SCOTLAND’S fragile economy could be undermined if EU nationals living in the country pack up and leave after Brexit, a committee of MSPs has said.
About 180,000 European Union nationals in Scotland are experiencing “imposed uncertainty” as a result of the EU vote and a fall in their numbers would leave Scotland a “narrower place”, Holyrood’s European committee said.
The MSPs said the UK government should instead consider the Scottish Government’s demand for a “differentiated” deal for immigration policy in Scotland when the UK leaves the EU.
The committee said the demographic risk Scotland faces if the number of EU migrants drops is “more acute” than for the UK as a whole.
Its report stated: “As the majority are of working age, they have increased the size of the working population in Scotland and offset the effects of an ageing population. With higher fertility rates, they have also helped reverse population decline.
“The committee therefore believes that there are acute risks to Scotland of a loss of the existing EU migrants or a decline in future migration.
“The committee heard of the precedents in countries such as Canada, Australia and Switzerland for different immigration policies within a state and believes that this must be considered for Scotland, and other parts of the UK, following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.”
More than 30,000 EU migrants work in hotels, restaurants and distribution, while 20,000 more are employed in public administration, education and health, according to the committee report published today.
Convener Joan McAlpine said the EU nationals living in Scotland have been left in a “state of limbo” while politicians prepare for negotiations on the Brexit process.
The SNP MSP said: “A ‘hard Brexit’ runs the risk of driving this valuable group of European citizens out of Scotland. That will have a devastating effect on the communities where EU citizens have made their home, businesses and key sectors of our economy.
“We’re therefore calling on the UK and Scottish governments to identify a differentiated solution for immigration policy in Scotland after Brexit as soon as possible.”
But Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said MSPs on the committee were “split”, and his party does not back a separate deal for Scotland.
A UK government spokesman said: “As we leave the EU, we must face the future together as one United Kingdom.
“We’re clear that we want protect the status of EU nationals already living here, and the only circumstances in which that wouldn’t be possible is if UK citizens’ rights in European member states were not protected in return.”