Meet the Team – Lesley

Hi, my name is Lesley. I grew up in Musselburgh, went to University in Aberdeen, did a PhD in Edinburgh, moved to Fife to work at St Andrews University and while still living in Fife, moved back to Edinburgh University where I have worked for over 20 years. Although I have (mostly) lived and worked in Scotland, I have close work and family ties with Europe and feel it is a very strong part of my identity.

My first foray into to political activism was in the late 80s when, after years of being governed by a party Scotland did not vote for, implementing policies abhorrent to the majority of Scottish people, I joined events to campaign for a Scottish parliament. Work and children took up all of my time in the following years and apart from dragging my children on various marches, I did not have time to think much about politics.

When Alex Salmond announced there was to be a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, I was initially sceptical. The academic community were mostly against an independent Scotland. The idea of creating borders was (and still is) troubling to many. Funding was also a concern as charities such as CRUK suggested an independent Scotland would lose a lot of support. However, the main concern was the prospect of leaving the EU. After listening to arguments from both sides, I became convinced that an independent Scotland was the right way forward and argued vociferously for the YES case.

When the referendum on membership of the EU was announced, I did not engage with the remain campaign as, like many, I thought leave would never win. I was on chat with my son who lives in Berlin as the results came in and I have never been so stunned. It seemed the most outrageous outcome. My son left home at 20 and set up a life and business in Berlin. He married an Argentinian girl and they now have a son. My sister has lived in Spain for 27 years, and my niece and nephew were born/brought up there. My parents also live in Spain most of the year. I work very closely with scientists in France and Spain and have benefitted from many European funding schemes. I cannot imagine losing freedom of movement and the close connections I have with Europe. In the years since the referendum I have campaigned hard with Perth for Europe and Edinburgh for Europe for the UK to remain in the EU.

The democratic deficit in Scotland has been laid bare by the Brexit vote. Scottish groups campaigned to remain in the EU before and after the referendum, with considerable success. However, we could have convinced every single person in Scotland to vote remain and we would still be leaving the EU. Hence, we have started YesforEU, campaigning for an independent Scotland within the EU.

The Scottish Parliament was eventually opened in 2004 thanks to close cross-party working. It is this kind of cross-party approach that will be required to move Scotland to independence in Europe. Although most political parties officially (and aggressively) campaign against Scottish independence, many within these parties are open to the idea and we invite them to join us. The Brexit vote has also changed minds in the academic community, and we invite interested parties from this group to join.