‘An ugly, heartless policy’: Tories isolated as Holyrood debates EU settled status policy

SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing described the UK Government’s attempt to force EU citizens to register to remain in the UK as ‘abhorrent’

  • UK pilot scheme requires EU citizens living in the UK to register in order to remain here legally
  • The UK Government has already abandoned plans to impose a fee on those registering, following a concerted campaign from the SNP, Scottish Labour, the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Liberal Democrats
  • Tory MSP Stewart Alexander admitted he was “uncomfortable” with the policy, but stopped short of condemning it

CONTROVERSY over the UK Government’s policy of requiring EU citizens to register for ‘settled status’ in order to remain in the country today [7 March] reached Holyrood, during a debate on the matter brought by SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing.

This follows SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP’s branding of the policy as “heartless” in the House of Commons earlier this week.

Political opponents of the settled status scheme have leapt upon the case of Tove MacDonald, who came to Britain 59 years ago from Denmark, escaping Nazi-occupied Denmark, and who has now faced demands to register in order to remain in her adoptive country.

Recently interviewed by STV News, the grandmother said: “I got a letter to say that because of Brexit I had to register and I couldn’t understand why.

“Up to 200,000 EU nationals living in Scotland could be forced to register, under threat of deportation – and even though Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.” SNP MP Ian Blackford

“I thought ‘this couldn’t be right’, because I’ve been here for so many years. I thought it was absolutely crazy. It makes me feel very sad because this is my home and I feel more Scottish than Danish, I’ve got nowhere to go. This is my home.”

Blackford argued: “Under Theresa May’s damaging Brexit plans up to 200,000 EU nationals living in Scotland could be forced to register, under threat of deportation – and even though Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.

“The UK Government must end this heartless policy and its mistreatment of EU citizens living in Scotland and the UK. EU nationals are our friends, neighbours, colleagues and family members.”

“This is not who we are, Presiding Officer, and it is shaming for the UK Government and Ruth Davidson’s Tories in Scotland, who are happily going along with this.” SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing

Addressing the Holyrood chamber, Ewing said: “I find the UK Government’s approach to EU nationals to be abhorrent. For as a matter of principle, it is forcing individual citizens who have legally acquired rights… to make an application to the UK Government to seek to register in order to stay in the UK.

“The UK Government is forcing EU citizens to apply for rights that they already have. It is, Presiding Officer, nothing less than the ‘othering’ of EU citizens living in our country. Othering policies, students of history will know, are not without risk to societal cohesion.”

“EU nationals are our friends, they are our neighbours, they are our work colleagues, they are our fellow students, and they for many in fact family members.”

Ewing continued: “This is not who we are, Presiding Officer, and it is shaming for the UK Government and Ruth Davidson’s Tories in Scotland, who are happily going along with this – indeed, not one Tory MSP has seen fit to sign my motion.

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“The UK Government must now bring this sorry saga to an end and scrap this policy. It is of dubious legality and it must be viewed as being motivated by the anti-immigration factions that are now rife within the Tory party, right across the UK. It is an ugly, heartless policy, and it is causing considerable uncertainty, anxiety and distress.”

Ewing referred to the concerted campaign by the SNP, Scottish Labour, Scottish Greens and Scottish Liberal Democrats which successfully pressurised the UK Government to drop the proposed fees that would accompany settled status applications, and urged those parties to work with the Scottish Government to see the policy itself brought to an end.

Responding, Conservative MSP and Shadow Minister for Local Government Alexander Stewart said: “Recommendations will be taken on board,” emphasising that the scheme is currently a pilot.

Asked by Ewing why EU citizens are forced to apply for rights they already have, Stewart did not respond directly, but said: “I feel uncomfortable, I will not deny that fact.”

Stewart continued: “The UK Government will continue to welcome the best and the brightest to this country.”

Stewart added that he was “delighted” that the UK Government had abandoned its plans to charge EU citizens applying for settled status.

Picture courtesy of MPD01605

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