Meet the Team – Morag

Having grown up in Fife, Scotland has been my home again since 2000, after spending half my adult life south of the border. I still have many ties with family and friends ‘down south’. I was initially sceptical about independence back in 2014, but I engaged with the evidence and debate during the campaign and became convinced of the case for independence – I voted ‘yes’.

The ‘no’ campaign had threatened that independence would mean we would be forever excluded from the EU – an ultimately ironic threat if ever there was – but it cut no ice with me, as I was, and still am, confident that an independent Scotland will regain its rightful place in the EU, and in the wider world.

Europe has always been important to me: I lived and worked in France and Germany whilst a student; my now grown-up children have lived, studied and worked in various European countries thanks to freedom of movement; in my working life I built strong professional and friendship links in several countries across Europe, again facilitated by the EU, and I maintain those links though now retired. I feel European. And since returning to live in Scotland again, it seems to me that political and societal values expressed here are closely attuned to those of the European Union – equality, wellbeing of citizens, social justice, democracy, human rights, welcoming immigrants, environmental protection.

Historically the origins of the EU were rooted in the need for lasting peace in Europe following two devastating world wars: building healthy relationships with our neighbours, based on mutual respect, collaboration and support, has been a successful strategy for promoting peace and prosperity – it’s a ‘no brainer’.

So the UK’s decision to leave the EU is an error of epic proportions, one that will be enormously damaging for the UK and its citizens for decades to come. Brexit has been built on lies, corruption and unlawful manipulation of already weak UK constitutional and parliamentary arrangements. And that’s not all: these unsavoury Brexit machinations show the depths of dysfunction to which UK governance has sunk. Its failures in dealing with the corona pandemic are the latest, tragic manifestation of incompetence and callous disregard for the wellbeing of its citizens. Why would any nation wish to remain tied to this toxic UK state?

In Scotland we are capable of building a better society and establishing our place in Europe and the world. The case for Scottish self-determination is stronger than ever. We need to strive for independence and at the same time prepare for EU membership – this will involve many challenges and much hard work! Let’s work towards a shared vision of what Scotland can look like in just a few years: a self-determining, dynamic state, a respected and valued member of the EU.

Meet the Team – Sam

I moved to Scotland in 2018, in the hope that Scotland would find a way of keeping us in the European Union…

I am a retired agricultural scientist and spent more than 30 years working with smallholder, subsistence farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. I’ve seen at first hand the devastation that climate change is wreaking on farmers in tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world.

In 2016 I was living happily in Marlborough in the South-West of England, until the EU referendum. Although I was a member of the Green Party of England and Wales, I campaigned alongside the local Tory candidate to remain in the EU. I was devastated at the outcome of the referendum and decided to move to the beautiful ‘remain’ city of Edinburgh. On the evening of the 31st January – the day that the UK left the EU, I joined the crowds outside Holyrood protesting at being “dragged out of the EU against our will.”

I spent two years campaigning for a ‘peoples’ vote’ with Edinburgh4Europe in the hope that a second EU referendum would offer the possibility of staying in the EU. The people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly for pro-EU candidates in the last General Election, but despite this we are all now heading for a hard Brexit. It is clear to me that the only way that Scotland can retain the benefits of EU membership, including the ability to join with other European countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is as an independent country.

Meet the Team – Élise

A personal journey towards Scottish Independence

Hi, my name is Élise. I was born in France and have lived in Scotland since 1996. I arrived in Edinburgh by chance but moving to the UK was intentional: in France, I had developed a love of the English language, of British culture, traditions, institutions and society and I wanted to find out much, much more!

Scotland made me feel at home straight away and after a wedding and the birth of 2 children, plus setting up a business and becoming an employer, I decided to take British citizenship. A monetary transaction but importantly a means of ensuring representation at UK level as well as showing “commitment” to the country that had so generously welcomed me.

In 2014 I voted “no” in the referendum on Scottish independence. I would say the campaign marked my awakening to politics. I really wanted to make an informed decision and read up as much as I could about the history of the British nations, whilst following debates coming out of the UK and Scotland. With some friends, we organised community discussions and invited guests to present both sides of the argument.

In the end I decided against independence for 3 main reasons: 1/ I felt gratitude towards the UK and didn’t think I knew enough or had the right to “break up” a country that I had only just made my own; 2/ I believed in a collaborative approach to government and politics and in being “stronger together”; 3/ I wanted most importantly to remain part of the EU and felt that there was too much uncertainty about an independent Scotland staying in or being able to rejoin the EU.

Fast forward 6 years and what a different landscape I find myself in! The 2016 Brexit referendum result left me feeling both cheated (THAT argument about the EU!) and no longer wanted and valued as an EU citizen. The subsequent years of continued divisiveness, misinformation, political calculations, cheap populism, lies, financial influences and lack of political leadership have drawn me away from Westminster politics. The pro-independence arguments I heard in 2014, on the other hand, now ring more true to me and I believe the case for Scottish independence has been strengthened by recent events.

