Dear fellow Europeans
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. The UK is leaving the European Union later tonight. I’ve resisted it every step of the way but now it is really happening. Please know that this is not what the people who live in this great city want. Boris Johnson does not act in our name. We are being dragged out of Europe against our will. And we are determined that this will not be the end of the matter.
I’m sorry for the way they told lies about you. They said you would ban straight bananas and some believed them. They said we couldn’t support our industry because of your rules and, even though other countries supported theirs, some believed them. They said your attempts to improve the standards of our air and water were an unacceptable interference in our lives and some believed them.
They said that making working conditions safer and stopping people working long hours were the actions of a nanny super state. Some believed them. Most of all they said that the UK had no sovereign right to decide whether to go along with these things - even when people were exercising that right. They said that working together with other countries meant being told what to do by them.
I’m sorry for the way you were made a scapegoat for everything that was wrong in everyone’s life. When people think about it rationally they know that the answer to inadequate public services is to spend more money on them - it was just easier to blame you.
Most of all I’m sorry for the way you have been made to feel unwelcome in many parts of the UK. I know some of you who have made your lives here, raised families, worked hard, paid taxes. Now you are being made to register with no guarantee that you will have the same rights in the future.
I’m sorry for us too. We will lose the right to move around Europe to study, work or fall in love. It’ll be harder and more expensive to visit friends or go on holiday.
Our industry will have a harder time selling abroad. We will be poorer as a result. Not overnight. Not dramatically. Just a long slow squeeze on our living standards. One day we’ll realise that we are a lot poorer than people like us in Europe and a lot worse off than we might have been.
I’m sorry about it all.
But this isn’t over. This may be the end of the decision on Brexit but it’s only the start of the debate about what we do about it. I’m more convinced than ever that Scotland ought to become a politically independent country. I know some fear that will cut us off from others. But it’s exactly the opposite. It means having the power to work with others. I want the power of independence not only to make things better here but to build links with others - especially in Britain and Europe.
More and more people in Scotland are looking at independence with fresh eyes. One future is to become a peripheral region in an increasingly isolated UK. Another is to build our own bridges and be part of the bigger world. Whatever you think, we ought to have the right to choose. The last referendum did not resolve anything and so much has changed since 2014. In this new decade we deserve to take a new choice.
Three times now the electorate in Scotland have voted for a majority of representatives who want another referendum. It’s not going away. And every time Boris Johnson ignores or denies the Scottish mandate he only fuels the appetite for change.
Soon we will get the chance to make these decisions for ourselves. And if we take it we will be able to restore links with you. So please, my fellow Europeans, leave a light on so that Scotland can find its way back.
Written for Edinburgh Evening News - 31st January 2020
Time is running out for many of Edinburgh's small businesses. Today I've written to the Chancellor asking for additional emergency assistance for our hospitality sector through the COVID-19 epidemic.