EU referendum: Scots living abroad share their views

An estimated 120,000 of the 1.2 million UK residents who live elsewhere in the EU are Scots. Picture: David Moir

An estimated 120,000 of the 1.2 million UK residents who live elsewhere in the EU are Scots. Picture: David Moir

Share this article
16
Have your say

VOTERS across the UK will be asked on June 23 whether they support the country’s continued membership of the European Union.

While recent opinion polls suggest a majority of Scots will vote to remain in the EU, a sizable number of Caledonian expats living overseas will be following the referendum with interest.

Julie Sheridan moved to Barcelona from Glasgow in 2012. She plans to vote for the UK to remain in the EU.

Julie Sheridan moved to Barcelona from Glasgow in 2012. She plans to vote for the UK to remain in the EU.

An estimated 1.2 million people born in the UK live elsewhere in the EU - predominantly in France, Spain and the Republic of Ireland.

It is thought around 10 per cent of that number are Scots.

The Scotsman asked four of them for their views on the EU and the big vote on June 23.

Julie Sheridan, 39, moved to Barcelona in 2011. She previously lived in Glasgow.

Neil Gibson moved to Germany from Stirlingshire in 2012. He is backing the Remain campaign.

Neil Gibson moved to Germany from Stirlingshire in 2012. He is backing the Remain campaign.

“As I’ve been out of the UK for less than 15 years, I am allowed a vote in the referendum. I will vote for the UK to remain within the EU.

“Scots, on the whole, enjoy a good reputation in Spain. In Barcelona, you can see locals’ faces change whenever they ask “are you English?” and I reply “no, I’m Scottish”. Maybe it’s the perceived affinity with the Catalan independence movement - but announcing your Scottish identity elicits an instantly warmer response from people here. I imagine that would quickly chill over if the UK voted to exit the European Union.

“There are ever-more present threats at work in the world, and I think cutting ourselves off from our European neighbours would be both reductive and myopic.

“Being in Europe gives us access to shared markets and mindsets, as well as the very real benefits of being entitled to live and work freely in other European countries.

Nicola Dawson lives in Burgundy and previously lived in Camelon. She believes the referendum will not provide real change.

Nicola Dawson lives in Burgundy and previously lived in Camelon. She believes the referendum will not provide real change.

“People in the UK are very guilty of talking about the supposed downside of European incomers, but seem to forget about the millions of Brits who’ve abandoned the UK to live abroad in Europe themselves.

“Living in Spain, and seeing things from this perspective, it just comes across that we have a massive superiority complex. It’s mortifying, depressing and tedious.”

Henry Page, 62, lived in Paris and Chantilly from 1981 until 2014, and now divides his time between France and Scotland. He previously stayed in Aberdeenshire.

“I know a lot of expats living in France and the vast majority are pro-Leave.

The Scotsman's May ICM poll showed Remain support was strong in Scotland. Picture: TSPL Poll

The Scotsman's May ICM poll showed Remain support was strong in Scotland. Picture: TSPL Poll

“We see no problem in people wishing to have jobs in a different countries. 
But, such as in France, Belgium and Germany, they should have a job offer before moving to that country. This is what I had to do in 1981 and this is what a British person will have to do to work and live in Europe after Brexit.

“Indeed, this is the type of arrangement we would expect to apply between European nationals wanting to live and work in another country. We would not want them to come ‘shopping’ for the most generous benefits in another country.

“There will be no handicap for British people wanting to work in Europe. They will be able to do so provided they have a job to go to.

“Some people say that expats will be obliged to go home. This is untrue. Mr Piris, the legal counsel to the EU, said clearly that any British person legally in the EU will be allowed to stay. The same is the case for EU nationals in Britain after Brexit. Likewise for health insurance; expats can use the health insurance of their place of residence, where they pay it. So there is no threat to that. Pensions are better in the UK so we must keep away from the EU laws on that.”

READ MORE: The Scottish diaspora: How Scots spread across the globe

Neil Gibson, 49, moved to Biberach, Germany, in 2012. He previously lived in Blanefield, Stirlingshire.

“Four years ago I was looking to move on from my then position with a pharmaceutical company in Cheshire. I was looking for options that would allow the family to move back to Scotland after eighteen years south of the border, but nothing came of that.

“Instead, I received an offer that took us to the far south of Germany and a life of economic emigration to a neighbouring EU country. Four years on the move has proven successful for us; we have found Germany an ideal place to make a home and I can only wonder why we didn’t look sooner at options outside the UK.

“Europe has the largest economy in the world and is also a massive job market. This is something a large number of people have already taken advantage of, with many others benefiting from the ability to easily retire to more congenial climates than are generally offered in Britain. Scottish-educated people have a huge opportunity to take their learning and their skills to find work in 27 European countries and as English-speakers they have a major advantage over most other nationalities in business and education. We should see this for the benefit that it is.

“The right to free movement between the UK to the remainder of the EU is a two-way street and it is depressing to note the shrillness of the debate concerning migration into Britain and the way it is usually framed as being solely about immigration into Britain.”

Nicola Dawson, 47, lives in Burgundy, France. She grew up in Camelon, Falkirk.

“I consider myself an international socialist. I hate the elite that rule us. Nothing ever changes. It’s the same corrupt old boys’ network here in France.

“I don’t think it (the referendum) matters. The status quo will remain as long as we are ruled by the elite.

“Where I live in Burgundy there are slogans for (right-wing political party) Front National everywhere.

“People are scared for the future. It’s unravelling here. Immigration is at the front of everyone’s mind.

“Recently, I was on Twitter and saw a post by the Pope about refugees. I dropped my kids at school and drove to the nearby converted police buildings where men were being taken in from Calais. 
“The staff asked me what I wanted and I told them I’d come to help.

“The boss then asked me if I could step in as the teacher was ill. I walked into a room of South Sudanese, Eritreans and Afghanis. They all spoke English. They told me about their journeys - how they crossed the Med etc.”

READ MORE: Scott Macnab: Real EU debate needed within SNP

Back to the top of the page