Glasgow reaffirms EU values on Europe Day

11 May 2023

On the occasion of the recent celebration of Europe Day, Glasgow has submitted a ‘Europe Day’ motion at its council meeting today to reaffirm their commitment to the European Union values and to continue engaging with pan-European initiatives despite Brexit.

Bailie Annette Christie, City Convenor for Culture, Sport and International Relations tabled the second Europe Day motion at today’s council meeting. The first Europe Day motion was submitted and approved under the previous Deputy Leader, Councillor McDonald, seconded by the Leader Councillor Aitken, in May 2018.

Both submissions reinforce that Glasgow’s position was not to leave the EU in 2016, specifying in the latest motion that “almost 67% of Glaswegians who voted in the 2016 referendum voted to remain in the EU and have had their European citizenship removed against their will.”

Glasgow continues to commit to European values

Despite Brexit, Glasgow has continued “to actively engage with European partners, consolidating relationships, garnering accolades and positioning itself as a lead European city,” the submission says. Moreover, on Europe Day, the municipality brought together academics, businesses, cultural and community representatives, and diplomats to share its participation in Eurocities and commitment to Europe.

Lord Provost, Jacqueline McLaren welcomed everyone stating “We regard our European friends as important allies with common interests and similar sensibilities… friendship, unity, tolerance, and peace are sentiments Glasgow endorses and will always hold dear”. The audience enjoyed the schools’ ‘Create’ chamber orchestra playing the European anthem Ode to Joy and the Norwegian Eurovision winner 2009 “Fairytale”.

The relation with Europe and the engagement in EU activities and projects is part of the city’s DNA. As the motion notes, Glasgow is the European Capital of Sport 2023, a recognition – awarded to the city twice – that “should also be a vehicle for further strengthening European connections between our peoples.”

Also, in 2019, the European Commission Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor ranked Glasgow as the UK’s top cultural and creative city for cultural vibrancy, creative economy and ability to attract creative talent and stimulate cultural engagement, and additionally ranked Glasgow as Europe’s leader for ‘openness, tolerance and trust’.

Lord Provost receiving the Honorary Membership of the European Movement in Scotland

Moreover, the Scottish city continues to participate in European projects and keeps synergies thank to European networks such as Eurocities, in which Glasgow just won the elections to become the Social Affairs Forum Chair from June 2023 to June 2025. In its application, the city highlights reinforcing social rights as the pillars of building an inclusive and fair society, reducing inequalities, creating the same opportunities for everybody by co-production and generating structural changes through a rights-based approach.

“We were hugely enthused by the ongoing efforts to keep Glasgow connected with Europe,” says Europe Day participant Clare Scanlan, from GlasgowLovesEU, part of the European Moment in Scotland, “and the continued involvement with the Eurocities network, the EU and Glasgow’s current role of European Capital of Sport ensures that our city strengthens our bonds with our European neighbours”

Indeed, since 2017, the municipality has prioritised its participation with Eurocities’ peers. Glasgow hosted the first-ever Social Affairs Innovation Lab in 2019 and consistently participates in working groups, making strategic connections across silos. The council recently hosted Eurocities Working Group on Children and Young People, which benefits “from European learning and connections.”

Councillor Annette Christie discussing Eurocities on Europe Day 2023

The city adds that this work remains essential in mitigating the impact of the “immense social, economic, cultural and reputational damage inflicted by Brexit.” 

The consequences of Brexit

The motion presented by Councillor Christie insists that it would be beneficial for Scotland to have access to the EU single market, as Northern Ireland does. “Council believes that Brexit has directly contributed to the cost-of-living crisis and decline in living standards across the UK and to daily hardship for thousands of Glaswegian households.”

Moreover, the submission urges the Chief Executive to write to the Prime Minister and European Commission President highlighting that Glasgow continues to commit as a European city and to its European citizens.

The European Union flag fluttering in Glasgow

At this moment in time, urban diplomacy is undoubtedly beneficial to find solutions to cross border challenges, such as climate change, armed conflicts and displacement of people or inflation and worsening of living conditions. Leader of Glasgow City Council, Councillor Susan Aitken, states, “it is this outward, internationalist and welcoming spirit of our city that it is vital we continue to nurture and ensure we are heard. Eurocities provides a key platform for doing so.”

Glasgow’s environmental aspirations settle on working with Eurocities Environment Forum and creating synergies with Europe through the New European Bauhaus. Eurocities also brought together the pan-European Mayors Alliance for the European Green Deal, in which Glasgow has an active role, including hosting the COP26. Moreover, its new Just Transition Skills Plan aligns with the aims of the European Year of Skills 2023.

Bailie Annette Christie’s clarion call is clear “Glasgow is a proud European city, open to our European and global neighbours for business, for study, for visitors, for collaboration, and for people from around the world continuing to make our city their home.”


Marta Buces Eurocities Writer