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One thing that I have learned is that Boris Johnson is very good at making speeches and saying things out loud, but what he actually delivers is never what he has said. It is a matter of trust.
During the recent parliamentary recess, I became keenly aware that many of my constituents were growing increasingly concerned about the potential ramifications that leaving the EU could bring, and how it will affect their communities and families. Not only are they facing possible food shortages, increased electricity and gas prices and more expensive medication, but dragging Scotland out of the EU against our will opens the door for our communities to lose those valued and contributing members.
My wife has three long-term conditions, so the looming Brexit dark cloud appears darker still to me as most of Stacey’s medication comes from mainland Europe. I have had reassurance from the Scottish Government that it is working to sort the situation out, but there are people in the UK Government to worry about, which does not fill me with confidence. Many families who are dealing with long-term conditions have that fear, and I say frankly that they have all lost faith in Westminster.
The recent Migration Advisory Committee report, which was commissioned by the UK Government, dispels many myths about the economic impact of EU migrants under freedom of movement. I will be clear: EU citizens are not a drain on public services or on public finances. The truth is the contrary. It is clear from the report that, overall, immigration has made the UK a more productive economy and a more prosperous nation.
Approximately 5.2 per cent of Scotland’s total workforce is made up of EU migrants. The rural economy in particular relies on people from all over the EU. I will name but a few examples. Up to 10,000 EU citizens are employed in the food and drink industry in Scotland. We know how important that industry is to us. About 10,000 non-UK seasonal migrant workers are employed in the soft fruit and vegetables sector, and more than 4,500 EU citizens work in Scotland’s fishing industry. Others work in food standards. In all seriousness, EU nationals are vital to our economy and our way of life, here in Scotland. We are all proud of our tourism industry, and an estimated 21,000 EU citizens are employed in that sector.
We live in uncertain times, but I want EU nationals in Scotland to be under no illusions about the fact that we value every one of them. I hope that EU citizens will call our country their home for years to come. For me, it is quite simple: many EU citizens live in my constituency and because they choose Paisley as their home, they are as much Paisley buddies as I am.