Letter to Home Secretary
External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, responding to Mr Javid’s letter to the First Minister setting out details of the Home Office’s statement of intent on the EU settlement scheme.
In the letter, the Cabinet Secretary reiterates the Scottish Government’s position that EU citizens – especially children and young people – should not be charged to retain the right to live and work in the UK and should not be overly burdened when applying for settled status. In addition, Ms Hyslop calls for continued engagement on the scheme.
The letter also aligns with the position expressed by the Scottish Affairs Committee (SAC) in their report on the status of immigration in Scotland. SAC findings emphasise the critical need for Scotland to continue to be able to welcome people from overseas to work, raise their families and contribute to Scottish society, noting that all of Scotland's future population growth is dependent on inward migration.
Full text of the letter below.
Thank you for your letter of 21 June to the First Minister providing an update on the EU Settlement Scheme. I am replying because I have lead Cabinet responsibility for migration. While we welcome your recent announcement which provides some further detail on the rules and processes involved in the Scheme, we have considered the Statement of Intent and the draft immigration rules and retain some outstanding concerns.
Our overriding concern has always been that EU citizens who came to Scotland to live, work, study and contribute to their communities should not be overly burdened when applying for a status they already have. I am clear that EU citizens should not have to pay a charge to retain the right to live and work in this country, especially children and young people. While the reduced fee for children is noted, around one in six EU citizens in Scotland are aged 16 or younger and they and their families are facing anxiety about the process and the cost of settled status. We also remain concerned that for some low income families and for older people, the cost may deter them from regularising their status.
As you are aware, increasing Scotland’s working age population is imperative to our economic prosperity. Our economic modelling shows that on average every additional EU citizen working in Scotland contributes over £34,400 in GDP and £10,400 in government revenue. The continued availability of workers from other EU countries is vital to employers right across the Scottish economy and across all sectors, including those as diverse as agriculture and fisheries, tourism and culture, healthcare and education. EU citizens choosing to make Scotland their home also support rural communities and jobs, bringing essential labour to rural industries and supporting public services including healthcare and schools. Any additional barriers to encouraging people to live, work and study in Scotland, or indeed to encouraging those already here to stay, would be damaging to Scotland’s future economic growth.
As I set out in the joint letter that I wrote with Mark Drakeford on 15 June, we remain concerned about the lack of detail about any overarching communications, engagement or outreach strategy to support the Scheme. EU citizens and their families urgently need clear information about their rights and obligations under this Scheme, as do the various people and services that EU citizens interact with such as employers, landlords, local authorities and third sector organisations. It is vital that they have clear guidance on how they can ensure that EU citizens are supported through the process, including around how EU citizens will be able to share their status to evidence their right to be here. EU citizens need clear timelines for when the application process will open and what they need to do and when.
As part of this communication, it is important that EU citizens who apply for settled status fully understand their different rights of appeal depending on when they apply. We understand that they will have a right to request an administrative review if they apply before March 2019. However those who apply after March 2019 will be entitled to a statutory right of appeal and it is vital that EU citizens are clear about their options before they apply. It is also important that EU citizens and their families understand the consequences of not applying for settled status and therefore not being protected by the Withdrawal Agreement.
Given the large number of Irish citizens in Scotland and the UK, and our very close connections with Ireland, it is vital that clarity is provided for Irish citizens about what status they will have, what rights will be attached to that status, and what the impact will be, if any, of applying or failing to apply for settled status. In conversations we have been having with EU citizens around Scotland a clear message is that Irish citizens are very anxious about the lack of detail available about their future rights and about the mixed messages they are getting about any obligation to apply for settled status. Irish citizens need clarity on their right to be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, and on their future rights to bring close family members to join them in the UK, whether or not they apply for settled status, and where those relationships are formed after the end of the transition period.
There are still some areas outlined in the Statement of Intent where we understand that work is on-going, including defining the scope for an application to be completed on behalf of a person without the capacity to complete it themselves, and making provision for existing close family members to join an EU citizen resident in the UK after the end of the transition period. I understand that our officials had a constructive meeting last week to discuss the draft rules and that they will continue to engage, particularly on the provisions around looked after children where the legal framework is different in Scotland and it is vital that these differences are recognised. In addition, the language on ‘suitability’ in rule EU16 needs to be carefully considered so as not to negatively impact on individuals who might in good faith submit information or documentation that proves to be inaccurate.
It is regrettable that there was no meaningful Ministerial engagement in advance of the publication of the draft rules and the Statement of Intent, something I specifically requested in my joint letter to you with Mark Drakeford last month. We welcome the recent telephone conversation we had with Ms Nokes and hope that this will signal a more open phase of engagement.
The Scottish Government wants to engage with you to ensure that we get the best possible outcome for EU citizens and we think the best way to achieve this is by working closely together. You will have received my further letter of 26 June requesting a meeting and I look forward to your response.
UK Government EU Settlement Scheme – Statement of Intent
Scottish Affairs Committee report on immigration.
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