As an independent country, Scotland will have its own voice in Europe

Scotland is a European nation. From earliest times we have been inextricably linked with our friends and neighbours on the European mainland.

Brexit has not and cannot break those bonds of friendship. But it has shattered almost 50 years of economic and social partnership, left many of Scotland’s most important economic sectors far poorer and has immeasurably strengthened the case for independence in the process.

Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU – indeed, the vote here was by far the most decisive of any of the four UK nations. In spite of that, Scotland alone of the four nations has had its democratic wishes ignored.

England and Wales both voted Leave and got Leave. Northern Ireland voted Remain and has been able to retain aspects of Single Market membership – a market around seven times bigger than the UK market alone.

Meanwhile, Scotland voted Remain in the most clear-cut result of the 2016 referendum and has had its vote ignored and disrespected at every turn by a UK Conservative government gripped by a Brexit mania which is as delusional as it is misplaced.

Because, far from the lofty rhetoric of “benefits” and “opportunities” flowing from Brexit, the reality is that leaving the EU and single market has been a calamity for Scotland and for the rest of the UK.

It has seen European funding lost, with no guarantee that the UK Government will make up the difference, it has curtailed freedom of movement making it impossible for our younger people in particular to enjoy the right to live and work across the Continent – and it has hammered trade in some of our key export sectors, especially food and drink.

The Chief Executive of Scotland Food and Drink, said this week he was struggling to find any Brexit opportunities and was “none the wiser” after reading the UK Governments ‘Benefits of Brexit’ report.

Scotland’s total trade with the EU fell by 24 per cent in the year to September 2021 compared to the equivalent period in 2019, while our trade with non-EU countries fell by 16 per cent over the same period.

Clearly, this damage to trade reflects not just the impact of the pandemic, but also the reckless approach the UK Government has taken at every stage of the Brexit fiasco.

This week also saw a House of Commons report find that Brexit has hit businesses with increased costs, paperwork and border delays.

Independence offers Scotland the only realistic route to regaining our EU membership. All of the main Westminster-based UK parties now accept Brexit, meaning there is no other realistic or viable path for Scotland.

Opponents of independence try to muddy the waters by suggesting, absurdly, that Scotland would face barriers to membership of the kind not faced by other countries which have joined the bloc over many years.

The reality of course is that – after nearly half a century of being part of the EU, and thereby already meeting key membership requirements, an independent Scotland would almost certainly better placed than any other previous candidate nation.

Re-joining Europe as an independent country will give Scotland a place at the EU top table for the first time as a nation in our own right.

And it will allow us to retake our place among the European family, righting the historic and democratic wrong that has seen us removed against our will.