Nicola Sturgeon has said immigration powers must be devolved so decision-making is put in the hands of the Scottish Parliament.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, she said the UK Government’s approach in handling the status of EU nationals during the Brexit process had stressed the need for changes to be made.
On Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May scrapped a £65 fee for EU citizens wanting to stay in the UK after Brexit on the same day as its registration policy was rolled out.
Last year, the Scottish Government pledged to pay the fee for EU citizens working in devolved public services.
The First Minister said: “I’m pleased that the Prime Minister has belatedly seen sense and accepted our argument that the unfair settled status fee should be scrapped.
“We’re very clear we want EU citizens to stay in Scotland.
“I don’t think there should be a requirement for people who already have their home in Scotland to apply for the right to stay here, I think that is grotesque.
“But while there is that requirement, the Scottish Government’s advice service, which will be delivered in partnership with Citizens Advice Scotland, will help ensure that EU citizens feel welcome, supported and valued.
“In addition to this, we’ve funded the EU Citizens Rights project to deliver outreach and awareness raising events with EU citizens across the country.
“Of course dropping the fee doesn’t change the fact that the UK Government is making EU citizens apply to retain their current rights and I think the Prime Minister’s approach to this and to migration more generally makes it all the more clear why it’s time for this Parliament to have powers over immigration.”
Ms Sturgeon said immigration policies being implemented at Westminster were not only morally wrong but “practically damaging” as well.
She said: “From the day after the Brexit referendum, I have been at pains to say to EU citizens that they are welcome here, this is their home and that we want them to stay.
“I regret deeply that people who have built their homes here, who consider this to be their home as much as I do or any of us in this Chamber do, are being made to apply for the right to stay here.
“I think that is awful and I can’t begin to imagine how that makes an EU national feel.
“In Scotland, we need people to want to come and live here and work here and study here. We need to grow our working age population.
“So as well as what the UK Government is doing being wrong in principle, it’s practically damaging for Scotland and that’s why the sooner we get these matters into our own hands and are able to take decisions here in Scotland, rather than have them taken in Westminster, the better for all of us”.
Labour MSP Pauline McNeill said: “The approach of the UK Government to European citizens, who’ve made their home in Scotland and the UK, is a slap in the face to their commitment to the United Kingdom, many of who have lived here longer in Scotland than in their country of birth.
“What the UK Government don’t seem to recognise is the rejection that those EU citizens feel.”