Nicola Sturgeon: EU nationals crucial to Scotland’s well-being

Nicola Sturgeon will say EU nationals are “crucial” to Scotland’s well-being as she appears before delegates in the French Parliament today.

Scotland’s First Minister will appear before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Assemblée Nationale, the lower house of the French legislature in Paris.

The SNP leader will attack the UK’s decision to end Freedom of Movement as part of its Brexit deal as a ‘self-defeating measure’ and pledge to give her support to EU citizens currently living in Scotland.

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First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon. (Photo by Andrew Milligan / POOL / AFP)

“Those EU citizens of course include 7,000 French people, who are our colleagues, friends, neighbours and in many cases our family. The Scottish Government is proud that they have done us the honour of making Scotland their home,” is expected to tell teh delegates.

“We will always stick up for their rights - in recent months we have lobbied successfully to ensure EU citizens would not have to pay a fee to obtain settled status in the UK.

“And we will always make it clear that EU citizens are welcome. In fact in the coming months, we plan to step up our efforts to encourage EU citizens to stay in Scotland.”

She was invited to address the 73-strong Foreign Affairs Committee by Marielle de Sarnez, the chair of the committee and former French Minister for European Affairs.

Ms Sturgeon’s is visiting the French capital to boost trade links and will also open the Scottish Government’s new office in the city today.

The impact of Brexit is likely to be damaging and long-lasting, the SNP leader will say.

“For me, this is one of the saddest parts of Brexit,” she will add.

“The UK Government is proclaiming the end of free movement as a victory – instead, it is a self-defeating measure. It removes opportunity from millions of people.

“It is an approach which is especially damaging to Scotland. Without freedom of movement there is a danger that our population will start to decline. We could face workforce shortages in rural areas, in our universities, in our care and health services. European nationals are not only very welcome in Scotland. They are crucial to our well-being.”

The SNP is opposing the the deal which Theresa May struck with EU leaders who are refusing to renegotiate and Ms Sturgeon will also hit out at the “red lines” set out by the UK Prime Minister.

“Given the existence of those red lines, I understand why the European Union believes that the deal agreed in November is the best which could be achieved,” Ms Sturgeon will add.

“And I appreciate that many people in France and across the EU would like the UK to just get on with it.

“But no government of Scotland which has the interests of this and future generations at heart could possibly support the current deal.”