SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon has accused the Conservatives of “poisoning the well” of Brexit negotiations with their treatment of EU citizens in the UK.
Scotland’s first minister said the failure to guarantee they could stay was “tarnishing the UK’s reputation”.
Its thought three million citizens of other EU states live in the UK, with 1.2 million Britons living in Europe.
The PM has said she wants a reciprocal deal covering both groups’ rights to be struck at the earliest possible stage.
But on a campaign visit to St Andrews University, Ms Sturgeon said: “The Tories have left the millions of EU citizens who live and work in the UK in complete limbo and I know from my own discussions with people in other EU countries how badly this is tarnishing the UK’s reputation abroad.”
“It is utterly contemptible that the Tories continue to use human beings as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations – and in doing so, they are poisoning the well before talks have even begun.”
Theresa May has said she wants to “guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states, as early as we can” but argues that “we do need reciprocity – we need to have care and concern for UK citizens who are living in the European Union.”
Labour says it would unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU residents before talks start, if it wins power in the general election on 8 June.