As I have mentioned in previous columns, many of my constituents who are EU nationals have contacted my office over the past year, increasingly worried about their status as the chaos of Brexit unfolds.
Scotland needs inward migration to ensure we develop and grow our economy. However, the UK Government proposes a single UK-wide immigration system ending freedom of movement, which will be very damaging across many economic sectors, and for our public services.
Perhaps more alarming is the damage it will do to many of our communities.
Last week members of the Scottish Government’s independent advisory group on migration gave evidence to Holyrood’s external affairs committee.
In response to my colleague, Kenneth Gibson MSP, Professor Rebecca Kay of Glasgow University agreed that some communities in Scotland might not be here in a decade or two if they are unable to attract working-age migrants. She also advised that this was not solely an issue for communities in rural or marginal areas but could also affect significant numbers of Scottish local areas.
The UK Government’s policy would allow visas for skilled workers sponsored by an employer and meeting a minimum salary, with a recommended level of £30,000. However, an estimated 63 per cent of workers in Scotland earn below £30,000.
The external affairs committee was advised that this policy could cut inward migration to Scotland by between one third and one half after 2020, which would contribute to a 5 per cent reduction in the working age population over the next 20 years.
Aside from the disruption and anxiety caused to our EU neighbours already living here, this policy would have a seriously damaging effect on Scotland.
The Scottish Government will do all in its power to encourage and assist EU citizens to make Scotland their home, so I was pleased last week to see the First Minister launch the Government’s “Stay in Scotland” initiative.
The First Minister made a commitment to EU citizens that Scotland remains their home as she promised to continue to make a strong case for their rights to be protected in any EU exit scenario.
She has written an open letter to EU citizens to confirm a new ‘Stay in Scotland’ package that will include £250,000 for community-based support across Scotland; a support and advice service for EU citizens with more complex needs or particular challenges and a toolkit for employers, including posters, factsheets, digital content and guide directing EU citizens to further guidance.
I have heard from many constituents over the last few months who feel that they haven’t been given enough information from the UK Government regarding their status after we leave the EU.
Many people who have contacted me are confused about the EU Settlement Scheme and what it entails, whilst others have concerns about their rights to work and travel in and out of the UK after Brexit.
I am happy, therefore, to be joining forces with the Rutherglen and Cambuslang Citizens Advice Bureau to offer support and advice for EU nationals who are concerned about Brexit.
I will be holding a joint surgery for EU nationals resident in Rutherglen and Cambuslang with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in the Cambuslang Institute between 11am and 1pm, next Thursday April 18th.
Myself and my staff will be on hand to try and answer any Brexit questions, and the Rutherglen and Cambuslang Citizens Advice Bureau will offer independent advice too.
I am delighted that so many EU citizens have made Rutherglen and Cambuslang their home, and I want them to know they will always be welcome here. EU nationals contribute so much culturally, socially and economically, and I’ll continue to support them in any way I can.
Date published: 8th April 2019