by Colin Campbell
NOW that Brexit has been achieved much has changed, most of it for the better, some of it for the worse.
But one peculiar aspect of the saga is the way some of the leaders of the Leave campaign are now trying to squirm away from recognition of the main reason the vast majority of people – including 44 per cent of voters in the Highlands – voted to leave the EU.
And that reason was to regain control of our borders and to end the flow of mass immigration.
It seems for some prominent people that basic fact has become awkwardly unfashionable to mention these days.
The pro-Brexit vote was not primarily driven by fish or seed potatoes or the need to curb EU laws and interference by EU bureaucrats.
It was driven by a widespread desire to end free-for-all immigration which meant anyone from 27 other member states, including some very impoverished ones, could come and live here anytime and anywhere they chose.
Anyone who denies that is either living in cloud cuckoo land or is an out and out liar.
And I’ve no doubt that for many people – including me – the realisation that so-called “free movement” has now ended is a very welcome outcome.
In Inverness, none of the thousands of Poles and Romanians and Lithuanians who came here are being forced to go home. That was never even a remote possibility. They have been made very welcome over the past 15 years and they will remain. In the Highland capital any talk of “anti-migrant hostility” is scurrilous scaremongering with not a shred of truth to it.
But many people felt that the influx could not go on indefinitely. We do not have the houses or flats or the schools or the NHS facilities to cope.
That is just a neutral and objective fact. The housing waiting list is very long, rents are sky-high, schools are overcrowded across the city and the NHS was stretched to the limit, long before the virus struck.
Inverness is bursting at the seams with wilting infrastructure and car jammed roads. We could not cope with the potential of thousands more people from abroad trying to cram in here.
We now have control of immigration again. The SNP are fervently against this and want free movement to continue and even to increase. Nicola Sturgeon has more than once said “Scotland owes a debt of gratitude” to “new Scots” who have decided to settle here.
The fact that non-new Scots are struggling to get a roof over their head and their children are being taught in glorified sheds erected in a hurry to cope with excessive school numbers blissfully passes her by.
Being welcoming people – though maybe not as fawningly welcome as Nicola Sturgeon – we want people from elsewhere to settle in and lead full and enjoyable lives.
We have left the EU now and the question is no longer relevant. But I asked it before we left when it was indeed relevant. If someone from Scotland moved to Warsaw or Bucharest and expected to be housed and accorded all the other benefits of “free movement”, what are the chances they would be granted them so freely and easily as they are here?
Brexit has given us back control of our borders, and tens of thousands of people in the Highlands – 44 per cent of the total vote – will be very satisfied with that outcome.