Employment, social protection and the continued right to live and work in Scotland, as well as freedom of movement to live and work across Europe, were among the themes raised by EU nationals from 24 member states during a dedicated event hosted by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday.
In the first gathering of its kind to be held in the UK, the First Minister and senior cabinet members listened to questions and concerns from the audience following the UK-wide vote to leave the EU.
During the Ask the FM event, which took place following a special European Cabinet meeting in Edinburgh, the First Minister pledged to take issues raised directly to the UK Government at the earliest opportunity, and promised that the interests of EU citizens will be ‘centre stage’ in the Scottish Government’s concerted efforts to protect Scotland’s interests.
The First Minister said: “Today’s event underlines just how important it is to me and to the Scottish Government to do everything we can to protect Scotland’s relationship with Europe – and equally it demonstrates the huge level of interest and concern among EU nationals living in Scotland.
“Our resounding message to those who attended today is that we are determined to protect their place and their future in Scotland. As I said on the morning of the EU referendum result, those people from across the EU who have done us the honour of making Scotland their home are welcome here. We understand that diversity makes a significant contribution to our economy, our society, our culture – and we would be poorer without you in many different ways.
“While Scotland voted decisively to remain in the EU, I was saddened, concerned and frustrated by the UK-wide vote to leave. I can only imagine the impact on those who are living here but who come from other EU countries: suddenly, having been being denied any say in the matter, entire families faced uncertainty about the future.
“That is why it is imperative the UK Government now gives the guarantees sought by all EU citizens, not just here in Scotland but across the UK, about their continued right to live and work here. And I will raise the issues aired here today directly with the UK Government at the earliest opportunity.
“However, my guarantee to EU citizens here in Scotland is this: I promise that the interests of all of you who already play such a big part in the success of our country, will be centre stage.
“The Prime Minister has committed to fully involving the Scottish Government in preparations for negotiations and the detailed discussions which will follow once Article 50 is triggered. But no one should be in any doubt – our involvement in that process will be with the intention of protecting Scotland’s place in Europe and the interests that are now threatened by the UK vote to leave.”