IT was the weather that lured Craig Duncan to Prague in 2002. Back in Glasgow after travels in sunnier climes, he says: “A gun-metal grey sky hung about ten feet above my head. I thought, ‘I don’t want to be back here!’”

In the Czech capital, Duncan quickly found a job at the British Council. In the run-up to EU enlargement in 2004, the UK Government fostered cultural relations with Central European states “through theatre, film, music, dance and literature” – and through its global citizens like Craig Duncan. He recalls working with a talented generation of Czech promoters to present “a modern, multicultural concept of Britain.” His work challenged and updated conceptions of the United Kingdom as the land of Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes.

“I followed my heart,” recalls Steve Gove, meanwhile. “My partner at the time had been offered a job and I had given up drama teaching in Aberdeen and was looking for a plan.” After “running away” to the Edinburgh Fringe first in 1996, Gove settled in the Czech capital the following year.

It was neither Duncan’s nor Gove’s intention to live in the Czech Republic. “I didn’t really know what to expect,” the latter recalls. A brainwave while visiting the Edinburgh Fringe presented Gove with a plan: “I had the bright idea of starting our own Fringe here in Prague,” he says. “This year we celebrated our 15th birthday.”

Gove and Duncan, alongside the author of this report, constitute a drop in the ocean of the 1.2 million British citizens living outside of the United Kingdom around the European Union. Scots in Prague do not necessarily identify as a unified group, or speak with a unified voice. Concern about Brexit, however, is widespread.

Gove and Duncan both remember what it was like to live as a foreigner in the Czech Republic before the country joined the European Union. And both wonder whether Brexit may bring their experiences full circle. On a practical level, Duncan predicts “more forms, more expense. I assume it won’t be that bad, and that I’ll be in the same position as Americans or Canadians or Australians in Prague.”

But Duncan does invoke his past to make sense of an uncertain future. He recalls 2002, when he was first in the Czech Republic: “I noticed recently that I have a stamp in my old passport from the Czech-Slovak border, which I then had to cross to renew my visa.” Back then, such strategic shuttling across borders was a result of the Czech Republic’s pending attempt to join the EU. Now, such border hopping may prove a result of the UK’s decision to leave it.

Gove concurs that “it was relatively easy to get a visa and permission to stay” when he first arrived, though this did involve “quite a lot of paperwork and standing in long queues once a year.” It was not a reduction in bureaucracy, however, which led Gove to cheer Czech EU membership in 2004: “I’ll never forget it,” he reminisces, “I felt safe, protected, welcome and equal in a way I hadn’t before.” For Gove, the vote for Brexit on June 23 represented “these feelings of security being taken away.”

Gove is considering Czech citizenship, although he says he is “not in a particular rush. There are those typical tests and a fair bit of paperwork, but organising my citizenship is certainly a lot simpler than the prospect of the UK leaving the EU, and so far nothing has been done about that.” With SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second Scottish independence referendum, the pieces of the puzzle are jumbled once again. Following developments from the banks of the Vltava, Steve Gove plans to wait it out.

Not so David Creighton, who moved to Prague in 2000. Initially against the idea of applying for Czech citizenship, he changed his mind in 2015, “with the growing likelihood of an EU referendum.” Creighton successfully passed the Czech language and citizenship tests required, receiving his certificate “rather ominously” the day before the Brexit vote. Ultimately, however, Creighton applied for Irish citizenship this summer: “My paternal grandfather was from Belfast,” he explains, “So I meet the Irish criteria, and when Brexit seemed more likely, I started considering the Irish option seriously.”

Creighton explains his research into a range of other citizenships by saying he feels “very international. I’m not scared witless by hearing other languages on trains, and I think that being a global citizen is very positive.” The Lanarkshire native marvels at how “the part of Europe blanketed in grey on the classroom map” of his youth has “opened up” since the fall of communism, to the extent that he shares a Prague office with colleagues “from everywhere – from Seattle to Baku.”

Creighton rejects the idea that citizens of the world are, in fact, citizens of nowhere; he is “proud of Scotland’s historic links with mainland Europe,” and understands his own behaviour as a continuation of such bridge-building, not a manifestation of disloyalty or ungratefulness towards his country of birth.

Nor does Steve Gove conflate his citizenship with belonging: “As a Scot living abroad for almost 20 years,” he explains, “I have never identified myself as, or felt, Czech. I am Scottish and even if I apply for Czech citizenship, I will still refer to myself as being Scottish.” In fact, Gove goes as far as to suggest his relationship with Scotland has improved since his departure: “I started to appreciate Scotland’s beauty even more than I did before.” Gove says Czechs find his nationality “exotic”, and each time a new person delights in his accent and provenance “this only enhances how I feel about home”.

REGARDLESS of which passport he will have in several years’ time, Craig Duncan, meanwhile, considers himself to be “Scottish, British, and European: all three are the cultural forces which shaped me,” he explains. Born and raised in Castle Douglas, Duncan calls his Scottishness “obvious.” He attributes feeling British, meanwhile, to the BBC: “Growing up in a small town in a rural area, television and radio put me in touch with what was happening in other parts of the country, in other cultures within Britain.” And Duncan insists upon his Europeanness, citing “a history of shared traditions. There is a history of Scottish engagement with Europe,” he reflects, “which long predates the creation of Britain.”

For Duncan, Creighton, and Gove, then, history and personal experiences far outweigh paperwork and official ID when it comes to a sense of belonging. But paperwork and official ID do matter: they constitute a source of some anxiety for Scots in Prague (as they do for Scots in Scotland) at these uncertain times. Whether in an official capacity (at institutions like the British Council), or unofficially, when a Scottish burr is detected by Czechs, Scots in Prague are asked in daily exchanges to speak for the place they are from. And that is one thing that does not look set to change in the current, shifting political environment.

Gove concludes: “I’m a global citizen with a Scottish heart. I plan an international arts festival, connect with people from many corners of the globe. I think it’s essential that we look to the world for ideas.”

With Scotland (and ever larger parts of the world) but a budget flight away, Gove muses: “It’s so easy now, why wouldn’t you?”