In the second of our series of interviews Fiona Grahame speaks to Laura Muncie, a Scot living in Germany.
Is there any discussion amongst our fellow Europeans about Scotland and its current political situation?
Initially, but the Trump Presidency and the rise of the right wing Populist Party AFD in the German election has eclipsed discussion about Scotland in the political sense.
Are people in Europe aware that Scotland voted strongly to Remain and feels it has close ties with Europe?
My friends knew Scotland voted to remain because we spoke about it. I saw on social media responses that demonstrated awareness that N Ireland and Scotland voted differently to England and Wales. I am not sure if Scots feel they have strong ties to Europe. It may depend on the individual. I had EU friends growing up and so feel close but maybe others don’t have direct links to Europe
Do you feel there is any support amongst EU countries for Scotland if it was to choose independence?
Nicola Sturgeon (along with Jeremy Corbyn and Carwyn Jones of Wales) met EU negotiator Michel Barnier after the vote which suggests there was openness to hear from the Scottish Government. However, it is hard to know what the different countries think behind the scenes. I don’t know enough about that to say.
Do Europeans conflate Scotland’s civic nationalism with right wing xenophobic nationalism and if so how can we address this?
I have found that to be the case. Part of this perception could be the word ‘National’ in the SNP name and because the media refers to supporters of independence as Nationalists. This word, especially in Germany, has very negative associations. Europeans, if they are very interested in UK current affairs read the BBC, Daily Mail et al without much scrutiny. Much of the British press is owned by a small group of multinational corporations and are foreign owned. Little reporting about Scotland on the Continent is from Scotland. I have seen Brexit and Scotland occasionally reported sympathetically in German newspapers usually with a nostalgic “Braveheart” preface which doesn’t reflect modern day Scotland or the people living there. That is why I commend independent publications like the Orkney News, they are essential. Sharing information will help overcome perceptions that Scotland’s independence movement is the same as the right wing populist movements. Groups such as EU Citizens for Independence and Germans for Independence also help address the perception.
Do you have doubts about Scottish Independence?
Yes, and maybe in the past would have not supported it. But I have more doubts about Scotland holding onto a basic standard of living if it continues in the United Kingdom after Brexit.
Is Independence a new reality?
I think the question is there again and hope you all living in Scotland will get another chance to vote and not give up and accept your fate because Brexit has turned people off. What has happened over the last few years is extraordinary. For years UK politicians have been issuing warnings that Scottish nationalism would tear apart the UK. Yet it is English nationalism or British nationalism that has been the earthquake. It is interesting that England and Wales had the confidence to make a massive change and step into the unknown. Even if I think it a mistake they were willing to take a chance.
By comparison people living in Scotland seem overly cautious. The Scot ref was not about immigration but the chance to self-govern. Anyone resident in Scotland could vote including EU nationals. It was about the future of the residents of Scotland, collectively, regardless of country of origin. Had the Yes side won I doubt many people would have felt they had to pack their bags and leave Scotland. The EU referendum however has upturned lives. EU nationals are leaving the UK over it and Brits returning from the EU. EU nationals who pay tax in the UK were denied a say. The intention behind and the narrative of the two referendums were different totally.
What do you think the barriers are for Union voters that prevent them moving to the Yes side?
It is personal: for myself I had not accessed pro Indy material before the Brexit referendum. Brexit left me wanting and needing information that the UK Gov were not providing so I started reading more Scottish Government papers and watching live debates. I found the way Nicola Sturgeon was handling the situation and the hard work the Scot Gov were determined to do on the topic convinced me Scotland is more than capable of managing itself.
Barriers are the unanswered questions of currency and future EU membership. Emotional barriers are harder to address because they are more powerful and hidden from the person themselves. Emotional barriers might be attachment to a British identity, lack of confidence in leaders, fear it could fail and everyone being poorer, and being happy with what one has and not wanting to change anything because it has worked for them this far.
There has been some commentary that an Independent Scotland could generate an increase in jobs in the financial sector. What are your thoughts?
If Scotland had its own currency there would be a new framework built around that which would generate jobs. But I find the way that Scotland is leading from the front on issues like renewable energy and fracking, exciting. Scotland leaving the UK may also help England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. I don’t like to imagine how much money and UK Government time is spent trying to keep a hold of Scotland. It might sound funny but I think independence may leave all the nations more at ease with each other, wealthier,end division and allow Westminster to concentrate on the needs of the other nations especially parts of England and Wales that have been neglected.
Do you think there is a cultural gulf between Scotland and England? The Brexit ref result seems to mark a difference on the subject of Europe? Why do you think that is?
I suspect the Leave (EU) campaign did not target Scotland as heavily. The voter numbers the Leave campaign needed were south of the border and perhaps the communication campaign focused efforts there. But the referendum highlighted differences especially in how the younger generation see their future, Scotland has many young MP’s and politically active young people who wanted to stay in the EU.The Scottish Government made a conscious effort to engage with younger people during the independence referendum by lowering the voting age to 16. Maybe that engagement a few years earlier carried forward to the Brexit referendum.
How do you feel about Trident ?
Wouldn’t a nuclear free world be good for everyone? We could all do without the threat and counter threat we are seeing between Trump and North Korea. There would be no winners if we were to have a nuclear war. Germany doesn’t have nuclear weapons.
How do you feel about Brexit and has your life been affected?
It is disappointing. I work freelance and don’t need a visa but might in the future have to compete in the job market and prove that a German or other EU citizen cannot do my job. We will apply for German citizenship so we can hold onto EU citizenship when we have been here long enough to be eligible. Personally it has been stressful and sometimes not easy to convey that to friends at home without igniting passions over the topic.
Do you think you will ever return to live in Scotland?
Never say never. We miss family and friends but have worked hard for our life in Germany. It would be a shame to leave and start over.
What do you think the Yes movement needs to do this time around to persuade voters and to succeed?
The grassroots Yes movement did well, the vote was close, they need to do the same again. If there is another referendum supporters have to keep passions in check and listen to friends who want to stay in the UK. It is their country too. You can never argue your way into a person’s heart, and it is a heart and head topic. People don’t want to fall out with friends over the subject and it’s important we don’t. But what I notice is the Scottish families I know have at least one member of my generation abroad or in another country in the UK for career development. It didn’t happen to the same extent in my parents’ generation. I think people living in Scotland need to think about that. Do they want the next generation to have to do the same and leave Scotland?
Supporters of independence need to talk to friends on the other side of the question in ways, and at times, that are supportive and not evangelical. I know that there are people who could say I am now supporting independence because it suits, but that’s not so. There will be a solution for us. I support independence because I think that Scotland has much potential to be unlocked. It is not about converting people it is about gaining a deeper understanding about what people need, and what is holding them back.