The deal the UK Government has negotiated to exit the EU jeopardises the rights of thousands of EU nationals who have made Scotland their home.
The punitive Brexit deal proposed by the Tories also diminishes our rights to live, work and study in the EU, rights that many of us, as EU citizens, have enjoyed our whole lives. It is also of course against the democratic will of the Scottish people, who voted to remain in the EU.
Last week, I was delighted to join with cross-party colleagues from the SNP, Labour, Green and Liberal Democrats in voting to support a council motion endorsing a People’s Vote. My colleagues and I spoke passionately about the value we recognise EU nationals bring to our great city. We believe it is vital to explore all possible avenues to ensure Scotland remains in the EU, protecting the existing rights of all EU citizens.
Here in the Capital, we have a large, settled population of EU nationals making an essential contribution to our economy and society. Edinburgh voted overwhelmingly - 74 per cent – to remain within the EU, showing that residents across the city recognise the continuing value of our membership of the EU and the benefits that this membership has delivered for us as a city. We are privileged to have EU nationals working for us at all levels across our local institutions, from high-profile skilled professionals to colleagues carrying out vital work in the social and care services. We have already lost staff from local businesses and the NHS as a result of Brexit and can anticipate that this trend will accelerate if we continue on this damaging path.
In my ward, in Gorgie-Dalry, we have one of the most populous EU communities in the city, twice the Edinburgh average. In our rich, multi-ethnic community, one in seven are non-UK born EU nationals. I have spoken to many constituents whose lives have been completely destabilised following the Brexit referendum. Many are very worried about their status here: parents from the EU who worry about the rights of their Scottish-born children and family; established workers contributing to our tax and welfare system who fear they could be summarily expelled.
I find it disgraceful that people who have made Scotland their home and have made a valuable contribution to our country for years or even decades now face an arduous application process to be ‘allowed’ to continue to call Scotland their home.
I am determined to stand up for my constituents to ensure their rights as Scottish citizens are protected. I am meeting with diplomatic colleagues to better understand the concerns of their citizens here in Edinburgh. I will also be holding open door surgeries for EU citizens in my ward in December to listen to the views of my constituents. Our EU friends, colleagues and neighbours are highly valued members of our society and community and they are welcome here. They must feel absolutely confident that they are represented in government, that their rights will be protected, and their voices heard.
Ashley Gracyzk is an independent councillor for the Sighthill-Gorgie ward.