Publication - Research and analysis

Brexit: unheard voices - views from stakeholders across Scotland on leaving the EU

Published: 13 Jun 2019
External Affairs Directorate
Part of:
Brexit, Communities and third sector, Research

Views from stakeholders across Scotland on leaving the EU and our response.

28 page PDF

1.5 MB

28 page PDF

1.5 MB

Brexit: unheard voices - views from stakeholders across Scotland on leaving the EU
Non-UK EU Citizens

28 page PDF

1.5 MB

Non-UK EU Citizens

The UK’s decision to leave the EU will lead to fundamental changes to the rights of every citizen. For UK citizens that means loss of the freedom to live, work and study in any of the other 27 countries that make up the EU. For people living in Scotland from other parts of the EU it has meant having to live with the uncertainty of not knowing if they will be able to remain when the UK leaves the EU

EU Citizens’ Rights Project 

The project enabled engagement with EU citizens from the other 27 member states in Scotland in the lead up to leaving the EU. There were a number of strands to the work including: 

  • A research project identifying needs and concerns of EU27 citizens in Scotland that showed the impact already being felt by EU citizens in Scotland; 
  • Provision of a multi-lingual website providing information on citizens’ rights; 
  • Networking and capacity-building activities for EU27 citizens’ organisations in Scotland; and 
  • Outreach work to assist local community organisations in organising local events to provide information on citizens’ rights for EU27 citizens in Scotland.

The summary report received shows the reach of the overall project and good media coverage including: 

  • 34,327 unique visits on the website; 
  • 21,018 post reach on Facebook;
  • 2,025 followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram;
  • 1,107 tickets booked for free public events;
  • 400 contributors to the research on EU citizens’ needs; and
  • 11 events held across Scotland.

Some qualitative findings from the research project were that: 

  • Emotional and practical Brexit impacts were already being felt by EU Citizens; 
  • Losing rights has caused a lot of worry and stress for EU citizens; 
  • Settlement scheme necessitates further support for EU citizens, particularly among groups with more complex needs;
  • Calls for wide scale awareness raising of the settlement scheme; and
  • Noted that there was a positive difference in the official stance on migration in Scotland compared to other areas in the UK

"I think about it [Brexit] every day. Every day."

SCDI Event: Preparing for Brexit: Scotland and the Future of Migration Policy

In order to assist in preparations for Brexit and future growth, the summit facilitated discussions between a range of Scottish stakeholders from business, higher education, and third sector leaders. They were asked to consider and raise issues that need worked through as the UK prepares to leave the EU

Key issues arising from the UK Government’s proposals for a newpost-Brexit immigration system included:

  • The ability to continue to attract workers and their families, investors, visitors and students to Scotland; and 
  • How the Scottish Government’s proposals for a differentiated system within the UK framework, including a potential residency-based ‘Scottish visa’, would support our economic and demographic needs. 

Scottish Government response to the issues raised

Scotland is a welcoming and progressive country, and values the contribution of all those who choose to make Scotland their home. The contribution of EU citizens to our economy is vital. This means we need to retain our ability to recruit staff from inside and outside the EU, with cross-border mobility and freedom of movement being essential components. However, contributing to our economy is only a small part of the benefits EU citizens bring to our country. They are a vital part of our communities and society. They are our colleagues, our neighbours, our family and our friends. 

We are absolutely committed to supporting EU nationals to continue to live and work in Scotland and recently launched our Stay in Scotland campaign to provide practical information and support to help EU citizens through the settled status process. The Scottish Government has been clear from the outset that the rights of EU citizens who have chosen to make Scotland their home are of paramount importance. In the midst of the uncertainty and chaos of Brexit, the Stakeholder Engagement Fund has allowed community groups to help people to understand how leaving the EU will affect their rights and opportunities. 

The Scottish Government will continue to engage with SCDI and delegates from the event to ensure their views and concerns are raised with the UK Government, as well as feeding into policy development on a differentiated approach for Scotland. Scottish Government have been consistently clear that free movement, and all the advantages it brings, should be allowed to continue in Scotland.

