Scotland politics

Sturgeon: 'Devil in the detail' of EU citizens deal

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Media captionNicola Sturgeon was speaking at the Royal Highland Show

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has cautioned that "the devil will be in the detail" of the UK government's offer to EU nationals over Brexit.

Prime Minister Theresa May has offered "settled status" to EU migrants who have lived in the UK for five years.

Ms Sturgeon welcomed the deal "so far as it goes" but said it was "disgraceful" that it had taken a year.

UK government minister Michael Gove, visiting Peterhead, called for "mature" talks over Brexit.

Further detail is yet to emerge about Mrs May's proposal, which was unveiled at a Brussels summit and which is dependent on EU states guaranteeing Britons the same rights.

European Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker has described the offer, which would apply to about three million EU citizens, as "a first step but not sufficient".

Speaking to the BBC during a visit to the Royal Highland Show, Ms Sturgeon said it was "disgraceful" that it had taken the UK government a year to come forward with any reassurance for EU migrants.

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Image caption Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the deal but said it had been delayed for too long

The SNP leader said: "I think we really need to see the detail of what she's proposing because the devil will be in the detail.

"It's not just about the right of people here to stay, but the real question is over what the cut-off point will be, what the situation will be for family members of EU nationals, and of course how their rights are to be protected in future.

"As a general principle I welcome it so far as it goes. I don't understand why it's taken a year for the UK government to give the commitment that she appeared to give last night but I think we will need to see the detail before there can be a considered view of whether or not it goes far enough."

Mrs May has pledged that "no one will face a cliff edge", calling her proposal a "fair and serious offer".

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Media captionMay: I want to give EU residents certainty

Friday marks one year to the day since the UK went to the polls in the EU referendum. Scottish voters backed Remain by 62% to 38% but the UK as a whole voted Leave by 52% to 48%.

The agriculture and fishing industries have become a key point of dispute between the UK and Scottish governments in the Brexit talks, due to issues of devolution and employment.

At a breakfast event earlier in the day, Ms Sturgeon said she would "work with anyone and everyone, including the UK government and other parties" to achieve "the least damaging approach possible" in the negotiations.

This came after Mr Gove hailed a "change in atmosphere" between the two governments during a visit to Peterhead for talks with fishing leaders.

'Really encouraged'

Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme, the UK environment secretary urged Ms Sturgeon to make a "fundamental alteration" in her approach while singling out Scotland's rural economy and environment secretaries for praise.

Mr Gove said: "I was talking to two representatives of the Scottish government yesterday, Fergus Ewing and Roseanna Cunningham, and I had a very cordial conversation with them.

"I think there is a change in the atmosphere. In the past, the Scottish government preferred grandstanding and showboating to actual constructive engagement. We now have an opportunity for a more constructive approach, and judging from the conversations that I had yesterday I think we are moving into a new phase.

"I was really encouraged by the approach that both of them took."

Image caption Mr Gove met fishing leaders in Peterhead

Mr Gove was pressed on whether he would back Holyrood having control over immigration, something he endorsed during the EU referendum campaign and which has become a particular issue over freedom of movement.

The environment secretary said: "What we need is an immigration policy that works in the interests of the whole United Kingdom, and that is shaped in accordance with the needs of our economy.

"I'm arguing for dialogue between Holyrood and the United Kingdom.

"Of course, what we want to do is as we move towards a new migration system, we want to make sure that works in accordance with industry, including the fish processing industry and the agriculture industry, and does so in a way which is consistently also with our aim to bring immigration down to levels which are manageable over time."

'Enormous benefit'

Ms Sturgeon also underlined the importance of freedom of movement to the agricultural industry.

She said: "EU workers are important to virtually all parts of the modern farming industry - from the laboratories of our research institutes to the fields of our fruit farms.

"The UK government placed a great deal of emphasis on restricting freedom of movement. That seems to be the key reason why it is not pursuing single market membership.

"But Scottish agriculture, and Scotland more generally, has benefitted enormously from freedom of movement. So as things stand, there is still a real danger that the UK government will abandon something which is good for Scotland - membership of the single market - in order to restrict something else which is good for Scotland - freedom of movement."

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