Politics is about the kind of society that you want to live in and Brexit has highlighted even further to me the divide between the type of society Scottish people wish to build for themselves compared to the direction now taken by society south of the border. The wish to belong or not to the European Union is one such division.

I believe the case for Scottish independence need not be party-political and that is the reason I have decided to join the cross-party campaign group YesforEU. My goal is to help Scotland quickly find its rightful place back within the EU family of nations.

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.

Lessons for Scotland

Kirsty Hughes| 6 March 2020

This is a joint SCER-University College London European Institute Policy Paper. It has been written in the context of the research and policy engagement project “Small states in the EU, lessons from Scotland”, led by the Scottish Centre on European Relations’ 2019-2020 in collaboration with the University College London European Institute under their Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence Programme 2019-2022, co-funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Programme.

Download the full paper here

Executive Summary and Key Conclusions

This paper analyses how smaller EU member states develop their European strategies and tactics, set priorities and build alliances, and sets out some lessons for Scotland’s European strategy. Overall, smaller and medium-sized member states can be influential in the EU but that requires a pro-active, carefully developed strategic approach. The paper draws on a set of interviews with diplomats and officials in smaller EU member states, the European Commission and the Scottish government.

Brexit Impact:

The UK’s departure from the EU has had substantial impact on the diverse and shifting alliances that characterise today’s Union. Many smaller states are reconsidering their approach to alliance-formation and networking both in general and in particular policy areas as a result. The internal market is one of the main areas where the UK’s departure has led to a re-think, especially amongst those states who were ‘like-minded’ with the UK on the internal market. But, more widely, the UK’s departure, having been one of the ‘big three’ in the EU, changes the power politics and networks across the 27.

Key Strategies and Tactics:

There are few policy areas where smaller EU states are on one side of a policy debate and the larger states (the big five of France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain) on the other. But smaller states want to have influence on the direction, and the detail, of EU policies and defend their interests. This requires a pro-active strategy, building alliances with states large and small – a strategy that goes beyond formal participation in EU institutions, vital though that is. Bringing expertise, getting views in early, proposing solutions not bringing problems, being alert to other member states’ priorities, looking for compromises, being persistence and investing resources in Brussels and in bilateral EU relationships, all this and more is how many smaller EU states look to participate in EU policy-formation and decision-making.

Informal Groupings:

With 27 member states, the EU can find it hard in some areas to get to consensus. Informal, like-minded groupings of member states – that may put in letters or statements ahead of summits, coordinate on positions and so on – are now common within the EU. There are like-minded groups on climate change and on the internal market, as well as ones clearly seen in the current EU budget debate, together with older and newer groupings such as the Visegrad 4 and the New Hanseatic League. These groupings can help drive policy forward and reach consensus, but used in too rigid a way, they can create blockage and division.

Climate and Industrial Strategy Leadership:

In the core areas of the European Green Deal and the debate over a new industrial strategy, smaller member states have been very active with the aim of influencing where these vital issues go next – Finland played a big role in its presidency at the end of 2019, and Sweden and Denmark are also seen as influential players in climate policy. The Netherlands, meanwhile, is seen generally as an important medium-sized player and one that may take up some of the free market leadership role previously played by the UK.

Lessons for Scotland:

There is much for Scotland to learn here despite being a sub-state within a third country, the UK, outside of the EU. It will be hard for Scotland to influence future EU developments from the outside. But bringing expertise, building long-standing bilateral relationships, participating in debates and stepping in early and constructively – whether in its current status as a sub-state within the UK or in future, perhaps, as an independent state in the EU – will all pay dividends.

European Commission: Getting ready for the end of the transition period

Even if the European Union and the United Kingdom conclude a highly ambitious partnership covering all areas agreed in the Political Declaration by the end of 2020, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU acquis, the internal market and the Customs Union, at the end of the transition period will inevitably create barriers to trade and cross-border exchanges that do not exist today. There will be broad and far-reaching consequences for public administrations, businesses and citizens as of 1 January 2021, regardless of the outcome of negotiations. These changes are unavoidable and stakeholders must make sure they are ready for them. To assist, the Commission is reviewing – and where necessary updating – the over 100 sector-specific stakeholder preparedness notices it published during the Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom.

Those notices that have already been updated as ‘notices for readiness’ can be found underneath.

Readiness notices

Air transport Animal breeding (zootechnics) Animal transport Aviation safety Chemicals (REACH) Consumer protection and passenger rights Cosmetic products Excise duties European Works Councils Feed Food law Genetically-modified organisms Industrial products Medicinal products (human use, veterinary) Movements of live animals Natural mineral waters Online purchase with subsequent parcel delivery Organic products Plant health Value added tax (VAT) – goods

If the European Union and the United Kingdom fail to reach an agreement by 31 December 2020, the changes at the end of the transition period would be even more far-reaching.

For more information, go to the European Union and the United Kingdom – Forging a new partnership