Here at SCVO, we love charities. The people behind them, the work they do and the disadvantaged who benefit as a result – it’s why we do what we do. As such, we believe every person who works to make a difference to Scottish communities should be valued, and that includes our colleagues who have come from other EU countries to live and work here. Scotland’s third sector is strengthened thanks to their contribution.

For many decades, citizens of other European nations have been free to travel to and work in Scotland, which has been of huge benefit to our country both culturally and economically. However, following the European Union referendum this freedom looks set to be curtailed, as the terms of Brexit mean that all EU citizens and their families in the UK will have to apply for permission to stay.

Despite not legally being required to leave Scotland, many EU nationals no longer feel welcome or confident enough to stay in Scotland long term. Already, many EU nationals who have called Scotland their home are choosing to move away. According to the Office for National Statistics, 117,000 EU nationals left the UK in 2016, the year of the referendum – a 36% increase on 2015. This is partly due to the outcome of the referendum, the rhetoric used throughout the campaign and the media coverage of it.

While the third sector can do little to influence immigration policy, we believe that as employers and employees, there is much we can do to encourage our EU friends and colleagues to stay and continue to make Scotland their home. It is crucial that we show solidarity with our European colleagues, make it absolutely clear that they are still very much welcome in Scotland, and to support them to continue doing the great work they do in our communities.

We know for third sector organisations (and frankly, anyone) it’s difficult to take the time to grasp the intricacies of the ongoing Brexit debate. So we’ve created this page with the aim to help you – third sector employers and employees – understand the background, the changes affecting our EU colleagues, and how you can support them to continue to feel welcome and valued in Scotland.

First things first – EU are Valued!

It is important to remind our EU colleagues that they are valued, they are welcome, and that we want them to stay and feel safe in our society. Incessant negative or harmful reporting around Brexit and the associated rhetoric in the press has a demoralising effect on many of us, but can be particularly hurtful to those it is clearly targeted against. We have a responsibility to counteract that. Talking to EU colleagues and asking if there is support or assistance they need is an important first step.


Following Brexit, those from other EU countries who are living in Scotland will have to apply through the Home Office for a residency document.

  • Those who have been continuously living in Scotland for five years or more will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’ which means they will be free to live here, have access to public funds and services and apply for British citizenship.
  • Those who won’t have been living in Scotland for five years by the time we leave the EU will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the five year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.
  • Those who have ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status will not be affected by the UK’s exit from the EU. So, providing EU citizens can show evidence of having been granted this status, they will not need to make any further applications for documentation.

Grey areas

Clarity is lacking about existing and future rights, including the ability to bring family to the UK and whether salary/income expectations will be put in place – as exists currently for non-EU migrants.

The Home Office have sought to assure EU citizens that they will not be required to give fingerprints or carry an ID card as a result of applying for settled status.

However settled status will be lost if an individual leaves the UK for a continuous period of two years, which many EU nationals will not be aware of (having never been required to abide by these rules previously).


It has been estimated that the cost of new documentation will be £65 – generating a gross amount of £195million were all three million EU nationals living in the UK to successfully apply. As explained in the diagram above, this decision is ‘voluntary’, but essentially mandatory if EU nationals wish to enjoy even some of the rights they currently do. SCVO are in the process of contacting the Scottish Government to discuss options to support EU nationals working in the third sector, following the First Minister’s announcement to contribute financially to the residency applciation costs ofEU nationals working in the public sector.

Case Studies

Immigration policy can seem like a difficult to understand or broach, but actually hearing from the people who are affected by it can make all the difference – and often tell you everything you need to know to better understand the situation.

These case studies, put together by the Home Office, may be of some use to EU friends and colleagues.

Challenging Hate Crime

Worryingly, between May and September 2017 Crimestoppers experienced an 88% increase in all hate crime contacts and a 40% increase on contacts regarding racism, compared to the previous five month period. Incidences of hate crime and racially motivated attacks can have a devastating impact on both the victim and their families. If you have any information about hate crime, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via their Anonymous Online Form.

In some cases victims/witnesses of Hate Crime do not feel comfortable reporting the matter directly to the Police and may be more comfortable reporting it to someone they are familiar with. As such, Police Scotland works with a wide variety of partners who perform the role of Third Party Reporting Centres. Staff within Third Party Reporting Centres have been trained to assist a victim or witness in submitting a report to the police and can make such a report on the victim/witnesses behalf. Find your nearest Third Party Reporting Centre here.

Useful resources

As with all things Brexit, the goalposts seem to be continuously moving. At SCVO, we will do our best to update this information regularly, and have a European Network e:bulletin that you can sign up to for all the latest news.

You can also sign up to these Home Office email updates, to keep abreast of the latest developments.

Campaign group the3million also provide useful information and advice for EU citizens living in the UK.

Read our media release – ‘Call for Scottish third sector to show value and support for EU nationals’.

Read Camphill Scotland’s report of the key findings from their survey on the potential impact of Brexit on their organisation – Camphill Survey – 13 September 2017.

Read our SCVO Briefing – EU Citizens Welcome

Read our Director of Public Affairs John Downie’s blog.