THERE were renewed calls yesterday for the UK government to halt the need for EU nationals to apply to remain to live here and guarantee their rights in law.

It came from the SNP’s immigration spokesperson at Westminster Stuart McDonald after two reports examined the demographic of EU nationals and their children in Scotland and their post-Brexit fears and hopes.

In the first report from the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity, Laurence Lessard-Phillips said more than 40 years of EU membership had transformed the makeup of the UK and Scotland, where, in 1981, EU nationals made up less than 1% of the population – rising to just over 3.9% at the time of the EU referendum.

“At the end of 2018, EU-born residents in Scotland, who overall accounted for 4.3% of the population, comprised between 0.8% and 11.4% of the resident population in local areas, with geographical distribution concentrated around Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, West Lothian, and Perth and Kinross,” he said.

The major change in distribution of Europeans here came after the EU enlargement rounds in the 2000s.

Between 2001 and 2011, the quota of EU nationals rose in all parts of Scotland, including areas which until then had had a small population of foreign-born residents.

“The demographic significance of children of EU nationals born in Scotland has been growing over time,” he said. “For children born to two EU parents in 2013-2017, the main countries of origin of parents are Poland, Romania, and Lithuania,” he said.

“Amongst all births to EU parents, Poland leads and Germany and Ireland are in second and third place respectively. These are also the main countries of origin in EU births with someone born in the UK.”

In their report, Nando Sigona and Marie Godin said that despite uncertainty over the outcome of Brexit, EU families in Scotland felt more welcome and safer living here than south of the border.

“This report is yet more evidence of the difference the fair and compassionate approach of the SNP Scottish Government is making compared to the hostile and insular approach of the Tories at Westminster,” said McDonald.

“The SNP will continue to stand up for and protect the rights of EU citizens – it is time the UK government followed suit by scrapping their hostile environment to ensure that all migrants in the UK feel welcomed and safe.”

He added: “And most urgently, the Home Office must stop forcing EU nationals to apply to stay – their rights should be guaranteed automatically in law, without the need for an application.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “EU citizens are our friends, family and neighbours and we want them to stay.

“Whether someone has pre-settled status or settled status, this means they have been accepted through the Scheme and have secured their rights in UK law.

“More than 1.1 million people have been granted status through the EU Settlement Scheme as of 31 August 2019.”