Glasgow’s Lord Provost Jacqueline McLaren marked a historic day for the city on 20th November when she presided over the establishment of the first EU Citizens’ Forum in Scotland. The Lord Provost said Glasgow and Europe share the values of friendship, tolerance, co-operation, and peace.
The Forum’s aim is to support citizens of EU countries working and living in Glasgow and contributing to its economic, cultural and social life. Launched at the City Chambers, the setting up of the Forum coincided with the arrival at the council HQ of a two-metre-tall EU star representing the UK’s lost place in the EU. The star also promotes a return to EU membership.
The star highlights that the EU was founded after the Second World War as a way of cementing peace across Europe. It also symbolises the unity of peoples across all of Europe, whether an EU member or not.
“Glasgow is delighted to welcome this European Star” said Lord Provost McLaren. She went on to say that it symbolises all that is great about being Glaswegian and European.
“We are no longer part of the European Union, but we remain faithful and committed to the ideals of Europe. Most importantly, we are committed to those from Europe who enrich Glasgow and Scotland. Glasgow is a great European city. We are determined to keep working and cooperating with our European partners, to the benefit of all the citizens of our wonderful and welcoming city.”
“It’s a star of hope,” says the European Movement in Scotland (EMiS) which has organised touring the star to towns and cities across Scotland. EMiS worked closely with Glasgow City Council to achieve the foundation of the EU Citizen’s Forum.
Christopher Sagan, chair of Glasgow’s Polish Social and Educational Society, has agreed to be the first chair of the EU Citizens’ Forum. Mr Sagan, an aeronautical engineer brought up in Saltcoats by a Scottish mother and Polish father, believes the Forum represents the essence of Glasgow. He is a citizen of the UK, Poland and the EU.
“The city’s wealth and influence was built on embracing the world. It is a city built by people from Highland and Lowland, from Ireland, England, Poland, Germany, France, Norway and dozens of other lands. Brexit has rocked the world for many EU citizens and their families. We want Glasgow’s EU Citizens’ Forum to be the city’s hand of friendship. One that firmly confirms Glasgow’s welcome and unlocks opportunities for the whole city.”
The EU nations represented at the event were France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Poland and Sweden. A representative of the city’s Ukraine community attended. He accepted an invitation to join the Forum. Ukraine is currently an EU candidate nation.
Speaking at the event, EMiS President, Michael Russell, said:
“Congratulations to Glasgow for setting up Scotland’s first EU Citizens’ Forum. The initiative reinforces Scotland’s immensely strong ties with the people of the EU. I am delighted the European Movement in Scotland has helped bring the Forum to life. It is an idea I hope other Scottish local authorities will copy.”
130,000 Scottish jobs directly supported by exports to EU
Excluding Irish citizens, Glasgow City Council say there are 52,200 EU citizens living locally. The biggest numbers are from Poland, Romania, Italy, Spain and Greece, though every EU nation is believed to be resident in the city. Irish nationals are also EU citizens. However, because they have automatic reciprocal rights of residence in the UK, the number of Irish people in Glasgow is not recorded. Exports to the EU are estimated to directly support 130,000 jobs in Scotland, with 20,000 of those in Glasgow and another 20,000 in the greater Glasgow region. The EU is a particularly important market for Glasgow’s professional services sector.
According to the Brexit Vulnerability Index, 30% of communities in Glasgow are significantly impacted by Brexit. More people in Glasgow are Brexit-vulnerable than any other local authority in Scotland.
In 2020, Citizen Advice Scotland reported on the ‘Impact of Brexit on Scottish communities and their advice needs now and in the future’:
• Participants had experienced an increased cost of living since the EU referendum in 2016.
• They raised concerns that Brexit may result in further increases in the cost of living, citing the likelihood of prices increasing after the UK has withdrawn from the customs union.
• Businesses reported that they had made operational changes to their business plans as a result of a decrease in job applications from EU nationals and anticipated changes to import and export regulations.
• EU nationals highlighted issues around their residency status, citizenship and access to services such as healthcare and welfare.
• Both EU and UK nationals highlighted a need for advice on movement between the UK and the EU, including the need for documentation upon arrival and access to healthcare within the EU.
David Clarke, chair of EMiS says:
“All of the issues identified by the Citizens Advice survey are still of concern and worry for EU citizens and for employers in Scotland. None of the Benefits promised by the Brexit campaigners have been delivered. Brexit has failed.”
It is hoped that the EU Citizens’ Forum will be another means to support EU citizens living in post-Brexit Scotland.