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Viewpoint / Brexit – we didn’t vote for this!

WE ARE living in unprecedented times with record defeats, cabinet resignations every other week and a woefully ineffective and disunited Labour opposition, writes SNP Highlands and Islands list MSP Maree Todd.

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Maree Todd. Photo: Shetland NewsMaree Todd MSP.

The latest kicking of the Brexit can down the road is hardly surprising, but most commentators agree we are running out of road – as well as clichés!

Despite the SNP’s best efforts in garnering support for their amendment this week the threat of a no-deal Brexit still hangs over all of us.

Every Scottish Government department, every local authority and every business in every part of the land is spending money preparing for a no-deal, because the consequences of a no-deal will be so catastrophic. That’s money that we all actually hope will be entirely wasted.

The chief economic advisor to Scotland reported last week that a no-deal Brexit has the potential to push the Scottish economy into recession with unemployment rising and trade and investment disrupted.

If prolonged, the shock of Scotland’s departure from the EU could lead to significant structural change in the economy, with national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) predicted to fall by up to seven per cent.

Shetland could be one of hardest hit places in Scotland. The report notes that over 25 per cent of the workforce here face economic damage from a no-deal Brexit.

I have long warned that the fishing, farming and food sectors would be among the most exposed. The forecast six per cent fall in GDP by 2031 would cost each person in Shetland £1,600.

Recently we learned that a no-deal Brexit, will cost salmon farmers an extra £15million in red tape.

And of course, we all know what has happened to promises over protecting Scotland’s fishing interests, so important to Shetland.

We’ve watched with dismay as the fishing sector became a bargaining tool in negotiations, as predicted. And in the event of a no deal, the possibility of delay at the borders and barriers in accessing EU markets have led to many in the sector to question their support for Brexit.

The SNP has opposed the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) for many years, but we believe an independent Scotland in the EU would have more scope to influence and shape the policy.

Thus far I’ve only really talked about the effects on the economy and industry not the personal impact.

At the weekend I was in Paris with the Scottish Parliament rugby team, for our match against the Assemblée Nationale.

I wondered, will we still have reciprocal healthcare arrangements in a few weeks’ time? Probably not, which might make playing rugby at my age even more unwise!

What about data roaming? I presume we’ll go back to extortionate charges.

Bureaucracy and delay at the border? Probably.

Pound worth a great deal less – definitely!!

Each Easter we go to visit my sister who lives in County Tipperary – will we be able to take the dog with us this year as usual? Nobody knows!

Of all the losses we face with Brexit though, the loss of people will be the hardest to bear. Aging demography and depopulation are long-standing challenges for businesses and communities across the Highlands and Islands. It’s a constant challenge to sustain a working age population in rural areas.

For the last few decades, we’ve been able to attract Europeans to settle in Scotland enriching our communities. They are very welcome, and we want to encourage them to stay.

Right now, my next-door neighbours are planning to leave, with their beautiful wee trilingual boy who was born just after I was elected.

They have lived here for 15 years.

We will miss the people who leave, the people who don’t come and the babies who aren’t born. We need immigration, and all of us, including local politicians must stand up for it.

As the clock ticks down to the worst of possible Brexit outcomes, the option of Scotland holding a second independence vote looks more and more attractive – and more and more necessary.

Brexit will cause real harm and suffering across our communities. All of us will be poorer, and we didn’t vote for this. It’s increasingly clear to me that independence must be an option for us to avoid disaster.

Now, the question is not if, but when?

Maree Todd is the Scottish Government minister for children and young people.