"The positive take of the Scottish Government on migration is greatly reassuring."

Third sector organisations are extremely concerned about the potential workload that a no-deal exit would create on an already overburdened sector. 

Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire – South Lanarkshire’s Third Sector response to Brexit

Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire (VASLan) were provided funding in order to run and resource facilitated workshops, online surveys and conversations with third sector organisations in the South Lanarkshire area to be able to demonstrate the impact the UK’s exit from the European Union will have on these organisations, the services they provide and the clients and communities they work with. The workshops also allowed groups that are supported by VASLan to express their views on the UK’s withdrawal from Europe.

Some of the themes that emerged from the activity carried out by VASLan seeking the views of their stakeholders were:

  • Concerns of increasing demand on voluntary organisations in South Lanarkshire impacting on service delivery;
  • Impacts on future funding;
  • Stockpiling and cost of food; reduced access to food within foodbanks and community organisations;
  • Impact on EU Nationals within South Lanarkshire’s third sector; and
  • Increasing uncertainty around the whole process of leaving the EU.

One of the recommendations to come from VASLan’s work is that the views of organisations within South Lanarkshire on the decision to leave the EU need to be conveyed to government organisations. VASLan have already taken the step to engage with the Lanarkshire Local Resilience Plan working group, which contains a number of local and national government organisations, in order to communicate the views and findings from their consultations.

Midlothian Financial Inclusion Network – Action Planning for Food Security post Brexit

Midlothian Financial Inclusion Network (MFIN) explored food affordability and availability with local communities, and looked at how organisations dealing with financial inclusion and food can respond. The report noted that the UK imports around 31% (by value) of all its food from other EU countries and continued access to food is a key uncertainty surrounding leaving the EU

The work delivered a programme of community consultation events and in-depth discussions with partner organisations. These activities highlighted the implications for food security, price and availability in the area, and MFIN focused on the ability and capacity for a wider range of partners to work together to ensure that their stakeholders can still access quality affordable food, should the UK leave the EU

Issues highlighted

  • Concerns over food security have significantly increased over the last 8 years, with an acceleration since the EU referendum; there has been a 40% rise in food bank use with austerity and changes in welfare payments citied as causes; 
  • The chief cause of this increase in concern over food security is in relation to the UK’s decision to leave the EU;
  • Citizens in Midlothian are almost fully dependent on supermarkets as a source of food with very little arable land in the area providing fresh food locally; and
  • Concerns around food security was found to be a proxy indicator to wider personal, social and environmental issues in the community e.g. financial security, long-term illness, isolation and access to resources.

The report made the following key recommendations: 

  • Look at different approach to land use in Midlothian. A lot of good arable land being used for housing and there is an opportunity to rethink and develop a new approach to land use;
  • Finding ways to increase accessibility to fresh fruit and veg grown locally; additional effects would be to increase community empowerment, self-reliance, combat climate change and improve health and wellbeing; and
  • In the longer-term there is a need for increased collaboration with communities, non-governmental organisations, businesses and local government to improve food security.

"I probably would’ve been in a much less secure situation if I wasn’t working right now or was working for another employer who was not so supportive."

Scottish Government response to the issues raised

The Scottish Government will continue with its no-deal preparations to ensure that people will still have access to food and medicines in the event of the UK crashing out of the EU without an agreement in place. Communities across Scotland have identified concerns with food security and how Brexit might affect access to affordable, high quality food as access to tariff free markets is lost, increasing food prices and forcing more people to access foodbank services.

Brexit – and particularly the prospect of a no-deal outcome – poses a significant threat to Scotland’s third sector. It is disappointing that the UK Government still has not provided any detail on future funding arrangements. We share the concerns of Scotland’s third sector that the loss of structural funds without a clear replacement is a grave concern.

A toolkit for the third sector was developed by the Scottish Government, together with members of the Voluntary Sector Resilience Partnership, and published on 11 March 2019. It supplements other EU Exit resources on and