Scotland needs freedom of movement

Doctors, nurses, dentists, clinicians from the EU: these people are vital for the health and well-being of Scotland and its population, all the more so during the current pandemic. Yet the UK Government is crowing about this week’s crushing Commons vote to give its Immigration Bill ending free movement of labour a second reading.

If they earn £25,000, can afford the NHS surcharge and so on

But the Scottish Government opposes the Bill tooth and bail – because iot ios not in the interests of Scotland. Here are just a few facts and figures to underline this case…


“EU citizens represent an important source of talent and make an important contribution to the workforce of Health Boards. EU citizens have filled vacancies where there have been acute shortages and in traditionally ‘hard-to-fill’ occupations across front-line community and hospital based health services and are represented across: medical and dental, nursing and midwifery, allied health professionals, scientific, technical and support staff.

One of the major advantages of the free movement of people, for Health Boards, is the increase in size of the talent pool from which specialists can be drawn. Equally, as compared with recruitment outwith the EU, employing an EU citizen is quicker and more cost effective as there are no additional regulatory burdens and charges (such as the Resident Labour Market Test, Tier 2 visa certificate charges and the Immigration Skills Charge that apply to non-EU workers). NHS Lothian, for example, told us that the EU talent pool assists in filling vacancies in specialties experiencing acute shortages including mental health, theatres, anaesthetics and paediatrics.

Boards have told us that they are concerned that losing EU citizens from the workforce may produce acute shortages that cannot be easily filled from within the domestic market and for which increased training and development opportunities will not provide a short or even medium term fix.” (see more here).


“The estimate of the percentage of people employed within adult social care and childcare that are non- UK EU nationals is 5.6%. Overall, there are around 176,000 people working within adult social care and childcare, so the prevalence estimate of 5.6% equates to 9,830 workers (see here).

In terms of absolute numbers of staff, the sectors with the most non- UK EU staff were Care Home for Adults (3,150), Housing support/Care at Home (2,850), and Day Care of Children (2,290). The sectors with the fewest were Childminding (20) and Adult Day Care (300).”

Care sector


“128,000 EU citizens aged 16 and over were in employment, making up 5.0% of total employment in Scotland. The employment rate for EU citizens was 76.8% – higher than the overall rate for Scotland. For those from EU8 countries the employment rate was even higher, at 82.4% compared with 70.7% for the older EU member states (the so-called ‘EU14’) and 73.3% for UK citizens. Around two-thirds of all EU citizens in employment in Scotland work in three industry sectors: distribution, hotels and restaurants (26.3%); public administration, education and health (20.6%); and banking, finance and insurance (19.5%).

In terms of education and skills, over a third (36.7%) of EU citizens of working age in Scotland have a degree level qualification or higher, compared to just over a quarter (27.6%) of UK nationals who have degree or higher qualifications. (See more here).

If current trends continue, net inward migration is projected to be the sole contributor to Scotland’s population growth; all of our population increase over the next 10 years is projected to come from migration (58% from net international migration and 42% from net migration from the rest of the UK), whereas in the UK as a whole the population is projected to increase due to gains from both net migration (54%) and natural change (46%).”