Attitudes to migration: is Scotland really different?

Scotland’s unique migration stance explored: fresh insights from surveys, comparative studies, and post-Brexit analysis.

It is generally accepted that Scotland is an outlier in the UK in terms of attitudes to migration. All the main political parties have embraced the case for increasing migration to Scotland for economic and demographic reasons. Migration is not a salient and contentious issue in the Scottish media or political debate in the way it is at the UK level. Moreover, surveys have suggested that the Scottish public is generally more welcoming of migrants than their counterparts in the rest of the UK. But how different is Scotland really, and what explains the divergence?

This event brings together three fresh perspectives, each based on new findings on migration to Scotland and public attitudes. Migration Policy Scotland will present findings from its recent survey on Scottish attitudes to migration and diversity (Dr Sarah Kyambi, Director of Migration Policy Scotland). Researchers from the University of Edinburgh will report on findings from BRIDGES, a major comparative study of political debate on migration in Europe (Prof Christina Boswell and Dr Saskia Smellie). Finally, a member of the UK’s Migration Advisory Committee will share a recent analysis of patterns of migration to Scotland since Brexit (Prof Sergi Pardos-Prado, University of Glasgow).


This transcript has been automatically generated so may feature errors. We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused.


scotland, migration, narratives, immigration, issue, uk, migrants, people, attitudes, saskia, christina, survey, scottish, media, talking, thinking, immigration issues, politicians, positive, terms


So welcome to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. My name is John Ball. I’m the President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. For those of you who don’t know anything about the RSE, it’s Scotland’s national Academy. A Fellowship organisation with approximately 1800 fellows from all different walks of life.


In the hopefully unlikely event, there’s some kind of emergency, then the thing to do is to follow the instructions of the RSE staff, you go out the front, and you shiver outside the dome restaurant, to your to your right.


So it’s a great honour for today’s event that to introduce Sir John Curtis, who will chair the session. Thank you.


Thank you very much, President. Welcome to everybody both in the room here in Edinburgh. And those of you who are following this event online, you are all most welcome to a subject which I guess is probably not talked about quite so much in Scotland as it is south of the border. And indeed, perhaps why that is the case is one of the reasons why the subject is being added today. But of course for


a part of the world, which is often thought to face a demographic time bomb. The issue of migration and whether or not migration is or is not a potential response to that issue is also a subject of some considerable debate. Anyway, I’ve got the pleasure this evening of not having to talk at all, but simply to introduce our speakers and to try to keep them in order.


First of all, Christine, Professor Christina Boswell from University of Edinburgh is going to provide a bit of an introduction to the evening and about the coverage of this event. That will be followed by Dr Saskia Smellie, who’s going to be talking about the BRIDGES project. Then we have Dr Sarah Kyambi from Migration Policy, Scotland, who’s going to talk about some of the attitudinal work that her organisation has done. And then finally, but by no means least, thanks to the power of the internet. Professor Sergi Pardos-Prado, from University of Glasgow, is also going to be talking about attitudes in Scotland. All of the principles speakers have been told they have 10 minutes. And I will be attempting to give them about a two minute warning through so therefore, we are aiming to try and ensure that at least a half of the 90 minutes or so that we have this evening, are an opportunity for you to ask questions, and for us to have a bit of a panel discussion. So with no more ado, I’m going to ask Christina to introduce the subject matter of the evening.


So thanks very much. And thanks to RSE for organising the event and to John for chairing. So we thought it would be helpful because we’ve got three speakers this evening who are approaching the issue from slightly different angles. And we thought it’d be really helpful to just provide an initial contextualization. So sort of framing, what are we trying to explore this evening. So the premise of the event, and I hope this was clear in that sort of publicity around the the event was that it’s often assumed that Scotland is quite distinct from the rest of the UK in terms of the politics of migration and public attitudes towards migration. And I think it’s fair to say, this is reflected in some of the survey data, which shows that the issue is less salient. So people are not as concerned about the issue of migration compared to other types of issues. All mainstream parties tend to have a generally benign attitude or, or a positive attitude towards net migration to Scotland. It’s not as prominent in the Scottish media as an issue. And I think importantly, as well, it’s framed in a very different way. And as John just alluded to, it’s often framed in the context of declining and ageing population. So concerns about demographic trends, whereas in the rest of the UK, and especially in England, it’s predominantly framed as a labour market issue. It’s about labour supply and labour shortages. So these are really important differences. So of course, then that leads us as social scientists to ask why. So what are the reasons what hypotheses might explain this difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK? And we’re going to be exploring some of those hypotheses if you’re happy with that word.


