NICOLA Sturgeon has called for “immediate guarantees” on the residency status and rights of European Union nationals living in Scotland. Apart from eastern and southern Europeans, the First Minister’s demand in letters to Prime Minister David Cameron and the five candidates bidding to replace him following last week’s vote for Brexit also affect Cypriots, whose numbers at Scottish universities have been rising in recent years.
Those studying or starting a course this year have already been told they will receive free tuition in Scotland for the duration of their studies despite the Brexit vote, officials have said.
Sturgeon told diplomats from EU member states at her official residence, Bute House in Edinburgh, that it was “imperative” that the UK Government respected the rights of Scotland’s 173,000 EU citizens, according to the Press Association.
“Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in Europe, yet citizens of EU countries who live, work and contribute to our country are understandably anxious and uncertain about what the UK referendum result means for them and their families,” she said.
“People from EU countries are an important part of our future. Scotland is still firmly in the EU and we are pursuing all options to maintain our EU status – something that I underlined in my meetings in Brussels in the last few days,” she said.
Sturgeon has held a series of talks in Brussels with European political leaders aimed at securing Scotland’s place in the EU, after voters north of the border backed remain by 62%.
“Scotland is still firmly in the EU and we are pursuing all options to maintain our EU status – something that I underlined in my meetings in Brussels in the last few days,” she said.
“Through the consular network I want to get the message out as far and as wide that we are an inclusive and outward-looking society that recognises the immense contribution EU citizens make to Scotland’s economy, society and culture.”
Sturgeon said she would listen to suggestions on how the Scottish Government could provide further reassurance to EU citizens in Scotland.
Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called for a joint EU, UK and Scottish Government statement to reassure universities and research institutions about the future of EU funding.
He said: “EU funding is vital to the research many of our universities, including those in Scotland, carry out.
“Research can be years in the planning. Already there has been speculation that researchers from the UK will be sidelined or excluded from taking part in new projects.
“To maintain confidence and avoid any confusion we need a joint statement from the EU, UK and Scottish governments to be issued immediately to all funding bodies, research institutions and universities. This would provide immediate and valuable reassurance.”
He added: “The UK and Scottish governments need to step in to guarantee the future of research and researchers, underwriting the sector to ensure we can continue to take part in European projects.”
At the same time, Germany’s Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Saturday that his country
should offer citizenship to young Britons living there, given that it was largely older voters in England and Wales who voted for ‘Brexit’ in last month’s referendum.
“That’s why we shouldn’t just pull up the drawbridge,” Gabriel said at a European conference of his Social Democrat (SPD) party in Berlin.
Gabriel, who is also Vice Chancellor, said Germany should think about what it could offer young Britons and added the SPD had always been in favour of allowing people dual citizenship.
“Let’s offer it to the young Brits who live in Germany, Italy or France so that they can remain EU citizens in this country,” he said.
The opposition Greens party has also called for Germany to make it easy for Britons living in Germany to get a German passport.