Scotland, a welcoming land

These are hard times for the future of immigration in the UK, Europe and the Western sphere in general. The Brits have decided to leave the union and one of the main reasons is immigration; thousands of refugees are dying in the Greek freezing cold to be part of the EU dream; and Trump’s future immigration policy does not sound promising at all. However, there is a tiny nation in the north west of Europe which is determined not to accept the general xenophobic derive and is willing to take advantage of what foreigners can contribute to its society.

Scotland has sometimes set a difference in the union. As a response to an article on The Guardian stating xenophobia against Swedes in the UK, Nicola Sturgeon commented: “[this is] a good moment to remind EU nationals living in Scotland that you are welcome here and we want you to stay.”

According to an article on the BBC from 2014, professor Robert Wright points out that despite Scotland having more tolerance to immigration in comparison to the rest of the UK, the amount of immigration in ratio to the UK is smaller, hence not comparable. Three years on, Scotland has seemed to prove its resilience and openness towards immigrants through policy; such as free education for European students, pro-immigration stance within Brexit and the efforts made by the Scottish Government to aid refugees into the country.

“Increasingly, the Scottish Government will celebrate the contribution of migrant groups,” says the Edinburgh University historian Wendy Ugolini. The fact that migrant communities have been or are part of Scottish society is thanks to political efforts, rather than an open mentality of the public.

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In the decade 2003-2013, overseas immigration doubled in Scotland and since then it has done nothing but grown. Taking into account that during the First and Second World Wars and the foreign communities that settled here, Scotland is a nation where many second and third generations of foreigners inhabit.

“The influx of thousands of foreign soldiers [during the WWII] had a dramatic impact on local life, and the spirit of a shared cause, combined with much goodwill, soon began to overcome the barriers of language and unfamiliarity”, the blog Polish Scottish Heritage quotes.

Ugolini states that “during the 20th Century we reached an idea of multiculturalism, and [perceived] diversity as a positive thing.”

However, she says; “what is interesting is that hostility towards immigrant groups always sleeps lightly, and that there is always the potential from the members of a migrant community to be perceived in some way as outsiders or as not belonging to the fabric of society.”

Migrant groups in Scotland, as in most nations, create groups for themselves and their culture. “Gathering in communities is an effort of foreigners to integrate to their new homelands, rather than isolate themselves from locals”, says the president of the Catalan Centre of Scotland, Erola Pairó. “In terms of others understanding our culture, traditions and mentality, it is a personal comfort and safety to have a community that you relate to and identify with, at your reach.”

Spanish are the fourth largest group of immigrants from Europe coming to Scotland, behind Romania, Poland and Italy. According to National Insurance Number Allocations to Adult Overseas Nationals’ Quarterly Report form June 2015, there was a 62% increase of immigration from the year before, of which 76% originated from Europe. Although statistics of the same report for 2016 report a slight decrease in immigration, Nicola Sturgeon made it clear in the New Statesman in October 2016 “we are one Scotland. We are home to all those who have chosen to live here. That is who and what we are.”

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