BREXIT will be hard. It will adversely impact our society, the economy and people’s lives in ways we can measure and those we can’t.

Above all, leaving the EU means lost opportunities, particularly for younger people.

Scotland is a European nation and we voted against Brexit – in the 2016 referendum and every election since. So it is beyond belief that the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, which manages the parliament’s estate, has decided to remove the European flag outside Holyrood on Brexit day.

This is not necessary. There are no rules saying that a country must be in the EU to fly the European flag. It belongs to the peoples of Europe. It is one of our flags, regardless of Brexit.

READ MORE: Fury at decision to remove Holyrood's EU flag

I commend Dr Alasdair Allan for his efforts to keep Holyrood’s European standard. It seems now that the Scottish Government will call a parliamentary vote – hopefully in which the flag’s rightful place outside the Parliament is secured by a comfortable majority of MSPs.

Across the EU – in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Greece despite the eurocrisis – the European flag is practically glued to the national flag, especially at public buildings. It is flown by candidates for EU membership like North Macedonia – even Ukraine, a state which will not join the EU for decades, if ever.

They do so because the European flag is a symbol of hope. It represents European cooperation, partnership and friendship. It stands for our commitment to each other to work for peace instead of conflict, in Europe and beyond. Our continent, with its troubled past, now strives for better.

By leaving the EU, the UK renounces its commitment to those ideals of European unity. Brexit can mean nothing else. We in Scotland must show in every way we can that we still hold those shared European values.

Brexit is not normal – not now, not after it takes place. We are under no obligation to pretend it is. While we must face that Brexit will happen, we do not have to – and should not – give up our European spirit.

From January 31, we will have to work daily to maintain our European connections. The sympathy for Scotland in Brussels and EU capitals is real, but they can’t change the fact that our relationship with the EU will be decided by Westminster.

The EU also has a full preoccupying agenda to contend with, leaving little time for much else. If we stand still or go backward, Scotland will inevitably be left behind while the rest of Europe moves forward.

Taking down the European standard from our national parliament would send exactly the wrong signal to our fellow European partners.

READ MORE: Scottish Government moves to stop EU flag being taken down at Holyrood

They know our support for Europe and they would find it as disappointing and saddening as many of us in Scotland would.

How we respond to Brexit now also has implications for independence. If Scotland becomes independent, the groundwork won’t begin the day after the referendum – it starts now. Nothing about having influence in Europe and the world is guaranteed. It depends upon building and sustaining good relations with states on the basis of common values.

Keeping the European flag – not just at Holyrood, but across Scotland – is the clearest sign that regardless of Brexit we are still open, welcoming and outward-looking.

Scotland has a genuine European sentiment, but too often it’s latent, in the background. Now more than ever is the time to bring that European spirit to the fore.

Brexit is days away, with all the unwelcome change that will bring. This is a time when principles matter. Our shared values are what link us to our fellow Europeans. We must never let Brexit cause us to forget that.