Below the cloak of uncertainty covering the future landscape of the country in the wake of Britain’s commitment to leave the European Union, the Capital’s non-UK citizens remain confident in what the city has to offer.
The historic declaration signed by Theresa May and handed to the European Council yesterday sets in motion a two-year process of negotiations under Article 50 of the EU treaties leading to Britain’s withdrawal, expected in 2019.
But an Edinburgh Council People’s Survey reported three-quarters of residents from outwith the UK remained confident about job prospects in the city despite a backdrop of uncertainty spurred by Brexit.
And overall, two-thirds of respondents were optimistic about employment opportunities in Edinburgh – up from only half in 2012.
For those embarking on the journey into their working career, the promise of a strong job market continues to attract workers to remain in the city after studying.
Of those surveyed, 83 percent of students in Edinburgh claimed they were confident in the job prospects available to them.
Backed by commitment by the Edinburgh University reinforced to support their staff and students from outwith the UK. A spokeswoman said: “Our international students now represent 42 per cent of our total community, coming from 156 nations, with 33 per cent of our staff coming from 105 nations. We have always had a commitment to diversity and a community in which students and staff feel valued and welcome. This is something that we will continue to celebrate and embrace.”
European politics student Jean Francois-Pernet, 22, from Agen in the south west of France believes the view of prospects in Edinburgh remains high at the moment but students and EU citizens in the city “must be realistic.
“At the moment there is still opportunities here with that I do agree – we haven’t left yet and these decisions will not be taken in one day, it’s going to take a long time. However, we have to be realistic about what is going on, this decision will have consequences.”
Jean has been in the UK for seven years and moved to Edinburgh to study four years ago. He is president of the Young European Movement Edinburgh and admits although the outlook is currently stable, people are anxious. “For those currently working, it will not cause a problem right now, but I am convinced it will in the future. It has certainly had an effect on me and I don’t know how long I am going to be staying in Edinburgh – most likely I will go back to France eventually. I would stay a little longer if this hadn’t happened.”
Programme co-ordinator for a CinemaAttic, a platform for Spanish, Iberian and Latin-American cinema in Scotland, Alberto Valverde, 26, from Spain was drawn to Edinburgh after spending a summer in the city, and despite the volatility of the film industry, will continue to seek opportunities to stay and work. He said: “I fell in love with the warmth and down to earth side of Scots,” he said. “Scotland has demonstrated that it embraces foreign talent. Either inside EU or outside and there is a huge demand for a skilled workforce in the creative and cultural industries.” He believes the role of arts is crucial in maintaining a link with Europe. “Culture is one of the best and most powerful tools of diplomacy. After Brexit there is an extraordinary need for the UK to be more open to the world and the creative industries have an incredible role to play in that.”
And according to economy convener Cllr Gavin Barrie supporting employment through a variety of networks has been at the heart of the council’s strategy for jobs. He said: “It is this holistic approach which supports growth in the city and helps maintain Edinburgh’s position as a fantastic place to work, live and do business.
“Edinburgh continues to be the second most prosperous UK city outside London, which gives people who live and work here a lot of confidence. We’ve been working hard to promote the growth of inward investment, focusing on key sectors and areas of the Edinburgh and encouraging footfall in our city centre.
“Edinburgh’s technology sector is booming and the Capital was recently voted by European Business Magazine as the best city to locate your tech business. The sector has grown rapidly in the city over the past ten years and is also home to Codebase, which houses over 80 tech companies.”
But it is diverse workforce within such tech industries who felt the reverberations of a post-Brexit vote world. Administrate, an education software company working in the Codebase tech incubater, which draws on a workforce spanning 13 nationalities and is made up of about half non-UK citizens, had to react quickly to allay future employment uncertainties.
The firm’s chief executive US-born John Peebles, who is on a working visa himself, said quick and frank reassurances helped to dilute some of the fears. “We had to talk to our team quite frankly,” John explained. “If necessary we would be happy to sponsor people should they choose to stay – thankfully it looks like that may not happen but we felt we had to take that measure.
“We’re deeply proud to be a Scottish company backed by Scottish investors and are optimistic about the future but it was an odd feeling watching the vote unfold. Odd when you’re an immigrant yourself, to see a vote mainly driven by a reaction to immigration.”