AMID the ongoing uncertainty regarding the UK’s departure from the EU, cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing has reiterated his message to EU citizens that they will be supported to remain in Scotland beyond Brexit.

The contribution by EU citizens to Scotland’s economy has been well documented over the course of the Brexit debacle and the essential role they play in the success and sustainability of Scotland’s rural and coastal areas has repeatedly been highlighted by Mr Ewing.

Approximately 5.2% of Scotland’s total workforce is made up of EU migrants, with the rural economy particularly reliant on people from all over the EU with a vital mix of skills to support key industries, including up to 10,000 EU citizens employed in food and drink, with an estimated 21,000 EU citizens employed in the tourism sector. It has been estimated that around 10,000 non-UK seasonal migrant workers are employed in the soft fruit and vegetable sector and over 4500 EU citizens are working in the Scottish fishing industry.

There are deep concerns facing the red meat industry, with Food Standards Scotland reports revealing that 95% of its official abattoir veterinarians are EU citizens.

Mr Ewing reiterated this commitment to ensuring Scotland’s support to EU citizens while visiting Pittenweem harbour: “This Government values the contribution EU citizens make to our economy and society, and we want people who are here already to know they will be supported to stay in Scotland. It is also important for people thinking of coming to Scotland to work, even for a season, that we are open for business and that you will be welcomed warmly.

“With EU citizens already making up 5.2% of our workforce – many of whom have chosen to make their lives here – it is clear that any restrictions on movement and access to EU workers would have a significant detrimental impact on rural and coastal Scotland. This could potentially lead to labour and skills shortages and a possible reduction in domestic produce in favour of imports,” he continued. “For example, 58% of our fish processing labour workforce comes from the EU, without which there is a real risk to the future success and sustainability of the rural and coastal economy and communities.

“Our message to people is therefore clear: you are welcome here, you contribute to this country’s diversity and prosperity, and we will do everything we can to help you stay in Scotland,” he concluded.