As the deadline for Brexit trade talks looms, the man who co-founded a grassroots action group in Hertfordshire against leaving the EU has shared his thoughts on the last four rollercoaster years of politics.
On the surface, 49-year-old Richard Scott from Harpenden is like any normal family man who “works hard to put food on the table.”
He describes his upbringing as a humble one, with his mother working as a nurse and his father an engineer.
But deep inside burns a passion for politics, stoked by the recent national divisions that Brexit has sewn.
Scott is a by-product of the globalisation era – having spent time living in Germany and the Netherlands, and working with a diverse range of people in an international environment as a commercial director at a consulting firm.
“I’m a proud Brit, and I enjoy being a citizen of the world,” he says.
“I’m a Geordie, I’m English, I’m British, I’m European and I’m a global citizen as well. I’m very comfortable with all of that.”
Juggling work, a pandemic and life as a married man with three children, Scott says he has always had “regular dad duties” to fit alongside his busy working life.
But he discovered a newfound passion for politics had taken root in the summer of 2016 following the Brexit referendum.
“I was completely shell shocked by the result. I wasn’t involved in any campaigning, I was a passive consumer of politics at that time.
“I was just watching this slow-motion catastrophe unfold, and things seemed to be heading towards absolute disaster. Rather than just bore my wife and kids with my complaints, I wanted to do something myself.”
Fast forward to 2018, and Scott ramped up his political activism.
That spring, he co-founded Harpenden For Europe, a grassroots branch of the broader European Movement UK – which encouraged local residents to get out and fight back against Brexit.
“We built up an incredible team of local residents and started campaigning on the high street. We were complete novices, none of us had done anything like this before.
“But, by 2019 we had hundreds of people writing to our local MP and participating in the People’s Vote marches in London.
“60% of the local population wanted a second referendum or to be a part of Europe, but ultimately we were ignored. We did all that we could to try and give people a second chance.”
Ahead of the December 2019 General Election, Scott campaigned for the Liberal Democrats parliamentary candidate Sam Collins – describing him as “a fantastic local resident who would genuinely do his best for everyone in the constituency.”
“That was my first general election, pounding the streets, knocking on doors and delivering leaflets. I was at the count that night, sadly we lost, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless.
It’s clear from our brief conversation that Scott is well versed in politics – whether he’s arguing against the “limitations” of the First Past the Post system, discussing prorogation or referencing the constitutional rules of the Labour Party.
But, he is also quick to distance himself from either the political left or right.
“I’m a centrist who dislikes extremism, particularly the far-right extremism that Brexit seems to have captured,” he said.
“I’ve voted for the Conservatives under John Major, Labour under Blair and most recently for the Lib Dems.
“Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg. For me these politicians are too extreme in their views, and I couldn’t support them.”
As an active Twitter user, Richard often sees his online remarks – which he says is a “cathartic process” – receive thousands of retweets or likes from Pro-European Twitter circles.
As a Brit who deeply admires and respects Germans and Germany, I am deeply ashamed by this @DailyMailUK headline re Angela Merkel, clearly referencing Kristallnacht.
It is disgusting.
I am so sorry that our German friends have to experience this kind of xenophobic nonsense. pic.twitter.com/FBQfdrbeyE
— Richard Scott 🇬🇧🇪🇺🇺🇳🔶 💉 (@RichardAScott) December 13, 2020
He’s also the mastermind behind the local Facebook group: ‘Hold Them to Account – Hitchin and Harpenden’, which has doubled in size since October.
Although Scott would sum up the current political outlook as “gloomy”, he remains optimistic for the future and hopes that Britain will re-join the European Union again one day.
“I think it’s going to be a multi-step process, but yes I think we will re-join one day.
“Firstly, the opposition has to get its act together and win the 2024 General Election. Then, we need deep constitutional reform to install proportional representation. Finally, we need a two-stage referendum to negotiate and confirm any application to re-join the European Union.”
Currently, UK-EU negotiations on any future Brexit trade deal appear to be in a deadlock, with Boris Johnson travelling to Brussels to hammer out details with Ursula von der Leyden, President of the European Commission.