Brexit, people’s vote and Scotland’s capital

Today in full council Chas Booth spoke in a debate about Brexit, a people’s vote, and the impact on EU citizens in Edinburgh. The text of what he said is below. 

One of the biggest assets of our capital city is the people who live here. Edinburgh’s people are what make our city. And nearly one in ten of them was born outside of Scotland. We are an international city, and we should be proud of that fact.

Of course we are an international city in more ways than one. We also welcome visitors from all over the world to our city, especially during August, but increasingly at other times of the year as well.

And whether those visitors stay for a week or a lifetime, we have a duty to make them feel welcome.

Immigrants are good for Scotland. Wherever they come from, they benefit our society, boost our economy, and enrich our culture.

Cllr Chas BoothA study by UCL found that European immigrants have contributed more than £20bn to the UK economy in the decade leading up to 2011.

So whether it’s the Plumber from Poznan

Or the nurse from Naples

Or the Home-maker from Hamburg

Let us celebrate them all and their contribution to our city.

But most of all we should welcome them.

Because leaving your home country and putting down roots somewhere else is never easy. It is usually stressful. A foreign culture, a strange way of doing things, even if language is not a barrier.

So those of us in a position of responsibility surely have a duty to make their lives a little less stressful.

That means being welcoming, not hostile. It means breaking down barriers not putting them up. It means at all costs we must avoid “othering”, avoid creating a sense of “them and us”, avoid alienating those who were not born here.

The real danger is that those who do not use their voice responsibly, those who would sow division instead of promoting harmony, risk sending a green light to the racists and the xenophobes that their bigotry, their intolerance is somehow acceptable. It is not acceptable. It is never acceptable, and we should say so loud and clear.

And that is why Greens have tabled our amendment today. I was sickened to hear our Prime Minister speak about some of my constituents who were born outside Scotland as having “jumped the queue”. Sickened.

I was sickened mostly because this is simply not true. European residents of our city have often worked incredibly hard to come here. They have shown more courage, more determination and overcome greater barriers than those of us who were born here.

And they have made significant contributions to our society, to our culture and our economy.

To hear them spoken of in such terms is unacceptable.

Theresa May does not speak for me when she speaks about EU residents of Edinburgh in such terms. Not in my name. And in the vote this afternoon, I hope we send a clear message that she does not speak for this council either.