NICOLA Sturgeon has called for “immediate guarantees” on the residency status and rights of European Union nationals living in Scotland.
The First Minister made the demand in letters to Prime Minister David Cameron and the five candidates bidding to replace him following last week’s vote for Brexit.
Ms Sturgeon said it was “imperative” that the UK Government respected the rights of Scotland’s 173,000 EU citizens.
The plea was made before a meeting with consuls-general of EU member states and diplomats at her official residence, Bute House in Edinburgh, on Tuesday.
The summit follows 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%.
Ms Sturgeon said: “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.
“People from EU countries are an important part of Scotland’s future. I am therefore seeking immediate guarantees from the Prime Minister, and all Conservative leadership candidates, that the residency status and the other existing rights of the 173,000 EU nationals living in Scotland will remain unchanged, now or in the future. This is a commitment that can and should be made and enforced now.
“It is imperative that the UK Government respects those who have exercised their treaty rights and chosen to make a life in Scotland.
“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.
“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.”
Ms Sturgeon said she would listen to suggestions on how the Scottish Government could provide further reassurance to EU citizens in Scotland.
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.
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.”
The UK Government said David Cameron has moved to reassure European citizens living in the UK that there will be no immediate changes in their circumstances.
Speaking in the House of Commons last week the Prime Minister said: “Leave campaigners were fairly clear that they wanted to protect the rights of people who are already here who have come to live, work and study, but obviously the final clarification of that and of the rights of British people living in other parts of the European Union will have to wait for the complex negotiations.”