Helen Martin: Generation game is played out for the EU

Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
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AN unfortunate side-effect of the EU referendum campaign is the wedge it can drive between generations, in a way that even the Scottish independence referendum couldn’t match.

It’s accepted the majority of younger people will vote to remain, while a significant proportion of those over the age of 50 (particularly in England) will opt to leave.

And that’s understandable. Older people remember not being in the EU, so an Out decision doesn’t have the same fear of leaping off a cliff into the unknown as it does for those who have never experienced anything other than being ruled by Brussels.

Younger people tend to see themselves as global citizens rather than being defined by nationality, yet in one of those contradictory twists of human logic, they also make up a substantial block of voters for Scottish independence – within Europe.

When the debates began, I know some young folk who thought coming out of the EU meant it wouldn’t be possible for them to travel through Europe or work there at all.

And to be fair, there probably would be more bureaucracy to go through such as visas, work permits and having an employment contract.

But I was 20 when Britain joined the EU. As a teenager I’d been to Spain and Greece, and my sister who is ten years older than me had holidayed in Germany, Tunisia, Corsica and had worked for a summer in France.

Today we have many citizens who travel to the US to study, live and work and you don’t struggle to find Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans working and living in Edinburgh, though none of these countries are within the EU.

Turning the clock back is impossible. Never again will people have the same holiday experiences we did in the Sixties and early Seventies when going to a foreign country meant seeing a whole different culture in which few spoke English and even those who did had no idea what “a full English” (or “Scottish”, or “Irish”) was as all food and drink was native.

On the minus side, having an accident or illness on holiday meant a) finding a local doctor and b) paying for treatment.

The world has moved on. Coming out of the EU now, we can only guess how citizens of a non-EU UK would be processed through holiday passport checks, permitted to work or live in another European country or receive health care.

Those of us old enough to remember joining in the first place did so on the basis that we were signing up for a trade agreement. We didn’t know it would lead to us being told by other countries that we had to use lower-power vacuum cleaners or how many fish we could catch; that members of our Commonwealth would become second-class when it came to immigration rules, or that we were entering what is ultimately destined to be one, big, very capitalist but with a socialist veneer, federal state.

But our children have grown up in that system, accept it and have nothing else with which to compare it.

The internet, as well as political alliances and treaties have shrunk the world to a size that fits their generation.

That hasn’t necessarily made it safer but it’s kept war – if not terrorism – away from our doorstep.

I still don’t know how I’m voting, but I hope young people get it right. It’s their future.

We should try named persons for the elderly

SO the named person legislation drags on with another overhaul to make it appear more acceptable to protesters. Personally, I think the SNP is starting at the wrong end.

There are already rafts of laws, regulations, social workers, school policies, police units and organisations dedicated to protecting children, let alone the majority of loving parents who would lay down their lives for their kids – yet as the case of Liam Fee, pictured, shows, tragedy still happens at the hands of evil abusers. I doubt state “guardians” will be able to change that.

Far more effective and less interfering and controversial would be named persons for the vulnerable elderly who are often alone or distant from their younger family members and genuinely need someone to look after their interests and make sure they get the help, protection and assistance they need. That really could make a difference.

Diesel taxes will hit families

I’VE never been a fan of Gordon Brown – even less so since his 2001 encouragement and financial incentives for people to buy diesel cars has proved to be yet another of his catastrophic mistakes, like stripping pension schemes and selling UK gold at the cheapest rates. Now such cars will incur punitive, rather than lesser tax.

We can’t all afford to change our car, nor with a heavy tax attached will we be able to sell it. The very least we should expect is a five-year delay before diesel penalties come into being, so hard-pressed families don’t lose out. And what should happen then is a simple reverse...tax breaks for buying electric or petrol cars, not punishment for doing what Broon the Buffoon told us to do.

Roadside manners

DRIVING along a narrow, one-lane road, I saw a cyclist up ahead wearing headphones. Concerned that he might not hear my car’s approach over his music, I gave a warning peep on the horn. . . .and got a “finger” sign in return. Charming!