BREXIT has heaped pressure on Scotland’s nurseries with a third of EU staff leaving the sector since 2018, a new report has found.

The study, which was a repeat of research commissioned in 2017, found that the number of EU nationals working in childcare had dropped from around 2300 to below 1600 since Brexit.

The research - which was commissioned by the Scottish Government and carried out by Ipsos - found that EU nationals working in the childcare sector have opted to leave the country to “move back home to be with family”.

One child day care manager pointed to the UK’s current political atmosphere as the reason that EU nationals have decided to leave.

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They said: “The main reason for EU staff to leave has been the changing political climate and a desire to be closer to family during the pandemic.”

The staffing issues were described as a “crisis” by one manager, saying that they were having to take on staff who have “never worked with children in their life”.

They added: “It’s a harsh learning curve, but I don’t have a choice”.

Concerns have been raised that the issue will threaten the Scottish Government’s commitment to provide 1140 hours of free childcare, despite the number of those working in the sector rising to 38,000 from 33,400 in 2018.

The study also found that Covid had made roles in the sector less attractive, with the pandemic incentivising EU nationals to go back to their home countries.

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A nursery manager in east Scotland said: “The impact of the pandemic has been difficult. Staff are moving back home to be with family. EU settlement status changes have also made this more difficult.”

It was also reported that the number of those studying care at higher level in Scottish schools has plummeted, with a 70% drop in the last four years.

The number of pupils studying care dropped from 1300 in 2018 to 720 by 2020 and to around 370 in 2021 and 2022.

One nursery manager from southwest Scotland said: “In 2020 we had 18 people to interview [for a childcare practitioner post], now we’re lucky if we get any.”

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The SNP's Europe spokesperson, Dr Philippa Whitford, said the report highlighted another effect of the "Tories’ extreme Brexit". 

She added: "It’s not right that Scotland, and in this specific case children and families, are made to suffer because of the decisions made by Westminster against the wishes of the Scottish people.

“The sad reality is that this is just a small part of the long-reaching legacy of Brexit that will continue to harm Scotland and our economy for decades to come unless we take the steps to free ourselves from the damage of Westminster control forever by voting for independence.

“Reports like this one make it all the more important we grasp the opportunity to escape the chaos of Brexit sooner, rather than later.”

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Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said the staffing issues were "symptomatic of Boris Johnson's hard Tory Brexit". 

He added: "Brexit has hammered our economy and our exports and is having a huge impact on areas like education, social care and the health service, where freedom of movement was critical to workforce stability.

"The Brexit campaign was based on xenophobia, scaremongering and lies, so it is no surprise that the communities the Tories demonised are less likely to come here.

"Boris Johnson may be responsible for the Brexit calamity, but he didn't do it on his own. He couldn't have done it without the support of his cabinet, including Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. The people of Scotland rejected Brexit and the Tories' vision for it but could do nothing to stop it. With the powers of independence we can rejoin the EU as a full member state."

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.