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Letters / Fixing the Brexit problems

By far the two biggest issues facing the UK since the end of World War 2, way back in 1945, have been Tory Brexit and dealing with the ongoing Covid-19 emergency.

For those of us who grew up and went to school in the years after WW 2 there was a lot of hope for a better future following the death and destruction of two world wars.

The countries of Europe came together and set up the EEC which later expanded into the EU of 28 countries. It was not perfect but did help to replace war and conflict by trade, travel, friendship and cooperation.

It enabled the UK to grow to become the second biggest trading nation in Europe, particularly from the 1970s onwards. I have had the privilege of travelling widely in Europe, particularly in Germany, France and the Nordic countries whose languages I can speak.

Scotland along with Northern Ireland and Gibraltar voted decisively to remain in Europe. One of the most important documents of the last five years is Scotland’s Place in Europe, prepared by the Scottish Government, outlining a way forward to limit damage. It outlined and analysed the main options, but was ignored by both the UK’s May & Johnson-led Tory governments.

The best option was to stay in the EU, the second best option was to stay in the European single market and customs union while the worst option was a No Deal Brexit. The Tory Brexit deal has proved little better than no deal.

UK exports to Europe, in the past three months have dropped by 41 per cent and imports by 29 per cent. Scotland has been disproportionately badly hit with fish, salmon and shellfish exports down by 83 per cent and meat and dairy down by 60 per cent.

The cancellation of Erasmus studies and student exchange programmes to other European countries, along with the loss of European structural funding in Orkney, Shetland and the rest of Scotland is being keenly missed.

Food and drink exports have been a huge success story for Scotland, thanks to the actions of the Scottish Government since 2007, and until recently with UK Government support too. Scotland exports have traditionally been among the highest, per head, of all European countries.

It has become clear that Westminster cannot be reformed to work in the best interests of Scotland or the rest of UK.

The big issue for the coming Scottish election is the restoration of seamless trading relationships with Europe. The SNP solution is for all the big decisions, affecting us, to be taken in Scotland by a Scottish Government and not imposed arbitrarily from outside.

Our prosperous democratic neighbours such as Ireland, Norway, Iceland or Finland have all embraced independence in the past 100 plus years and never looked back.

All these countries have seamless access to the European mainstream single market, which the autocratic UK Tory government has denied to Scotland, but allowed for Northern Ireland.

Voters in Orkney, Shetland and neighbouring Caithness, Sutherland & Ross have in Tom Wills, Shetland; Robert Leslie, Orkney and Marie Todd have able articulate locally based SNP candidates.

They all attended their local schools in Shetland, Kirkwall and Ullapool, knowing their political issues well. The people of the Northern Isles and Scotland at large can help themselves to move on from the damaging divisions of the present UK Tory Westminster Brexit chaos by voting SNP, thus setting out on a similar course towards a more positive future enjoyed by our prosperous, well governed neighbours in Iceland, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Faroes.

John Mowat
Kirkwall