The UK Government will not allow Holyrood ministers to pay £65 settled status fees for European citizens who are working in Scotland’s public services, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister has already promised her government would pick up the cost for NHS staff and other public-sector workers who have come to live in Scotland from other parts of the European Union.
But she told the Health and Social Care Scotland conference in Glasgow the “UK Government will not allow third-party payments, thereby forcing EU citizens to pay it upfront”.
The Scottish Government will seek to reimburse these people afterwards.
There are around 13,000 citizens from other EU nations currently working in health and social care in Scotland – with this group making up 3.5% of the sector’s overall workforce.
In social care alone, some 7.3% of all registered nurses and 5.5% of all staff come from other European nations.
Ms Sturgeon said the “hostile environment” the UK Government has created for migrants has already resulted in a drop of nurses from Europe applying to work in Scotland.
She challenged politicians in Westminster to ditch the “unacceptable” settled status fee and instead “value the doctors, nurses and carers working day in, day out to provide care in our times of need”.
The First Minister said: “It is unacceptable that the UK Government insists on charging EU citizens, including children, a fee to apply for a status they are already entitled to.
“The Scottish Government is committed to paying the fee for EU citizens working in our devolved public services.
“However, the UK Government will not allow third-party payments, thereby forcing EU citizens to pay it up-front.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “EU citizens working in our public services are crucial to their successful delivery.
“It is of great concern that the more barriers the UK Government places on enabling people to stay in the UK, the more people could be forced to leave.
“In Scotland we are already seeing a drop in applications from nurses from across the EU – and that is hardly surprising given the hostile environment being created by UK Government policy.
“The UK Government has consistently failed to deliver a suitable migration policy for Scotland.
“Instead of forcing charges upon EU citizens, the UK Government should value the doctors, nurses and carers working day in, day out to provide care in our times of need, and drop the settled status fee.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The EU Settlement Scheme will make it simple and straightforward for EU citizens to get the status they need.
“It is a matter for individual employers to decide whether they wish to pay the EU Settlement Scheme fee on behalf of an applicant.
“The cost of applying to the scheme is less than the cost of renewing a British passport, and EU citizens have until June 2021 to apply.”