Italy’s honorary consul in Glasgow Ronnie Convery says he hopes Scotland can continue to play its part in European cooperation
I HAVE ALWAYS felt a closeness to Italy from a young age. I was adopted as a baby and I am pretty sure there is some Italian blood in my veins somewhere. Now, Italy is my passion. I am a bit of an Italian language bore, and I am forever involved in promoting Italian language and culture.
Recently I was named honorary consul of Italy in Glasgow by the Italian Government and I am deeply honoured to have that role. The consular role is mainly helping Italian nationals with information and services, queries about passports and identity cards, documentation to get married, authenticating legal documents and general promotion of Italy in Scotland.
The 60 years since the Treaty of Rome should be a time for celebration, yet the recent Brexit vote means that inevitably joy has turned to tears of anxiety and frustration for many. Many people who are Italian and who have lived their lives here feel deeply hurt and rejected by the Brexit vote, though they take some comfort from the fact that Scotland voted so strongly to stay within the European family.
There had always been a mythical sense of “auld alliance” with Europe but the vote last year showed that there was a very real sense of “European identity” in Scotland.
For such people this is a time of real anxiety. Inevitably their thoughts fly to worst case scenarios and they feel unsettled, unable to plan a long term future because they do not know how welcome they will be to stay. The strongly pro-European vote in Scotland has, however, strengthened the bonds of affection and support between ordinary Scots and Italians.I know many Scots feel a sense of responsibility to go out of their way to make our European friends know that we want them to remain here and to flourish here.
I was personally deeply disappointed by the Brexit vote. The great achievements of the EU – the greatest of which is the peace which has reigned in the old continent for 60 years and more – seemed to get forgotten. The practical day to day benefits brought to ordinary citizens – things like ease of travel, reciprocal health care, abolition of mobile phone roaming rates, guaranteed working conditions, social and scientific funding, student exchange programmes and so much more were barely mentioned in a campaign which focused almost exclusively on the perceived “threat” of immigration.
The constitutional experts seem to accept that an independent Scotland would be likely to achieve full EU membership fairly quickly.
Of course, the economists tell us that in reality we need workers from overseas to keep our industries and our economy functioning. On the other hand, I was personally delighted that the vote in Scotland to remain in Europe was so strong. There had always been a mythical sense of “auld alliance” with Europe but the vote last year showed that there was a very real sense of “European identity” in Scotland.
I hope, for the sake of ordinary people, that governments can find a way forward, quickly and effectively, which will take away the cloud of uncertainty hanging over European citizens living in this country, and UK citizens living in mainland Europe. That must be a priority. Thereafter I hope that a solution can be found which will enable Scots to maintain as many of the advantages they enjoyed as EU citizens as possible.
The constitutional experts seem to accept that an independent Scotland would be likely to achieve full EU membership fairly quickly, but even if people vote for that at a future referendum, it is likely to be some time off. For now the priority must be to secure as much practical agreement as possible so that Scots and Italians and indeed all European citizens can continue to enjoy a mutually enriching cultural, social and economic cooperation.
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