Scrapping EU freedom of movement ‘will damage Scotland’

Flags flown at half mast outside the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Ian Georgeson.
Flags flown at half mast outside the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Ian Georgeson.

Scrapping the European Union freedom of movement rule in a hard Brexit will be economically damaging for Scotland, a EU campaign group has warned.

The European Movement in Scotland (EMiS) report claims that if EU nationals are no longer able to live and work freely in Scotland - through one of the key tenets of EU membership - this risks hitting population growth, economic growth and tax revenues.

The group is calling for the Scottish Government to have “special treatment” in the Brexit negotiations and more control over immigration to enable Scotland to retain freedom of movement in the future.

The report states there are an estimated 181,000 EU nationals in Scotland - 119,000 or 66 per cent from Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia which joined the union in 2004.

The influx has boosted population growth - half of the net increase in the Scottish population between 2000 and 2015 has come from people born in EU countries and between 2010 and 2035 the Scottish population is projected to increase by 10.2 per cent above the EU average.

The report states EU migrants form some 30 per cent of employees in sectors such as food and drink, digital industries and hospitality and 16 per cent of academic staff in Scotland’s higher education sector are from the EU.

Colin Imrie, who complied the report, said: “Freedom of movement is an integral part of the single market because it has a strong economic purpose.

“We are lucky that Scottish political leaders from both left and right have been less emotive on the issue of freedom of movement than in England so we are able to conduct a more mature conversation about immigration and this fundamental freedom.

“The Scottish Government must be granted more authority over immigration by Westminster, and the UK needs to argue for this special treatment for Scotland to meet its particular economic needs in the Brexit negotiations.

“This would allow EU nationals to come and work freely in Scotland, and Scots could avail of the benefits of working across the entire European economic area, independent of the situation for the rest of the UK.

“Without freedom of movement we will see a reduction in tax revenues which will affect public services, while overall we face the prospect of the very welcome recent increase in the Scottish population going into reverse without the injection of new working-age people into the country as the population ages.”