Rural and Environment
The EU is vital for environmental research
This week I met staff at the Scottish Government’s main rural, agricultural and environmental research institutes in Edinburgh to hear about their concerns over the threats posed by Brexit.
The guest list included around 40 members of staff from non-UK EU nations, who all asked questions about our future relationship with the EU and what it would mean for their sector and their lives.
These highly skilled workers are an example of the kind of people being directly affected by Brexit, particularly by what the uncertainty over funding means for their sector, and what free movement of workers means to them.
Scotland is internationally renowned for our natural environment and our long tradition of research. Historically we are an outward-looking and inclusive country which has benefited socially, economically and culturally from EU immigration and access to EU funding programmes.
A healthy natural environment is also critical to our success as a nation. It underpins our economy, our health, our landscape, and our way of life. The support of this sector reaffirms these values, along with our commitment to protect our environment, natural assets, and our position as climate change leaders.
The threat of Brexit brings these benefits into clearer focus and the UK’s decision to turn its back on Europe is sending out the message that we are not interested in protecting the skilled jobs that this sector supports. This is not Scotland’s message.
That is why I wanted to make it clear that EU nationals are not bargaining chips to be used in the negotiations; those who have chosen to make Scotland their home are welcome here. While the disruption associated with Brexit is unwelcome there is the potential to look for opportunities to collaborate with research partners across the rest of the world
EU nationals living in Scotland should receive guarantees from the UK Government about their future position – this is an immediate and ongoing priority for me.