those three years of angst were totally unnecessary. Our membership of the EU was not a political, national or local issue. There were many more burning priorities in the minds of people across the whole of Scotland. But Brexit did, however, successfully fulfil a really fundamental purpose. It provided an effective distraction from the issues that were of actual concern to local people and communities; issues that were not being addressed by the UK Government.

I voted to remain in the EU. I had previously spent several years working in and across Europe on issues such as local economic and community development, social inclusion and environmental policy. The EU institutions were far from perfect but, as an aside, I always found them to be much more open and innovative than their equivalent UK institutions, contrary to what was tirelessly reported in the UK media.

Sure, there were frustrations as we grappled with the complexities of regional economies, regeneration, education and poverty, but I never lost sight of the core purpose behind the formation of the EU and its earlier incarnations.

The clear aim was to ensure that the continent would never again be the root cause of delivering two global conflicts that had brought the world to its knees. The painful irony of Britain’s departure from that very alliance, in the week that the Holocaust was yet again commemorated, was not lost on me, my friends and my family.

As a result of all this, I now have a deep sense of embarrassment and concern as a UK passport holder travelling across mainland Europe. While I do not wish to be over-dramatic, things have changed in ways that we have yet to understand. But my main message is for those EU citizens who have enriched our region by both living-in and visiting here. And that message is simple: if you live in Scotland, you are from Scotland.

As for my own international embarrassment, I am looking for Scottish solutions.