WITH the EU Referendum just days away, Edinburgh campaigners Cameron Rose and Daniel Johnson put their case for the Leave and Remain camps.
LEAVE: CAMERON ROSE
Edinburgh stands to prosper at the heart of a confident Scotland in a post-EU era.
Alongside tourism, Edinburgh is characterised by two prominent communities: education – particularly the universities – and financial services.
Despite the polls which suggest the strong lead for Remain in Scotland has fallen by a substantial 16 per cent in the three weeks to mid-June (Economist), many scientists, academics and financiers are perceived as strong Remainers. Their fields are seen as strongly dependant on the EU. In the main they are not. Scientific collaboration and funding is international rather than EU-centred.
Take, for example, the EU Horizon 2020 funding programme. It gives grants to international research and projects, including those in Turkey, Tunisia and Israel, and even the projects supported in Europe regularly involve non-EU countries such as Switzerland and Norway.
The only EU universities in the world top 20 ranking are British. Edinburgh is currently ranked 21st. Britain has more Nobel prize winners than any European country. It doesn’t make sense to claim we will not have influence or partners or funding if we leave. Fear that academic and science research will fall off a cliff if we vote Leave is ill-founded.
The Bioquarter at Little France along with the Bush at Roslin are on the cusp of far-reaching developments where we lead the world. Again, the key point to note is that the links and the potential are as much with Asia and the United States as in the EU.
What of finance, where Edinburgh is one of the main centres in Europe, albeit inextricably linked to London, itself (arguably) the world’s top financial city? The UK has increased financial service exports beyond the EU from 60 per cent to 67 per cent, with opportunities to continue that trend as we refocus priorities and decline to follow damaging EU proposals.
Continuing EU threats include a Financial Transaction Tax which will do nothing positive for pensions, insurance and mortgages which affect us all. Access to EU financial trade post-Brexit has several options, one of which is the current passport system already open to non-EU countries. The fear of many in these fields is as alarmist as the contrived economic calculations tabled from the Remain camp. Such hyperbole extends well beyond the academic field. The President of the European Council commented last week that a vote for Brexit may be “the beginning of the end of Western political civilisation in its entirety”.
Of course we cannot predict the future. But it is worth noting that a vote to Remain also carries a raft of uncertainties – not least the prospect of further bailouts. Trade with the EU will continue, albeit on an adjusted basis, and that increased trade with the rest of the world is there for the taking by a UK which is not held back by gold-plated regulation and bureaucracy and lack of vision.
Edinburgh is well placed, with the skills and innovation we already possess, to have a bright and leading role in a newly confident Britain.
We will all benefit from recovering a meaningful democratic element which has stifled an EU which has shown itself incapable of meaningful reform. A global future rather than a European future awaits us if we seize the moment.
• Cameron Rose is Conservative councillor for Southside and Newington ward
REMAIN: DANIEL JOHNSON
THE bookies are calling us favourites. It’s not something that happens to us often – and as we know it obviously isn’t anything to do with the football. But it is something to do with Europe all the same.
Ladbrokes are offering odds on which area of the country is most likely to have the highest Remain vote in the upcoming referendum. And Edinburgh comes out on top.
Personally, I’m not a gambler. But even if you trust the bookies – and they mostly get it right – the election will be decided not by cities, or constituencies, like in a general election, but by individual votes. Each one of us, regardless of where we live in the UK, will count equally when we vote on Thursday.
So why is our city the most pro-EU in the UK? On the face of it, it shouldn’t make sense: we are a diverse city with poverty and prosperity side by side. That diversity should ensure that Edinburgh isn’t far from the political centre.
But from the conversations I have had while speaking to my constituents about the referendum, I’ve started to see a couple of trends that might explain the Edinburgh exception: education and financial services.
On education, we are lucky to have fantastic universities, like the University of Edinburgh, whose King’s Buildings lie at the centre of my constituency.
Universities are institutions with a global perspective. In academia, collaboration is what builds better learning and better research. Edinburgh University alone receives £45 million a year in research funding from the EU. And it gains strength from its diverse student community. There are 4500 non-UK EU students and more than 1000 Edinburgh students participate in the Erasmus programme every year. For them, the opportunities of Europe are clear and concrete.
As an Edinburgh MSP, I am all too aware of the importance of the financial services sector. Some 100,000 people are employed directly by financial services in Scotland, with another 100,000 in supporting roles. Edinburgh is a major centre of asset management in Europe. That activity and those jobs rely on Europe. So-called passporting enables our skills and expertise to be applied across the borders of Europe. Edinburgh can’t afford to risk that on Thursday.
We are faced with issues that are global in scale: climate change poses a massive threat to our way of life; the global financial crash is still with us; and the crisis in the Middle East has triggered the biggest movement of refugees since World War II.
Those are the issues of our time, and the only way to tackle them is together. To contemplate withdrawing from the EU—the most effective supranational institution that we have—is quite simply a move in the wrong direction. Isolation makes it harder to deal with those issues. We achieve more by removing borders and frontiers than we ever can by putting them in place.
• Daniel Johnson is MSP for Edinburgh Southern