ONE of the main issues at play in the Brexit vote was immigration, and it is important to be open and honest when we are discussing it. It is an important issue, some people are concerned about it and those concerns must be addressed, not dismissed.
I applauded to the rafters the decision of the Blair government to open the doors of the UK to full freedom of movement from the first opportunity in 2004, where a number of other EU states had opted instead to have more restrictive phasing in of the rights over a number of years.
First published in The National, 23 January 2019Read more
I TWEETED over the weekend that this week is going to be tough, and I’m afraid it is. We’ll need to look after each other in the next few weeks. I know from my own inbox and being out and about that for a lot of people Brexit s not just a news crisis far away, it is real life and folk are anxious.
First published in The National, 15 January 2019Read more
THE Brexit clusterbùrach continues apace at Westminster and it has become nigh on impossible to make any sense of it, in particular when explaining it to my increasingly incredulous MEP colleagues from across Europe. The only difference is that, whereas we in Scotland have been dragged into this mire against our will and may suffer draconian consequences for it, the rest of Europe can regard it as nothing more than a surreal sideshow. To them, it is of secondary importance (at best) to the many serious challenges which they continue to address through pan-European co-operation.
First published in The National, 21 December 2018Read more
THERE have been a lot of twists, turns, bumps and forks in the road in the Brexit madness – but tomorrow might be the start of the end of it.
As readers of my pieces will know, I’m a joint litigant in “The Scottish Case”, an action taken together with five other Scottish parliamentarians to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) asking for a ruling on how to revoke Article 50.
First published in The National, 3 December 2018Read more
THE UK-EU withdrawal agreement is now public, so we can now see what all the fuss has been about. Remember, this is just the exit agreement, the settling up our bills, and has nothing meaningful on what the future will hold. If the agreement is approved (an open question) then from Brexit day we will enter a transition where the EU laws roll on, so little overnight will change.
First published in The National, 18 November 2018Read more
THIS week, I return to Brussels after the European Parliament’s recess, but the strange feeling of being in a parallel universe continues. While I did get a few days off here and there, I stayed home, backed away from social media a bit, and caught up with meetings and paperwork. I decided to take a few weeks off from writing this column, because it seems that the Silly Season this year was even sillier than usual.
The various spats among a few self-appointed spokespeople in the Yes movement have been a sad thing to behold. Politics worldwide is in a strange place, and a lot of people are feeling anxious and frustrated. I’m one of them. So now more than ever we need to make sure that the quiet, thoughtful, sensible majority aren’t spoken over or pushed aside.
First published in The National, 30 August 2017Read more
WE talk a lot about the unspoiled beauty of the Highlands, the villages and crofts, the Neil Gunn museum and the kind of scenery that would make Walter Scott bite his pen in two. But the Highlands aren’t there as a kind of unspoiled garden sanctuary that we can forget about until we want to visit whenever we deem fit, like Louis the Sun King.
In our interconnected, fast-paced world, we need to equip our young folk with the skills they need to succeed, and for STEMD (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and Digital) subjects, that often requires access to top-of-the-range equipment.
For folk in some of the more rural areas of Scotland, that can be a bit tricky. So we look to our neighbours and friends across the water for inspiration.
First published in The National, 19 July 2017Read more
There's a tremendous sense of community in Caithness – not the kind of dusty, vague “community” that only exists in speeches and faded newsprint, but a tangible, breathing, vibrant community that looks around, rolls up its sleeves and does what needs to be done.
First published in The National, 30 June 2017Read more
SNP MEP Alyn Smith has today used a major European Parliament debate to remind the EU of the case for Scottish independence.Read more