Policy actions  2 of 4

EU and EEA citizens in Scotland

We believe that remaining in the EU and the single market, and continuing to benefit from the free movement of persons, is in the best interests of Scotland and the UK as a whole. Not only does Scotland (and the UK) benefit enormously from the contribution made by citizens of other EU countries, but we also benefit from the opportunity that free movement gives to Scots to live and work in other EU countries.

We are particularly concerned about protecting the rights of family members of EU citizens, the processes of applying for new settled status in the UK, and continued access to independent judicial redress. More detail on our position can be found in the First Minister's letter to EU citizens in Scotland.

We will do all we can to support the 223,000 EU citizens living in Scotland through this difficult time, and we will continue to push the UK Government to do the same.

EU and EEA citizens' rights

We recognise that this is a difficult time for EU and EEA citizens living in Scotland, many of whom have lived here for decades and built lives here with their families. EU and EEA citizens are understandably concerned about their future rights and status.

On 14 November 2018 the UK and EU agreed a draft withdrawal agreement text which was approved by the European Council on 25 November. The agreement includes a transition period of 21 months after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019. The agreement extends to EU citizens and their families who come to the UK during this transition period. You can find the full text of the agreement here.

On 6 December 2018 the UK Government published a policy paper setting out how the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 would be protected if no deal is reached with the EU.  

EU Settlement Scheme

On 15 June 2018 Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop and Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Finance Mark Drakeford wrote a joint letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid to highlight shared concerns over the EU Settlement Scheme. They expressed their concerns about people who may be at risk of missing out on settled status simply due to being unable to, or unaware that they can and need to apply.

As outlined in the letter, we are aware that EU citizens will be feeling anxious about applying for the Settlement Scheme. To ensure EU citizens in Scotland get as much support as possible, Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop announced on 7 October 2018 that we will establish a service to provide information and support on immigration and citizenship matters for EU citizens.

On 21 June 2018 the UK Government provided details on the Settlement Scheme for EU citizens.

The Home Office published an employer toolkit on 25 July 2018 to provide employers with the information to support EU citizens on the EU Settlement Scheme. The Home Office also published a toolkit for local authorities and community leaders on 3 December 2018.

Actions we have taken to date

We want EU and EEA citizens and their families to continue to make their lives here in Scotland. We have set out our position in Scotland's Place in Europe, in Scotland's Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment, and in Scotland's Place in Europe: Our Way Forward. All three publications make it clear that we believe the UK should remain in the European Single Market and continue to benefit from the free movement of people.

The First Minister, in her open letter to EU citizens immediately after the referendum, called on the UK Government to provide assurances that those living here would have their rights protected and to make it clear that Scotland remains a stable and open place to live, study, work and do business.

Scottish Ministers and officials are meeting with EU citizens and their families across the country to listen to their views and concerns. We have now held public events with EU citizens in Fife, Dundee, Glasgow,  Ayrshire and Aberdeen.

In response to the UK Government's paper setting out their negotiating position on citizens' rights, we published our position paper, Protecting the rights of EU citizens, in July 2017.

We also argued in our recent discussion paper Scotland's Population Needs and Migration Policy: Discussion Paper on Evidence, Policy and Powers for the Scottish Parliament for powers over migration so that we can have migration policies which meet the particular needs of Scotland, for example ensuring we have the labour we desperately need to give us the best economic prospects in the future.

Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) reports

On 11 September 2018, UK Migration Advisory Committee published a report on the impact of international students in the UK. This report set out eight recommendations including that international students should not be removed from the net migration statistics and an extension of the post-study leave period to 6 months for Master’s students. We were disappointed the MAC did not recommend a separate post-study work visa, despite this being a key theme in the evidence they received.

On 18 September 2018, UK Migration Advisory Committee published a report on the impact of EEA migration on the UK. This report set out 14 recommendations including that there should be no preferential system for EU migrants and that the salary threshold and immigration skills charge should be maintained and applied to EEA migrants. We believe that these recommendations do not reflect the evidence provided by employers in Scotland. We are disappointed in the recommendations and believe that this approach will be detrimental to the strength of Scotland’s economy and present unnecessary challenges for our thriving business community.

The MAC is clear about the positive impact of EEA migration noting that it had little or no impact on the employment rates, wages or training of the UK born workforce. This report confirms what the Scottish Government has been saying all along: EEA nationals contribute to public services far more than they take out. It is vital therefore, that Scotland continues to attract people from the EU and beyond to ensure we have the teachers, doctors, nurses, care workers our public services need.


UK Government resources

Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)

EU documents on Brexit negotiations with the UK:

Legal assistance