People’s Politics GE2017: Brexit

After the horrific Manchester attack, the Church of Scotland cancelled a hustings event planned for the General Assembly. Instead we are now publishing three videos made for the event, along with responses to the questions they raise. The videos look at Brexit, the Environment and our welfare system.

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council, says:

“The Church’s calling is to stand alongside people and to hear the voice of those to whom society may sometimes turn a deaf ear. These people are our congregations’ members, our colleagues and our friends.

“This General election we have asked three individuals to share their stories and to ask questions of our political leaders about how certain issues are impacting their lives.

“By placing these stories at the centre of the political discussion, we remind ourselves that politics is more than parties and tribalism it is about the lives of individuals and, indeed all of us, as we seek to enable human flourishing, a world that is more like God intends it to be."

The third video features Rev Anita Stutter, 54, from the Netherlands who now lives in Lochcarron talking about Brexit

Question: “Brexit has been divisive and has created a lot of uncertainty for people like me. What will your party do to create an inclusive society and to reassure those who are being made to feel like bargaining chips?”

Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of the Scottish National Party

Leaving the EU will have an impact on every one of us. For EU nationals in particular, Brexit will bring uncertainty about their right to continue living and working in Scotland. Throughout the Brexit process the UK government has treated EU nationals living in the UK as bargaining chips. We think that this is shameful, and it must end.

The Prime Minister has refused to provide any firm answers for our EU neighbours, colleagues and friends. Instead she has made a series of vague commitments to seeking an early resolution to the issue. That just isn’t good enough. The Prime Minister cannot speak on one hand of building a fairer and global UK whilst also jeopardising the status and rights of EU citizens who have made the UK their home. EU nationals contribute immeasurably to our economy, our public services and our culture. By giving straightforward access to permanent residence, we can end the uncertainty about their future. The SNP will continue to stand up for the rights of EU citizens at Westminster. Our MPs will continue to press the UK government to confirm the rights of EU nationals to remain as a matter of urgency.

We believe that, if the UK government chooses not to give EU nationals the certainty they deserve, then immigration powers should be devolved so that Scotland can do so.

Patrick Harvie, Co-convener of the Scottish Green Party

I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met while out campaigning, who are from other EU countries and are feeling anxious about their future. This anxiety is entirely the result of the UK Government’s refusal to guarantee their right to stay in the UK after Brexit. There is absolutely no need to wait for negotiations to do this, because even if other EU countries don’t follow suit (which is of course highly unlikely) it would still be utterly indefensible to force people who have made their lives here to leave.

Not only was the Brexit debate itself divisive, leading to a heightened level of hate crime, but it also came in the wake of many years of hostile, xenophobic and racist debate about immigration. Disgracefully, a large section of the media and many politicians have knowingly created this atmosphere. Changing it will not be easy, but as we have seen recently in Manchester people are capable of extraordinary acts of solidarity even in the most difficult of circumstances. By encouraging people to embrace a deeper understanding of one another’s lives, and ensuring that we avoid using language which divides and alienates people, we can all help to change the tone of the debate. However it’s also vital to see an end to austerity economics, and tackle the poverty and inequality we see around us. When so many people’s basic needs are not met, it will always be easier for divisive and xenophobic attitudes to be fostered.

Kezia Dugdale, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party

It is disgraceful that the Tory party has yet to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living here in the UK. A Labour government will immediately guarantee that right on day one.

It is not just morally repugnant for the Tories to treat people as bargaining chips – it is economically foolish too.EU citizens do valuable, even life-saving work across the UK every day. They work in our NHS, teach in our schools and staff our businesses.

Here in Scotland, they are essential parts of many key industries, including agriculture and fish processing. Without the contribution of EU citizens who live and pay their taxes here, the UK and Scotland would be a lesser place. As well as guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens, a Labour government would work to tackle the root causes of discrimination and division.

Unlike the SNP – which is only obsessed with how to divide people with a second independence referendum – Labour would bring people together. By investing in our economy and improving our public services, a Labour government would tackle the poverty and ignorance that so often pit people against people.

By voting Labour on June 8, we can deliver a government for the many not the few.

Willie Rennie, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Party

Liberal Democrats are open and outward-looking. We passionately believe that Britain’s relationship with its neighbours is stronger as part of the European Union. Whatever its imperfections, the EU remains the best framework for working effectively and co-operating in the pursuit of our shared aims. It has led directly to greater prosperity, increased trade, investment and jobs, better security, and a greener environment. Britain is better off in the EU.

Liberal Democrats campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU. However, we acknowledge the result of the 2016 referendum, which gave the Government a mandate to start negotiations to leave.

It is now clear that the Conservative plan for an extreme Brexit means leaving the Single Market, ending freedom of movement, and abandoning the Customs Union. The effects of Brexit are already being felt. The value of the pound has plummeted. Inflation has risen. Growth in the economy has slowed, and the government is already borrowing billions more to fill the gap in lost tax revenue. Young people, who voted overwhelmingly to remain, are being told their voices do not matter. Urgent problems, such as the future of the NHS, are being neglected because of the sheer scale of the challenge posed by Brexit.

This is why we say people should have the opportunity to reject a bad deal on Brexit.

At the end of negotiations, there will be a decision on the deal. The Conservatives want the decision to be taken by politicians. Liberal Democrats believe the British people should have the final say.

Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

As regards to the status of EU nationals, I would like to assure you that the UK Government has been clear that there will be no immediate change in European citizens’ status in the UK. EU nationals make an important contribution to our society and we value them.

The Prime Minister has also stated that she wishes to guarantee the rights not just of EU citizens who are already living in Britain – but also the rights of British nationals in other member states – as early as possible.

A number of European leaders have said that they too support such an agreement and the Prime Minister has been clear that resolving this challenge as soon as possible remains a key priority for the UK Government. I welcome this commitment and recognise the uncertainty felt by people such as Rev Stutter. During last year’s referendum, I campaigned passionately for a Remain vote. However, I recognise that the will of the British people must be respected.

The Scottish Conservatives are also clear that none of the questions posed by Brexit will be answered by leaving our own union of nations, our biggest market and our closest friends and we are determined to get the best deal for Scotland as we leave the EU.