At the Referendum Count in the John Wright Centre last week Remain activists from the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and Labour worked together to get an impression of the votes cast in East Kilbride and across South Lanarkshire. I didn’t come across anyone from the Leave campaign. South Lanarkshire along with the other 31 local authority areas in Scotland voted decisively that the UK should remain in the European Union.
The UK result was a shock. A shock for Scotland and a shock for individuals here in East Kilbride. I’ve recognised this over the days following as almost every conversation I have had, whether in a work or social capacity references last week’s events: Organisers of sporting events for young people who benefit from EU grants; local businesses who trade on mainland Europe, parents of students who hope to do part of their studies in the EU; EU nationals who live here and now feel unwelcome.
I don’t have the answers for people, and it is becoming increasingly clear that those who forced this referendum don’t have the answers either. They all but disappeared in the days following the result – the Prime Minister resigned, Boris Johnston played cricket, Nigel Farage admitted that they had been economical with the truth about the ‘facts’ they paraded, and from local ‘Leave’ representatives we heard nothing at all.
One response I do have though is that amidst the meltdown of the UK political parties, Scotland’s First Minister led from the front. She reassured Scots, and made it clear to the UK and the European Union that Scotland has declared itself an outward-looking European country that wishes to remain part of the family of European nations. The SNP will always act in the best interests of Scotland and protect the interests of those who live here.
In these times of turmoil, Nicola Sturgeon was the only leader over the weekend to offer a plan on the way ahead. She rightly demands that our Scottish Government is kept fully involved in all decisions about the next steps the UK Government takes. She will hold discussions with the EU institutions and other member states.
The issues are complex, no-one denies that. All possible options must be considered. To be taken out of the EU when an entire nation has voted the opposite in a referendum is democratically unacceptable. If the Scottish Parliament decides that a second referendum is the best or only way to protect our place in Europe, it must have the option to hold one. That’s the democratic way forward.
I believe that the Leave campaign was based largely on non-acceptance of others, and a jingoism which makes me shudder. To those citizens of other European Union nations who live and work here in East Kilbride, may I echo our First Minister’s words that Scotland welcomes you and that this is your home. Thursday’s result in East Kilbride and Scotland showed that.