EU citizens' rights should be enshrined in law, says minister
By Lewis McKenzie and Tom Eden, PA Scotland
The Scottish Government has called on the UK Government to enshrine the rights of EU citizens in law.
Scotland's Migration Minister Ben Macpherson said that such a move should have been made immediately after the EU referendum in June 2016.
Speaking at the SNP conference in Aberdeen on Monday, Mr Macpherson also said that pre-settled status for EU citizens who want to stay in the UK after Brexit should be scrapped in favour of a registration process with no end date.
"The ending of freedom of movement and Brexit is a direct threat to our communities and to many of our businesses, but also it's an attack on who we are," Mr Macpherson said at a conference fringe event on EU citizens.
"We need to continue to be incredibly strong in pushing back on this really disgraceful anti-migrant feeling that there is at the heart of the Brexit movement.
"We, from the very beginning, have said that the UK Government should have, and still could, enshrine people's rights in law straight away.
"They should have done that as soon as they could have after the Brexit vote and we're continuing to call on them, both at Westminster and in Holyrood and beyond, to enshrine EU citizens' rights in law."
Earlier this month, Mr Macpherson wrote to the UK's Home Office Minister, Brandon Lewis, urging him to ditch the requirement that EU citizens must live in the UK for five years before being eligible for settled status.
Statistics published by the Home Office indicate that around 37% of EU citizens applying to stay in the UK have been granted pre-settled status.
Mr Macpherson said: "There's no need for an application process, we could declare EU citizens' rights in law and have a registration process over a period that didn't have an end date.
"However, the UK Government have decided on this application process of settled status and we will continue to oppose it and campaign for a declarative system.
"But while we have this application process of settled status, we also need to support people as they confront it."
Mr Macpherson added that the campaign to end pre-settled status would build on the work which saw the scrapping of the need for EU citizens to pay a fee of £65 to remain in the UK after Brexit earlier this year.
"We're now campaigning for the end of pre-settled status," said Mr Macpherson.
"We are saying if people are having to go through this settled status process, then at the very least, everyone should get full settled status because this idea of this differentiation between pre-settled status which doesn't have the same strength as settled status because people have been here five years, a very arbitrary measurement, is wrong."
The Scottish Government also announced on Monday that there would be £20,000 of financial backing for additional advice and support for EU citizens in Scotland.
A new charity, called Settled, has been created with the funding to further assist vulnerable people and those with complex needs with the application process to stay in the country after Brexit.
Nicolas Hatton, a trustee of Settled, said: "I am delighted the Scottish Government is investing in our outreach programme to vulnerable EU citizens living in Scotland.
"Together with the Citizens' Rights Project, we aim at leaving no-one behind, thus building a network of volunteers to guide, support and assist those who would struggle to apply for settled status because of their circumstances.
"The declaration by Brandon Lewis that EU citizens without a settled status could be deported after Brexit last week made it clear that we must do our utmost to help those at risk."