The Shadow of Brexit

As we reflect this autumn, for all of us it has been deeply unsettling year - as the global pandemic has overturned many aspects of our lives, much of which we took for granted. Added to this psychological uncertainty and multi-dimensional disruption, this year has also brought financial uncertainty for many

Some sectors of the economy have taken a hit that will take months to recover from, and we all have an important contribution to make towards building Scotland back better and fairer than it was before.

Government, business and society all has a role to play in that collective endeavour, as we continue to support each other - and as your MSP I am absolutely committed every day to doing all that I can to assist constituents in need and improve our area and country for the better. As always, if I can be of help please do get in touch.

While we are still tackling Covid-19, which felt like it dropped like a meteor into our lives in March, it seems particularly wrong, and unnecessary, that we are now also facing the prospect of another shock – Brexit!

Though it has not come at us with the same unexpected shock of the coronavirus, the long lead in time of Brexit has brought its own difficulties. We have all heard about it for so long that some of you may, understandably, have shut off from it.

But I’m afraid Brexit – which of course we voted against in the vast majority in Scotland - is about to hit us and potentially hit us hard.

We are all aware that, sadly, the UK formally left the European Union on 31 January 2020. However, the transition period has been in place until 31 December 2020.

During this period little has changed for businesses or for the public. But once this transition period ends, and ends soon, things will change a lot – and for the worse in my view and that of many.

Whether or not an agreement is reached with the EU, and as that date comes closer and closer, Boris’s Brexit is a real and growing concern. I would love to tell you what things will be like after 31 December 2020 but, unfortunately, the details of what actual Brexit will mean, both for businesses and for people, are still unclear.

To be frank, I’m astonished at how recklessly the Westminster Government is (mis)handling the whole issue.

One of the few positives we got from the pandemic was a feeling of solidarity, a unity that came from feeling that we were genuinely all in it together. That was very powerful and should strengthen our society. Leith has always been a welcoming and close-knit community, and we should all do what we can to make sure that Brexit does not divide us.

As I have written many times in this magazine, our constituency voted overwhelmingly to Remain in the EU - one of the highest votes in the UK. Even if we cannot on our own stand against the changes that are coming, we can ensure that we do not allow Brexit to change how we relate to the people around us.

Leith will always be an internationalist place in an internationalist Scotland, and we must maintain that mind-set and express it as positively and purposefully as we ever have in the next years.

I always like to think of Edinburgh Northern and Leith as a microcosm of modern Scotland. That’s not strictly true, as I appreciate we do not have the rolling hills of the Highlands, but we do have a wonderfully diverse population, a strong sense of community, and a local economy which is transitioning from the traditional industries of the past into the high-tech and creative sectors of the future.

Our area can be an example to the rest of Scotland of the kind of society we want to be in the 21st century.

Though we are being forced to turn away from Europe politically, against our will, we can make sure that we continue to look to Europe for ideas and connections. We can keep our minds as open as possible to the wider world. That way, when we do return to the EU, as the nation state of an independent Scotland, we will be able to bring even more to that modern family of nations, as a creative and collegiate partner with much to say and much to give.

Twitter: @BenMacpherson

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Covid-19 dropped like a meteor into our lives in March and it seems particularly wrong that we are now also facing Brexit