As a Scotsman I hoped to never hear the word “Referendum” again. Honestly I am sick of it.
During the last Scottish referendum I was firmly against leaving. The idea of splitting from the UK… as someone who sees his nationality as half Scottish, half Scouse, putting a wall up (metaphorical or otherwise) between Scotland and England sat very badly with me. I now find myself in a position of seeing us do that with Europe. The list of nationalities of the people I care about would be long. Scottish, English, Welsh, Irish, Spanish, Basque, German, Finish, Danish, Portuguese, Italian, Belgian, Russian, Aussie, Canadian, Greek, Norwegian, Argentine, Egyptian, Saudi, American and Latvian. That’s 22 without thinking, there are more. Without the EU I doubt that list would be half as long, and it makes me sad to know that the next generation may get a more limited pool of peoples life experiences to learn from. I know the difference it made for me.
As someone who is told I do not have a Scottish accent but who is living at least part time in Scotland, I am also someone who has been called “English”. Now, to anyone south of the border or overseas, this might seem an odd statement, so I’ll explain. There is a lot of Anti-English sentiment in places up here, and being called English typically is followed with the word “bastards” or some other variation. And this is stuff I’ve had thrown at me.
Here is the thing. I was born in Edinburgh, and have lived in Scotland for over half my life. I was educated here. And frankly, I’m rather thick skinned and care little what insults get thrown at me. I actually find the inaccuracy of them amusing. I generally take a note of who says these things, as such small minded people tend to either bore me or make such lousy conversation and I would rather not waste my time on them. But despite this, I know from personal experience that the last referendum was horrible for a lot of non-Scots up here. It got very hostile.
So it is with a certain degree of confidence that I can say I understand how a lot of people feel today.
On the morning of the 24th June 2016, I saw two posts that said basically the same thing. The authors of both had moved to the U.K. from abroad as a child, went through Primary and Secondary School here before University. Both are people I know reasonably well and care for a great deal. Immigrants who “contribute to our country” and make a difference. One is a nurse, the other a teacher. Both status said they had never felt less welcome here in Britain than they do today.
It makes me sad that so many people in Britain feel unwelcome. It makes me sad to know that there is now likely to be another referendum on Scottish Independence. I know the things I’ve heard so often in recent years will also provide the backdrop to the next few years north of the border.
I do not want another referendum up here, even though I can understand why maybe now this needs to happen again. I’m not even sure how I would vote next time, too many things aren’t known yet. But I don’t want to hear stories of children who listen to their parents nationalistic rants, before going into school and telling the kid from down south to “Go back home, we don’t want you English Bastards here”. Nor do I want to hear about drunken adults arguing about it on nights out, about things they clearly don’t understand even when sober.
I know a lot of people who voted Remain. I know a lot of people who voted Leave. Whatever you voted, it doesn’t matter now.
It doesn’t matter. Here is what does.
Right now, all over the country, there are millions of good, honest people who feel unwelcome. The way this campaign was fought did this. This is not acceptable. So can we please change the rhetoric, and take a moment to treat our neighbours as human. It is rare for me to praise her, but to her credit Nicola Sturgeon did take a moment to thank those from abroad to contribute, and make clear they are still welcome here. I know it was a political move, but still nice to hear, and so far the only one I’ve heard post-result to do so. It told me she knows we need them as much as they need us. I just hope they know some of us know that.
We, as a nation, have decided to leave the EU, for better or for worse. Let us not stick two fingers up to Europe on the way out the door, they are still family even if we don’t want to live together any more.