IT’S a cold Friday night and a group has gathered in an art gallery in Stirling to hear speakers from different political parties talk about an issue which unites them.

From the impact on hospitality and culture to laws and learning, there’s no end to the list of concerns about Brexit which will be discussed over the next hour and half.

It’s one of the events which has been organised as part of the Our Star project, which has an artwork project touring the country to promote debate about leaving the EU – and what should happen next.

A giant star displayed in the room symbolising the UK’s "lost place in the EU" has already visited Leeds and Wales before Stirling, and will be moving on to Fife this week.

Jo Goodburn, vice-chair of the European Movement in Scotland (EMiS), which has organised the discussion, admits that wrestling it through the doors of the Smith Art Gallery and Museum has not exactly been an easy task.

Opening the event, she says that the European Movement has an ambition to promote Britain’s place at the centre of Europe – which now means rejoining the EU at the earliest opportunity – which dates back to a drive for peace in the aftermath of the Second World War. 

But she emphasises: “In Scotland, where we know there is much debate about our constitutional future, we like to see ourselves as a space for those of all parties and none.

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“Those pro-Union and those pro-independence who can come together within the organisation to support returning to our place in Europe and being part of Europe.”

First speaker SNP MP for Stirling Alyn Smith tells the audience there is “movement” and splits within all parties over the issue.

“There was a lively debate about should an independent Scotland join EFTA or the EU or the EEA or some fantasy option which doesn’t exist in real life,” he says.

“But we are very clear in the SNP that we believe Scotland’s best future is as an independent state within the European Union.”

He adds: “While I am at Westminster - as the SNP’s representative on the UK/UK Parliamentary Assembly which oversees the trade and cooperation agreement - I also simultaneously want to see the UK have as close and deep and functioning a relationship with the EU as possible.

"That will make Scotland’s relationship with the UK easier and deeper and more functional post-independence.”

Next up is Wendy Chamberlain, Liberal Democrat MP for North East Fife, who highlights concerns over the impact on hospitality and the loss of the Erasmus exchange programme.

She says: “Where I have hope in terms of the UK – and my efforts are focused on how do we get the rest of the UK into the place that Scotland is in terms of our future relationship with Europe – is that actually I think we have discovered that in the post-Brexit that covid and global and uncertainty that we are seeing alongside cost of living, that we are a more European nation in our outlook than a US one.

“We are prepared to pay for public services, we want more public services, we want the state to do more and I think that is where we have found the UK is.”

She adds: “Everybody accepts Brexit was a mistake. I don’t think there is actually any disagreement about that. But what people aren’t necessarily ready to think about now is does that automatically lead us to rejoin.

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“I think that’s a hard message for all of us who want to be back in [the EU] tomorrow.”

Mark Ruskell, Scottish Greens MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, tells the group he wants to regain the rights he had being born a European citizen.

“That is my birthright, that is my children’s birthright and I’m not going to give it up overnight,” he says.

“We have to fight to get back to Europe, we have to fight for the rights we had as European Union citizens, and find a way back.”

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Former Labour MEP Julie Ward, who represented the North West England region in the European Parliament, provokes laughter and applause when she describes it as a “breath of fresh air” to be in Scotland.

She tells the audience she is in the Labour party fighting for European values and raises concerns about the loss of the Erasmus exchange programme after Brexit.

“It is not just a programme for universities to send their brightest students to study in other countries – it is also a programme for marginalised people,” she says.

“Some of the best Erasmus projects I saw were for people with learning difficulties, people with autism, people who had failed at school, people who were in trouble with the police, people who felt a bit other and lost.

“That’s what we have lost- not just a university programme.”

There’s a number of question from audience of around 60 during the discussion, ranging from what could be done to engage people – particularly the young generations – in the debate, and if increasing divergence between UK and EU laws will cause difficulties.

But the mood is aptly summed up by French journalist Assa Samake-Roman, who is a columnist with The National, and tells how being an Erasmus student brought her to live in Scotland.

She says she has also interviewed other participants in the scheme and highlights in particular the friendships and relationships which many have found while living in another country. 

“When we talk about Europe, it is obviously the economy, the treaties and the high level stuff,” she says.

“But it is also about us – just people.”