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19/12/18 17:30

Protecting EU citizens

Parliament backs bid to ditch "settled status" fees.

The Scottish Parliament has backed calls for the UK Government to scrap the fees EU citizens will be forced to pay to retain after Brexit the rights they already hold.

In March, the UK Government will introduce a settlement scheme where EU citizens and their family members will be required to apply to secure their rights through an online system.

A fee will apply not just to adults but to children and young people - potentially affecting 223,000 people in Scotland. The fee to apply will be £65 for people aged 16 or over and £32.50 for people aged under 16.

The Scottish Government has committed to paying the fee for EU citizens working in devolved public services, however the UK Government will not allow third party payments, thereby forcing EU citizens to pay up-front.

The call to drop the fees follows the UK Government's publication of its White Paper on a future immigration system for the UK, which has been criticised by organisations across Scotland including CBI Scotland, Federation of Small Business Scotland, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, the National Farmers Union of Scotland and Universities Scotland.

Speaking in Parliament following the debate which focussed on the welcome and positive contribution EU citizens make in Scotland, Migration Minister Ben Macpherson said:

"The turbulence and uncertainty of recent days and weeks - in fact, of the past two and a half years - has caused real anxiety for EU citizens in Scotland.

"Scotland faces challenges through long-term demographic trends - in particular, an ageing population, with not enough working age people coming through to replace those leaving the labour market.

"European migration has been good for Scots, and for Scotland. It has helped sustain the working age population, and has boosted our economic growth. EU citizens should not be charged a fee to retain rights to which they are already entitled.

"I have raised this issue with the UK Government, most recently with the UK Immigration Minister. I will continue to argue that there should be no fee.

"It is not just the Scottish Government calling for the fee to be scrapped. The overwhelming message from those I have spoken to, whether that's businesses, third sector organisations or EU citizens themselves, is that it is unfair that people are having to pay and to apply simply to keep their existing rights to live, work and study in Scotland."