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European Union Citizens’ Rights

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 12th November 2019.

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Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

I am grateful for that suggestion.

I believe that if politicians at every level, but particularly those at UK level, had not ducked those issues that I outlined, we might not have had to deal with the Brexit issue. That is why it is important to discuss those issues.

A member mentioned earlier in the debate the UK Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee, which reminded me that when it was taking evidence for a report, somebody from an employment agency in eastern Europe said that there were two things that many people coming to the UK did not want: to pick fruit or to go to Scotland. That is therefore an issue for us. I acknowledge, as I think that the minister would, that there are specific challenges and issues for Scotland when it comes to encouraging people to come and make their home here. That is why the Labour Party in Scotland is open to having further discussions with all parties, because we must recognise that, going forward, we need more people to come and settle here.

As many people have said, though, we are in the crazy position of people being discouraged from coming and from staying here. For example, the BMA highlighted that a lot of medical professionals might not want to continue to stay here, which would be a disaster for us. Lewis Macdonald highlighted the impact that such uncertainty has on people’s lives, including its impact on mental health, with many people being depressed. I understand that, because most people who I speak to are depressed about Brexit and want to see us get a solution for it. However, that solution cannot be a worse deal than Mrs May’s deal, which I believe is what Boris Johnson offers us. The best way forward is to go back to the people and ask them whether that is really what they want at the end of the day.

Joan McAlpine and many others say that the scheme is fundamentally flawed, but it is difficult for me to see where Donald Cameron and the other Tory members are coming from. I am not asking them to listen to Joan McAlpine or me, or to anybody else for that matter; they should look at all the briefings that have come in from people on the front line in our NHS and the third sector. All those briefings are saying that the scheme as it stands is fundamentally flawed and that we need to take action—hence my earlier question to the minister about putting more resources in. I welcome the resources that have been put in, but we need more.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand how Tory members can come here today and say, as Alexander Stewart put it, that this is grievance politics on the back benches. It is not grievance politics; it is listening to all those organisations out there and seeing what the real threat is to our NHS and to so many other areas. If many of those who have chosen to stay in Scotland end up choosing to leave, we will be in deep trouble. That is not grievance politics; those are the facts. As Professor Tomkins often says, we have to follow the evidence, and the evidence is that we have a real problem with the scheme. As a result, we need to think again. I urge the Tories to join every other party in here, follow the evidence and let us get this scheme changed, so that people do not have to go through what they are going through right now.