Nicola Sturgeon pledges fees help for some EU citizens after Brexit

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The Scottish Government will pay the fees of European citizens working in the public sector if they want to gain "settled status" after Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The Scottish First Minister said covering the cost of this would help keep "vital workers" in the NHS and other services, but would also send an important message to Europeans living and working here.

It is estimated around 20,000 EU citizens work directly for Scotland's public sector, including the NHS, with many more employed in services such as social care.

Ms Sturgeon said she believed the UK Government was going to make Europeans living in Britain apply for "settled status" if they want to remain in the country post Brexit and could "possible charge a fee" for this.

Speaking on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show, the SNP leader said: "They haven't said what that fee would be but if it's the same as it is for residency it will be around £65.

"We will pay that for workers in the public sector. Why? Because it helps individuals, but it helps us keep vital workers in our NHS and public services and it sends a message to EU nationals that we want them to stay here because we welcome them."

She made the announcement as the SNP conference got under way in Glasgow, with Ms Sturgeon to use her speech there later this week to commit to exploring "all options" to secure EU citizens' status in the country.

The First Minister, who will address the conference on Tuesday, said: "EU citizens have made their lives here and are part of our community.

"They contribute to our economy, work in our universities, teach in our schools and work in our health service, just as those who were born in Scotland do.

"EU citizens make an enormous contribution and we must recognise that. After 18 months, many still do not have the answers they seek.

"As a result, some are choosing to leave and others who would have been attracted to the UK and Scotland no longer wish to come here. That is a disgrace.

"The UK Government must guarantee their rights and make the process for staying here as simple and easy as possible."