EU na­tion­als must be pro­tected

Sunday Herald - - EDITORIAL & LETTERS -

THE First Min­is­ter has made a bold and wel­come ges­ture to­day. Writ­ing in the Sun­day Her­ald, Nicola Stur­geon says that if the UK Gov­ern­ment im­poses charges on EU cit­i­zens forced to ap­ply for set­tled sta­tus, the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment will en­sure that de­volved public bod­ies meet these costs for those work­ing in the public sec­tor.

Not only does this make eco­nomic sense – this nation needs doc­tors, nurses and other public ser­vants to help run our coun­try – but more im­por­tantly it makes moral sense. EU na­tion­als have been hu­mil­i­ated by the Brexit process. First, they were made to feel like un­wanted aliens in a coun­try they saw as their home, and con­trib­uted valu­ably to in terms of taxes, and then they were made hostages to the ne­go­ti­a­tions, with the Tory gov­ern­ment cru­elly leav­ing them in limbo over their fate as res­i­dents of these is­lands.

This pa­per pas­sion­ately be­lieves in a Scot­land within Europe; we are a proudly, and avowedly, pro-Euro­pean news­pa­per. As we ar­gued only last week in this very leader col­umn, it is time to de­bate the is­sue of whether there should be a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum on mem­ber­ship of the Euro­pean Union once the ne­go­ti­a­tions are over. The case for Brexit was one built on lies, ha­tred and petty racism, and its con­se­quences will crip­ple the United King­dom both eco­nom­i­cally and geopo­lit­i­cally. For those rea­sons alone, the elec­torate de­serves to have its say on the fi­nal ne­go­ti­a­tions.

As such, Stur­geon is to be praised for stat­ing clearly that EU na­tion­als who are al­ready liv­ing and work­ing here un­der free­dom of move­ment reg­u­la­tions “should not be made to jump through hoops to re­main”. It may not be pop­u­lar with some, but she has cho­sen the moral po­si­tion by call­ing on the UK Gov­ern­ment to guar­an­tee their rights and “make the process for stay­ing here as sim­ple and easy as pos­si­ble”. For ex­am­ple, she says, peo­ple who are con­tribut­ing to our coun­try should not have to pay a fee to stay here as it is their right as EU cit­i­zens.

For vot­ers in Scot­land who cast a Re­main bal­lot and want the best pos­si­ble re­la­tion­ship with the EU – whether Brexit hap­pens or not – the First Min­is­ter is mak­ing clear that the SNP is the party which cares about Europe. She does so against the piti­ful squab­bling of the Tories over Europe, and the two-faced po­si­tion­ing of Labour, say­ing one thing to pro-Euro­pean met­ro­pol­i­tan vot­ers, and an­other to work­ing-class vot­ers op­posed to EU mem­ber­ship.

We must re­mem­ber that the Tories dragged Bri­tain into Brexit be­cause of in­ter­nal party war­fare over Europe, and is now drag­ging Bri­tain to the brink with yet more in­ternecine bat­tles this time over the course of Brexit it­self. A nation can­not be left as col­lat­eral dam­age to a party and its dys­func­tion. Against this fi­asco in West­min­ster, Stur­geon has shown steady lead­er­ship over Brexit, and her an­nounce­ment on EU na­tion­als re­minds us that pol­i­tics is best when it puts peo­ple, not party, first.

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