Like many of you, I was devastated to learn on the morning of the 24th of June that the UK had voted to leave the European Union. I have always identified closely with our European neighbours and appreciate the diversity of culture that Europeans have brought to Scotland.
However, the contribution Europeans make here is not just cultural; traditionally my constituency Glasgow North East has been home to immigrants from all over the world, in particular those from Ireland and Italy, but also from many other countries both inside and outside of Europe. These people have built businesses, become employers and employees, serve in our public services such as the NHS, work hard and pay taxes in this area. I therefore want to say to my immigrant constituents in Glasgow North East that your contribution is not only welcome and valued, it is essential to the economic wellbeing of the area.
The UK as a whole voted to leave the EU by a narrow margin. However, EU nationals were not allowed to vote in the referendum, a decision I thought to be very unjust and disrespectful, and one that did not accurately reflect the value of EU nationals in the UK. I fought against this decision in Parliament along with my colleagues in the SNP Group.
However, in Scotland we voted to remain in the European Union by a substantial majority, 62% to 38%. I regard this as a strong, unequivocal statement of intent, and am therefore determined that Scotland should remain a part of that union, and I would like to reassure EU nationals in my constituency that the SNP Government is doing everything possible to maintain Scotland's relationship with the EU.
While there was frantic hand-wringing and a total absence of leadership at Westminster, our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon convened emergency meetings with her cabinet to explore options. She then met with EU officials to start negotiations on Scotland's continuing membership of the European Union.
Alyn Smith MEP received a standing ovation from EU representatives when he implored the European Parliament not to let Scotland down. All of our parliamentarians are working hard to make the best of this situation and ensure a secure future for Scotland and all the people who live there, regardless of their country of origin.
I have a simple message for all European Scots, whether you were born here or not.
My colleagues and I are doing, and will do, everything possible to protect your rights and we have a strong mandate to do so. You are welcome, you are valued and you are necessary to the wellbeing of this area and this country. You are as part of Scotland's history as bagpipes and tartan, and I will fight to ensure you are part of its future as well.