Only one in seven EU nationals living in Scotland has applied for settled status after Brexit, according to official figures.
Statistics published by the Home Office on Thursday indicate that about 31,400 people from EU countries currently residing in Scotland have applied to the UK’s settlement scheme.
It means the majority of the estimated 200,000 EU citizens living in Scotland have so far not submitted an application.
Under the scheme set out by the Home Office, EU citizens and their families need to prove their identity, show that they live in the UK, and declare any criminal convictions as part of applying for settled status.
The UK Government has indicated that whether a deal on Brexit is secured or not, EU citizens will have to apply for the scheme by December 31 2020.
Across the UK, 621,400 applications have been made, with 445,000 now assessed as “concluded”.
About two-thirds of those applications received settled status, with most assessed as being resident in the UK for five years or more.
A third of applicants were granted pre-settled status – generally assigned to those who have not been resident continuously for five years or more.
Colin Borland, director of devolved nations for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), warned that the number of EU workers in the UK could be “decimated” if the UK does not change its approach.
Mr Borland said: “Workers and business owners from the EU are incredibly important to local economies and communities across Scotland.
“This publication suggests that their numbers could be decimated unless there’s a significant change in approach from the UK Government.
“One in four small employers in Scotland have at least one employee from an EU country, and this figure rises in key industries and geographies.
“Of course employers should encourage their staff to sign up for this programme, but it can’t just be left to business.
“While it looks like two-thirds of applications are immediately successful, only one in seven EU nationals in Scotland have applied. UK ministers need to kick the tyres of this scheme before it is too late.”
The Home Office says 57 organisations across the UK have been awarded up to £9 million in funding to help EU citizens apply to the EU settlement scheme.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “EU citizens are our friends, neighbours and colleagues who contribute so much to this country. Whatever the outcome of Brexit we want them to stay.
“Our free and straightforward EU settlement scheme has already seen 750,000 applications – which is immensely encouraging. I hope this early success continues in the coming months.”