EU nationals must be protected
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.