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I have always welcomed—inside and outside the chamber—the contribution of EU and non-EU migrants to Scotland, and I want to see us continue to welcome them to our shores, even after we leave the European Union. We cannot underestimate the important part that they play in our society and economy. That contribution is enormous, especially in our rural economy. Up to 10,000 people are employed in the food and drink sector, 5,000 in our fishing industry and 21,000 in Scotland’s vital tourism industry. In our universities, one fifth of academic researchers are from the continent. As of August this year, EU citizens make up about 4 per cent of our total population.
Although the debate over their contribution is welcome, the problem is that the tone of the debate is surely not. I add that the contribution of migrants is not just economic; it is also about diversifying and enriching our country and our society—as many members have rightly said. You will hear no notion that suggests otherwise from me, or from the Conservative group. Any suggestion otherwise is disappointing, although not surprising.
There have been nearly 93,000 applications for EU settled status in Scotland, but as some members have mentioned, there are still deficiencies in take-up. There is a duty on all of us—irrespective of our views on Brexit or other matters—to ensure that our constituents know about such schemes. That raises wider questions as to why—given that we have talked of Brexit, day in and day out, every day for the past three years—so many have not come forward to apply.
I listened with interest to the minister’s comments on that. To be fair to him, his actions are welcome interventions. If the premise is to increase awareness in certain communities, then it is right to take those actions.