NICOLA Sturgeon has told European citizens Scotland “is as much your home as it is my home” while urging them to remain in the county after Brexit.

Speaking at a Robert Burns-themed event in Edinburgh to celebrate the positive impact of EU citizens and to announce further funding for the Stay in Scotland campaign, the First Minister said she understood the “resentment” people felt at having to apply for the right to stay in the UK.

She promised Scotland would continue to welcome EU nationals, while announcing more funding for the campaign, which has supported more than 4000 EU nationals with their settled status applications since its launch in April 2018. Under the UK Government’s settlement scheme, EU nationals can be granted settled status, or pre-settled status for those with less than five years’ continuous residence, or their application can be rejected.

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Sturgeon acknowledged that an additional £10,000 from the Scottish Government “is not a massive amount of money” but said it could make a “real, tangible difference”. Expressing “profound concerns” about the settled status scheme, she said the additional money would help people with their applications by enabling organisations such as Citizens Advice Scotland to “handle more referrals of complex cases”.

She said: “People look at what’s happened over Windrush, they look at the hostile environment the UK Government created and at some of the rhetoric around UK immigration policy and it’s understandable they feel concern about their future here.”

Addressing a conference room full of EU nationals, Sturgeon went on: “This event today gives me the opportunity to say again to every single person from another country, from Europe or further afield, who has chosen to come and live in Scotland: Thank you.

“Thank you for doing us the honour of choosing Scotland as your home. Thank you for the contribution you make to creating the country we live in today. And to say very clearly, unequivocally and as loudly as I possibly can: You are welcome here. This is your home. It is as much your home as it is my home.

“You will always be welcome here. We’re honoured that you’ve chosen to live here, and we want you to stay. We need to keep encouraging people to come here if we’re to keep our working-age population growing and making the contribution to our tax revenues that we need.”

Poland-born Gabriela Ingle said of the First Minister’s comments: “Everyone has been very reassured that EU citizens are welcome in Scotland.

“We’ve been reassured that Scotland is our home and this is exactly what we wanted to hear. There have been voices around since the Brexit referendum happened that we are not welcome but it never came from the Scottish Government.”

Ingle, who works for the charity Settled Scotland to help vulnerable Europeans keep their right to live and work in the UK, said many people were fearful of what might happen after Brexit. “We are lucky we are in Scotland because we’ve been reassured over and over again that this is our home and we are welcome here,” she said. “Scotland is my home, my children go to school and nursery here,

I work here, my husband works here, so we are part of society and thank goodness we feel welcome here.”

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Later, Sturgeon detailed how support for businesses is being stepped up in Scotland as the UK prepares to quit the EU.

The First Minister said she could “not wait for the confusion surrounding the UK Government’s Brexit negotiations to clear” before acting. She used a speech to the CBI’s International Trade conference in Edinburgh to set out efforts aimed at helping firms increase their exports.

The Scottish Government has already set a target of growing exports from a fifth of Scotland’s GDP to a quarter over a 10-year period.

Sturgeon said: “Brexit threatens to be hugely damaging to Scotland’s economy and presents a particular challenge to exporters as we are taken out of the world’s biggest single market. We cannot predict what will happen. What I can guarantee is that the Scottish Government will strengthen our international ties and an important part of that involves encouraging more businesses to export.”