European citizens who want to stay in Scotland following Brexit will be able to get help and support from a new government-funded project.
With the UK due to quit the European Union (EU) in less than six months, Holyrood’s External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop announced the Scottish Government would set up and resource the EU Citizens’ Rights Project.
She said Scottish ministers were acting because “the information and services proposed by the UK Government do not go far enough and we do not believe they will provide the reassurance people need”.
The EU Citizens’ Right Project will advise people from Europe who are already living and working in Scotland on changes to immigration rules as a result of leaving the EU.
Ministers also confirmed a new expert group would be set up to examine the impact immigration has on Scotland’s population and demographics, with the academics also to look at how UK migration policy could impact on areas of devolved responsibility.
Ms Hyslop said: “EU citizens who have made Scotland their home are understandably anxious about their future. They are welcome and valued, and play a crucial role in our economy, our public services and our communities.
“Many EU nationals are concerned about still being able to access the NHS, schools for their children, housing and social security post-Brexit, and the Scottish Government is committed to supporting EU citizens to enable them to continue to live, work and study in Scotland.
“We are concerned that there is a risk that people will miss out on applying for settled status for a range of reasons including vulnerability, financial problems, lack of awareness and understanding of the scheme, and we have identified a clear need for the provision of accurate and consistent advice from trusted bodies.”
She added: “The information and services proposed by the UK Government do not go far enough and we do not believe they will provide the reassurance people need.
“This additional service will fill the gaps in the UK’s support for EU citizens and ensure that we can encourage as many EU residents in Scotland to remain in Scotland.”
The External Affairs Secretary said that over the next 25 years Scotland’s population growth was projected to come from migration, stating it was “imperative that we attract new talent to Scotland and tackle the issues raised by our ageing population”.
She went on: “That is why we have established this new expert group to investigate the impact on our population, our workforce and our communities including the impact in rural areas faced by declining populations.”
The EU Citizens’ Rights Project will be set up at locations across Scotland, and will also run information meetings in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Inverness, Motherwell and other places.