Rural Scotland and EU citizens

EU workforce is ‘essential’.

Continued opportunities for EU citizens to live and work in Scotland are essential to rural and coastal Scotland’s continued success and sustainability, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has said.

Approximately 5.2% of Scotland’s total workforce is made up of EU migrants, with the rural economy particularly reliant on people from all over the EU with a vital mix of skills to support key industries, including:

  • up to 10,000 EU citizens employed in food and drink
  • up to 10,000 non-UK seasonal migrant workers employed in the soft fruit and vegetable sector
  • over 4,500 EU citizens work in the Scottish fishing industry
  • Food Standards Scotland reports that 95% of official veterinarians are EU citizens
  • an estimated 21,000 EU citizens were employed in the tourism sector, accounting for 11.6% of all employed in the sector

The First Minister has made a commitment to EU citizens living here that they will be supported to remain in Scotland during and beyond the uncertainty associated with an EU exit.

Mr Ewing reiterated this commitment while visiting Pittenweem harbour, where he highlighted the importance of retaining freedom of movement for EU workers. He said:

“This Government values the contribution EU citizens make to our economy and society, and we want people who are here already to know they will be supported to stay in Scotland.  It is also important for people thinking of coming to Scotland to work, even for a season, that we are open for business and that you will be welcomed warmly.

“With EU citizens already making up 5.2% of our workforce – many of whom have chosen to make their lives here – it is clear that any restrictions on movement and access to EU workers would have a significant detrimental impact on rural and coastal Scotland. This could potentially lead to labour and skills shortages and a possible reduction in domestic produce in favour of imports. For example, 58% of our fish processing labour workforce comes from the EU, without which there is a real risk to the future success and sustainability of the rural and coastal economy and communities.

“Our message to people is therefore clear: you are welcome here, you contribute to this country’s diversity and prosperity, and we will do everything we can to help you stay in Scotland.”


EU citizens living in Scotland are to be supported to remain in Scotland during and beyond the uncertainty associated with an EU exit.

How EU exit might affect people and businesses is available


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