SINCE the United Kingdom chose the path of Brexit, Scotland has been caught in the slipstream of a decision we did not support.

Our strong desire to remain part of the European Union was voiced clearly in the referendum, with 62% in favour of Remain. Yet we find ourselves bearing the brunt of the fallout from a choice we didn’t make.

Brexit has altered the very fabric of our communities. Our young people, once free to explore and learn in a Europe without borders, are now facing a world where those borders are all too real.

The chance to broaden their horizons, to soak up the diverse cultures of our European neighbours, is now significantly curtailed. The enriching experiences offered by the Erasmus+ programme have been swept aside, replaced with a pale imitation, the Turing Scheme.

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We know that travel, particularly to other countries with rich cultures, expands our minds and creates a broader sense of purpose and meaning to life. It helps to ensure our next generations are not insular and closed minded – ignorance is no friend of a progressive society.

On the other side of the generational divide, our elderly people, who have given so much to our nation, find themselves grappling with one of the poorest pension provisions in Europe.

The promise of a comfortable and dignified retirement, a fitting reward for a lifetime of hard work, is becoming harder and harder to fulfil, a heart-wrenching reality for those who have toiled for decades.

The National: The EU flags flying outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE.

With independence in the EU, we can have powers to gain parity with our European counterparts. It is a sorry disgrace to leave the people who built up our infrastructures and institutions in near destitution, while living off their hard work. Shameful.

The impact on businesses, large and small, has been nothing short of devastating. The promise of “frictionless trade” has given way to an avalanche of red tape, customs checks and new regulatory barriers causing costly disruptions and delays. This is especially true for our cherished seafood industry, once the pride of Scotland, now struggling to navigate its way through mountains of paperwork and delays.

In the fishing communities of Banffshire and Buchan Coast, the bitterness of Brexit’s promises is deeply felt. The lure of regaining control of our waters and reviving their fortunes has given way to harsh realities. The traders and exporters who were once able to seamlessly send their high-quality produce to the European Union now find themselves mired in bureaucracy, struggling with increased costs and diminished profits. Take the tale of “John”, a seasoned fisherman from the picturesque coasts of Buchan. His family’s livelihood, deeply intertwined with the rhythms and fortunes of the North Sea, has been dramatically affected by the unforeseen post-Brexit difficulties. Something which promised opportunity and prosperity has become a battlefield of tariffs, customs declarations, and bureaucratic paperwork.

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But what stings the most for “John” and many others in our fishing communities is not just the economic hardship – it’s the sense of betrayal. They were promised better days, more control, and richer hauls, only to be met with a reality that is starkly different. The negotiators they trusted were not able to deliver on their lofty promises.

Across Scotland, there’s a shared narrative of disillusionment with Brexit and the profound impacts it has had on our lives. But what if there was a different path? What if we could take control of our destiny and not be subject to decisions made by others, decisions that do not consider our unique needs and circumstances?

An independent Scotland, standing proudly within the European Union, offers us a chance to shape our own future. With direct representation in the EU, we can ensure our interests are defended and our values upheld.

For our fishing industry, this means having a voice that genuinely represents Scottish fishing interests at the negotiating table. The fishers have a contentious relationship with the common fisheries policy – CFP – but what we must remember is that the same people who had the same agenda were negotiating Brexit as well as the CFP.

We need to understand that having a Scottish fishing rep at the CFP negotiations with a voice for Scotland only will give a better outcome for us. The negotiators for the past CFP and Brexit reflected their sell-out skills in the outcomes they delivered.

Envision a future where our students have the freedom to enrich their lives through experiences across Europe, where our elderly are supported by a pension system that ensures dignity in their golden years, where our businesses, including our fishing industry, trade freely with our European neighbours, unhindered by needless bureaucracy and political brinkmanship.

Yes, the journey towards independence won’t be easy. It demands understanding, unity, and a willingness to weather through challenges.

However, the promise of a future where we’re in control, where our voices matter, where we’re not left to deal with the fallout of decisions we did not support, makes it a path worth considering.

I am unwavering in my opinion that this will be best served with a healthy dose of unity with our European neighbours.

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The Building a New Scotland white paper series is aimed at offering a guiding light through these complex discussions. It’s a call to every Scot to arm themselves with knowledge, to understand the choices before us, and to imagine a future where we’re not just part of the conversation, but where we’re leading it.

It’s up to us to change hearts and minds and persuade those who are unconvinced by clearly showing what our hard Brexit really is in the cold light of day, and what we have lost because of it.

This is our chance to turn the page, to write a new chapter in our history – one where we are masters of our own destiny, unfettered by the decisions of others. An equal partner in a European collaboration, and not a subordinate who is at the will of a UK Government selling out our resources.