THE Scottish Government has been warned it will "continue to haemorrhage" New Scots if it does not take further action to protect EU citizens after Brexit.

Earlier this week a Home Office minister said EU nationals may be deported from the UK if they do not sign up for settled status by the end-of-2020 deadline. 

There is concern over the impact this could have in Scotland where more than half of EU nationals have not yet signed up to the scheme, according to new figures from campaign group the3million. For the rest of the UK, it is understood about two-thirds of EU nationals have done so. 

Ellen Hofer, creative director of EU Citizens for an Independent Scotland, has warned that the positive narrative and "warm words" put out by the Scottish Government on immigration may have lulled New Scots "into a false sense of security".

She told The National that the difference in the number of applicants cannot be explained by "poor information access in Scotland."

"They have invested in that £5 per citizen head here while the overall rUK figure for investment in EU citizens track to settled status is about £3," Hofer explained. "These are the figures that I have from Ben MacPherson so it is quite surprising to see that EU citizens in Scotland, despite the higher investment, haven’t applied more, so it cannot be about the poor information access."

READ MORE: EU citizens will be deported if settled status deadline missed

She went on: "I think it’s down to the positive work of the Scottish Government who are very welcoming and inclusive, continue to repeat that we’re valued and welcome and also EU citizens have got much more clued up about the political landscape since the first indyref.

"And because of that everybody expects Scotland to make an actual move on independence. It just doesn’t look like that is going to happen given that the SNP currently doesn’t have a White Paper to campaign on because they’ve just recommissioned and announced one in September, a new one to follow up the Growth Commission. So unless Scotland actually decides to make concrete steps that protect EU citizens all the warm words are for nothing."

Hofer, who is originally from Germany, has warned that Scotland will "continue to haemorrhage" its New Scots because of increasing discrimination or the UK's hostile environment policy if "decisive" steps are not taken as soon as possible.

She went on: "The problem is that if the Scottish Government decide to just continue to provide positive narrative instead of taking constructive steps to really interfere and find ways of supporting EU citizens in Scotland beyond advising them to apply for settled status, which every SNP representative describes as reprehensible, then we are not going to get anywhere.

READ MORE: Brexit: EU citizens feel safer in Scotland than England, study finds

"I’m not saying that the Scottish Government is to blame for what is taking place with Brexit, I'm saying the Scottish Government is responsible to try and mitigate the effects of that and we’re not seeing it.

"There’s people who have left Scotland who are in a much worse situation just because they weren’t able to take the uncertainty. We’ve now heard that the Home Office is full on willing to follow through with deportations if people have not applied for settled status."

Yesterday Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell tweeted in response to Home Office minister Brandon Lewis's claim that EU citizens could be deported if they do not apply for settled status by its deadline. He wrote: "Yesterday @BrandonLewis was tweeting that he wanted our #EU “friends family & neighbours “ to stay. Today he is threatening to deport them. Well he won’t be doing that from Scotland……"

Hofer said the post shows why the Scottish Government should go further in its efforts to help EU citizens. "That to me, from a government minister, sounds like a promise - and I don’t understand how that kind of thing cannot be followed up by actual policy changes that go beyond settled status advice."

The campaigner says she has been in contact with the Scottish Government "multiple" times over two years in an effort to force the kind of decisive action she talks about. She has suggested a number of ways to push forward the changes, but added that as she is "just as affected as any other EU citizen in Scotland", it shouldn't "be on me to come up with a solution".

The National:

Hofer's suggestions have included the launch of a working group with a focus on providing the same level of protection to all residents of Scotland, a voluntary Scottish residency card scheme to address the lack of physical proof of settled status the Home Office grants and the implementation of a hotline to help EU nationals faced with discrimination, potentially using the set-up already utilised by the Citizens Advice Bureau which provides more general advice about living in the UK after Brexit to EU citizens.

"These are all suggestions, and I’ve got plenty more, that are perfectly doable and don’t require immigration to be devolved to the Scottish Government," she explained.

With just a few weeks left until the Brexit deadline, Hofer warned Scotland to avoid the "bitter loss" of losing large numbers of New Scots.

"I think this is an opportunity for the SNP, for the Scottish Government in general," she said. "I think it’s really hard to understand why they would miss the opportunity to strengthen the bond of friendship across Europe by actually protecting their citizens here. What more could you be wanting in terms of international recognition for the cause that the SNP and the Scottish Government is driving for.

"I have been really quite shocked because I’m a clear supporter of independence and I’m not here to make any trouble, I wish I wasn’t doing the job that I’m doing at the minute."