Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

European Union Citizens’ Rights

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 12th November 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

I am both Scottish and European; I am also a nationalist and an internationalist. I fully support the motion in the name of the minister and I urge members to speak with one voice at decision time tonight, to tell all our EU friends who have chosen to live here that they are welcome. EU citizens are clearly concerned about their status and are worried about what will happen to them in a post-Brexit scenario. I want them to stay and to continue to contribute to our country’s economy, culture and society.

I previously sent a letter to all the EU nationals in my Greenock and Inverclyde constituency to provide them with the information that was available at the time and to reaffirm that they are welcome here. Some of the responses that I received were full of gratitude. People wanted to thank me for that reaffirmation and to thank the First Minister for her continued support and her comments indicating that all EU nationals are welcome in Scotland.

No matter what politicians talk about or what figures that we bandy about in debates in the chamber and committees or outside the Parliament, we must remember that EU citizens are individual people. The UK Government could readily fix their plight if it wanted to. It is not just about the adults; it is about the children as well. Those individuals go about their business and contribute to the working environment and to making Scotland better. I thank them for choosing Scotland as the country that they want to live in and for calling Scotland their home.

No member of the Parliament would be pleased if the state told them that their circumstances were going to change or if they believed that their home might no longer be theirs if they were not allowed to live here any more. As Alex Rowley touched on earlier, the SCVO provided a very helpful briefing to members. It highlighted the fact that people

“will now be required to apply for permission to stay in their own homes and communities.”

The UK Government’s record on dealing with immigrants has not always been one to be proud of, as the Windrush scandal has proved. If Windrush tells us—and EU citizens who live here—anything, it is that the UK Government cannot be trusted on immigration. We have all heard stories of individuals who went to visit family and friends in the Caribbean, only to be refused entry when they came back to the UK. We also know that some people died when they went away on such visits. Their homes and their lives were in the UK. I do not blame EU citizens for being scared and apprehensive; I would be if I were in their situation. The UK Government’s settled status scheme is frustrating enough, but EU nationals who have lived here for less than five years are able to apply for only pre-settled status, which provides even less security for applicants and their children. A guaranteed right to remain? It is just shocking.

The Tory MEP Daniel Hannan made a useful comment in that regard. He is quoted as saying:

“I have had constituency cases of EU nationals being denied settled status despite living here for years. This is a breach of the assurances I and other Leavers gave during the referendum.”

Scotland is in this mess because of the demonising of migrants and the surge to the right in UK politics. Unfortunately, the UK Independence Party, the British National Party, the English Defence League and others have helped to sway some people’s views by claiming that migrants are not welcome.

As we know, the Conservatives’ actions have also been well documented—for example, those in relation to the Windrush scandal and the “Go home” van. We also saw Labour’s infamous “Controls on immigration” mug. That is despite parties in this Parliament agreeing that immigration into Scotland is both positive and essential.

I will read part of a paragraph from the Equal Opportunities Committee’s report on migration and trafficking from 2010. Some of the members of that committee are still in Parliament today. Paragraph 689 states:

The Committee believes that in this report it has been able to dispel many of the myths that have grown around migration. It found in evidence for example, that migrants’ demands on public services, including the health service are not as high as the general population’s; that migrants are housed largely in private rented accommodation rather than social housing; and that migrants do not depress local wages. More generally, there is also evidence available which states that migrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits and public services.”

As BMA Scotland’s briefing to members told us:

“The NHS has always relied on international doctors to provide a safe, high-quality and reliable level of service for patients and to fill gaps in the medical workforce.”

Scotland has an ageing population: the number of pensioners is projected to increase by a further 25 per cent over the next 25 years, with population growth over that period projected to be among the lowest across comparator European and UK countries. The UK Government’s half-baked and ill-conceived measures will not help in any way. They will make things harder for Scotland and for our constituents.

My message to every single EU citizen echoes the First Minister’s comments: you are welcome in Scotland, where you are needed. Thank you for choosing Scotland as your home. Please stay.