CLARE’S COLUMN IN THE RUTHERGLEN REFORMER

As you read this, the Westminster Parliament will possibly be teetering on the cliff edge of a no-deal exit from the EU on the extended date of 12th April. Or maybe not!

If there is a third, so called, meaningful vote on Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal deal, and it is defeated, yet again, we may probably be facing into a longer extension to the UK’s departure from the EU, necessitating participation in elections to the European Parliament in May.

Alternatively, if a no-deal Brexit looms in April, Parliament may choose to pass Mrs May’s deal, subject to a final referendum, or even to revoke Article 50, resetting the process and going back to the drawing board.

Such is the frustration, concern and anxiety about this shambles that, as I write, over 3 million people have signed a House of Commons petition calling fort the process to be stopped.

The petition reflects, not just that people are “fed up,” as Mrs May keeps telling us, although I am sure many are, but that anxiety about Brexit is having a much deeper impact on many people, and her handling of the process thus far is a contributory factor in those feelings.

Last week The Mental Health Foundation Scotland published a survey which showed that more than two-fifths of Scots have felt powerless, angry or worried in the last year because of Brexit.

Around one in five people said the situation surrounding Britain’s exit from the EU has caused them anxiety or high stress levels. The negative emotions were felt both by those who voted to leave and to remain in the EU.

According to the survey, just over one in 10 people (11%) reported that Brexit has caused them sleep problems. Almost half (45%) said that Brexit had made them feel powerless, while 44% admitted they felt angry and 43% told the survey they were worried about the situation.

Very few people felt hopeful, happy or confident about Brexit, and that is reflected in the views conveyed to me by constituents, particularly EU citizens who are anxious about their future.

Whether such anxiety is based on concerns around citizenship, jobs, the economy, the supply of essential food and medicines, or the wider negative political implications of crashing out of the EU, for some people who may be experiencing feelings of powerlessness or worry, this can be linked to a higher risk of mental health problems, and they may also exacerbate existing difficulties.

The Mental Health Foundation Scotland advise that, if you’re stressed about your long-term status at work because of changes in immigration, or because your employment is vulnerable as a result of Brexit, talk to your HR colleagues to get assurances and contact your employer’s Employee Assistance Programme for psychological support.

That a leading Mental Health charity should issue such advice in these circumstances is an indictment of the total lack of consideration for the well-being of ordinary citizens by the UK Government and, particularly, by the hard-nosed inflexibility of the Prime Minister.

Throughout the Brexit process Scotland’s wishes have been ignored. Mrs May has only sought to placate the extreme Brexiteers, and she has only herself to blame for the mess she has created. No wonder people in Scotland feel powerless.

Arguably, the situation has not been helped by the lack of leadership and direction shown by the Labour Party. They have dithered and missed several opportunities to work across Parties to enable Parliament to take control of the situation and bring it to a head.

Scotland did not vote for Brexit, to be dragged out of the EU against our will. The people of Scotland deserve a choice over our future – and one way or another that choice will be ours to make.

ENDS

Date published: 22nd March 2019

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