One of the greatest tragedies of Brexit has been the opportunities lost to people across Scotland – the ability to live, love and work across the European Union.
Scotland’s cultural scene has been enjoyed – and shaped – by our relationship with the EU for decades, broadening our cultural horizons and enriching our tapestry of ideas.
The Guardian revealed that during the closing stages of Brexit negotiations with the UK government, Brussels offered a ‘cultural visa’ that would have allowed performers and creatives to travel across Europe.
It was utterly galling to hear that the UK government rejected this cultural lifeline – because they did not want to afford the same rights to travel to the UK to our European neighbours.
Now, Brexit has been rather a unifying topic in the creative sector – with huge support for EU membership voiced during and after the Brexit referendum campaign. So the idea that this lifeboat would have been sent packing back to the Continent is utterly heart-wrenching.
In the aftermath of this news, musicians like Elton John, Liam Gallagher, Sting and Ed Sheeran were quick to criticise the UK government for this deeply wrong decision. But arguably these artists are those most equipped to take the hit.
The SNP MP Pete Wishart – who once toured with Big Country and Runrig – said that in his early days on the road, the joy of visa-free touring was that the few cents from a gig would be spent on a foostie hostel bed and a warm tin of continental beer.
So it was heartening that up and coming musicians – like traditional singer Iona Fyfe – spoke up for those working incredibly hard to make a name for themselves, especially where Scots trad music is so popular.
The added costs – both in pounds and pence and in time – of red tape and paperwork to secure a tour visa means that, in reality, fewer Scots will be able to spread their wings and make a name for themselves the EU – and those of us in Scotland will have less opportunity to see our European neighbours at festivals, stages and smoky pub corners in years to come.
Leaving the EU will rob us all of innumerable significant opportunities but, for me, this is one of the most saddening. While the campaign for a U-turn on this ridiculous decision continues, we must hold out hope for the future.
Twenty polls now show a majority of Scots back an independent future. If this opportunity is our lifeboat, we can only hope this one isn’t turned away.
Originally published in The Scots Independent newspaper