Medical Professionals (Freedom of Movement)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 4th October 2017.

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Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

11. To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the Law Society of Scotland’s warning that ending freedom of movement may deter medical professionals from moving here and have implications for people already living and working here. (S5O-01325)

I remind the chamber that I am a registered nurse.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

Scotland’s health workforce benefits enormously from the contribution that is made by staff from across the European Union, and we need to retain the ability to recruit freely from that diverse and experienced talent pool. I agree with the Law Society that any restrictions on the current free movement arrangements will inevitably pose recruitment and retention challenges for health boards.

I have met a number of EU staff directly, who have told me of colleagues who have already left Scotland. Staff are understandably anxious and uncertain about the impact of Brexit on their right to live and work in Scotland. Therefore, we urgently need clarity from the UK Government on future immigration policy.

The Scottish Government has signalled its desire to retain freedom of movement and access to the single market, and we will continue to do all that we can to protect Scotland’s interests in Europe.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that we need urgent clarity on what the rights of EU nationals who are working in the national health service will be after we are taken out of the EU?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

Yes, I do. A number of members have raised issues about recruitment and retention, and it is important that the Scottish Government does everything it can to grow the workforce in Scotland. We are doing that by expanding the number of training places in nursing, in medicine and elsewhere.

Stopping the flow to Scotland of EU nationals, who are an extremely important part of the workforce both for the here and now and for the future, is a retrograde step that will make the situation in Scotland much worse. I send out the message to EU citizens who are living here that they are very welcome and that we want them to stay. Indeed, we want future generations of EU citizens to come here and work in our health and care services.