EU citizens in Scotland will always have a home here, Nicola Sturgeon has said on the fifth anniversary of the Brexit vote.

Writing for Politico on the same day it was confirmed the UK Government will not extend the deadline for the EU settled status scheme, the First Minister told EU citizens to “please stay” in the country.

More than 5.6 million applications have been made to date under the scheme – including more than 276,000 from EU nationals living in Scotland.

However, there is a lack of reliable data on the exact number of EU citizens still needing to apply in order to remain in the UK. The deadline for applications is just a week away.

READ MORE: Settled status: UK Government rejects Holyrood demand to extend deadline

Recent research by the Independent Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements found that one in 10 EU citizens are thinking about leaving the UK after June 30, citing a lack of trust in the Westminster government and saying the UK has become less welcoming since the 2016 Brexit vote.

In her article, the First Minister says it is the Scottish Government’s view that EU citizens have made Scotland a “better place, enriching our country and contributing so much to the modern, diverse, European society we have become”. She adds that people already living here should not need to apply to retain rights they already have.

“Ours is a country that has benefited enormously from the freedom of movement we enjoyed as part of the EU,” the SNP leader wrote. “During our time as part of the bloc, we went from being a country of net outmigration to one where more people arrived than left. Our world-class universities, our agriculture sector, our care homes and sectors all across the economy also benefited.”

Sturgeon adds that while her government is trying to get as many EU citizens to apply for settled status as people, she is “concerned that many of our friends and neighbours may not yet have done so” – risking a “very uncertain future”.

The Home Office’s record “inspires little confidence” in the smooth running of the process from the end of June, she adds, and Holyrood’s wishes have been ignored by Westminster throughout the Brexit process – including today’s rejection of an extension to the settle status scheme.

“Like all countries, we are thinking deeply about how to build a better society and a better world after the crisis is over,” Sturgeon went on. “And for Scotland, I firmly believe our best future lies in once again joining the EU, which we were a part of for 47 years — this time as an independent country fully committed to the shared endeavor of EU membership and to our common European values.

“The people of Scotland may have lost — for now — the rights and responsibilities that come with EU citizenship, but we have not lost our commitment to European values. In the meantime, my heartfelt plea to all EU citizens in Scotland is this: You are part of us; please stay.”

Yesterday Jenny Gilruth, Scotland’s Europe minister, said a “backlog” of applications to the settled status scheme was “deeply concerning”.

The National:

Gilruth complained that “hundreds of thousands of applications – many of which will very likely be from our fellow citizens who wish to stay in Scotland – have yet to be processed by the Home Office”.

She stated: “It is just wrong that EU citizens who fail to apply by the deadline will suddenly become unlawfully resident in the UK.

“So the UK Government should make the common sense decision to extend the deadline, clear the backlog – and reform the scheme.”

UK immigration minister Kevin Foster stressed anyone who applies by next week’s deadline will “have their rights protected until the conclusion of their application by law”.

He added: “Our message very much is for people not to delay, and apply as soon as they can.”