This evening, and some of the revolve around, you know, the history of out migration in Scotland, obviously, Scotland is traditionally a net sender rather than recipient of immigration, that might make a difference, as I mentioned, the demographic context, so concern about ageing populations, and also the composition of population. So as we have a higher proportion of elderly in the population that creates quite severe pressures in a number of different ways.


There is also this question about how those sorts of factors influence public attitudes. So, do we see fundamentally different public preferences around immigration in Scotland? And does that explain that, you know, political leaders are picking up on those differences? And then reflecting that in the way they debate the issue? Or is it something about political dynamics, which is a slightly different point. So this idea that, for example, you know, it’s not a devolved competence in Scotland. So the Scottish Government doesn’t actually have responsibility for deciding who can come to Scotland who can live in Scotland and who can stay in Scotland. And that means that it’s not held to account by opposition political parties on this issue. So there are lower incentives to mobilise public support around the issue, as compared to the UK level, for example. And would that change it a scenario where Scotland was independent? Would it become a more salient issue? And would political parties start to mobilise around it? I can actually see John nodding in the front row, I mean, there relevant experiences across Europe of those sorts of dynamics and how immigration can quite rapidly become politicised. So we’re going to address these questions from a number of different perspectives. So we start with Saskia, who’s talking about the BRIDGES project, which we were both involved in. And the bridges project is all about how narrative stories about migration shape, how we discuss and debate immigration in the media, or how it shapes public housing, that narrative shape public opinion, and how narratives then go on to influence policymaking. And while BRIDGES did focus at the UK level, it does raise a number of really important issues and insights into how those stories about migration and perhaps historical legacies and ways of framing the issue really do influence how the issue is sort of comes to be politicised or not. And that really provides a good starting for a starting point or context for our other two presentations. So the first of those presentations is from Sarah Kyambi and Sarah’s organisation has done some really, really interesting surveys of public opinion around immigration issues, which are provided really important new empirical data to understand differences between Scottish and rest of UK attitudes towards immigration. And Sergei, finally, who’s joining us online, has done a lot of work actually, of direct relevance to those hypotheses I mentioned. So thinking about how different demographic trends might be affecting public attitudes and also thinking about that politicisation of immigration, so we’ll hear from him as well. So I’m hoping that we’ll then be able to tease together those different perspectives, and that you will come away from this evening with a better understanding of not just the divergences and maybe are they exaggerated, or do they really exist and how pronounced are they, but also the causes? The reasons that explain why we see those divergences and as you will appreciate, it’s not a foregone conclusion. I mean, there are many different ways of explaining and accounting for those divergences. So without further ado, I will now hand over to our first speaker Saskia.


Thank you very much, Christina. So as Christina mentioned, I’m going to be discussing very briefly the BRIDGES project, which actually comes to an end today.


And hopefully this will provide a bit of context to the two subsequent presentations that really focusing on Scotland bearing in mind that the research we did as part of bBRIDGES focus focused on the UK level. Now the BRIDGES project. In the British project, Christina and I looked at migration narratives so the stories we tell about migrants and the causes and consequences of immigration. We looked at six countries the UK, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Spain with research teams working in all of those countries. We looked at 36 different events or migration events or episodes of intense political debate on immigration issues. And we’d coded and traced narratives in the media and political debates in Parliament and in policymaking.


So if we think about migration narratives now looking at the UK context, generally narratives could be grouped into three groups. So narrative


is in the media talking about the consequences and impact of migration, responsibility and blame around certain events.


A high inflows etc. And the causes of immigration push what we call push and pull factors. So the idea that the UK might be a soft touch or that everyone wants to come to the UK because you can get a job there, etc.


These reports are all online. So if you’re interested in the actual content of these narratives, I’d encourage you to go to the bBRIDGES project and have a read.


Now, some of the key findings here that I think are relevant for our debate this evening, where this is the centrality of politicians in this coverage. So the main characters or the sort of protagonists of these stories were predominantly politicians or migrants, and they tended to be either cast as victims or as villains.


Interestingly, though, here 40 of approximately 41% of the protagonists of these stories were politicians, where 36% were migrants, that stories on immigration issues. We then looked at, for example, direct quotes. And in the UK case, 49% of direct quotes in the coverage were from politicians, and 13% were from migrants themselves. So you really have the so called subject, perhaps the migrants really absent in this coverage.


This also says something about media coverage in the UK around what’s perceived as newsworthy. So we really had political interventions. So when a politician is made a politician made a statement about an immigration issue, really central to the coverage on on in the media. So if we might think of, for example, Cameron’s a swarm of migrants, quote, or there’s this sort of soundbite that was covered diversity across, you know, all channels, online, on Twitter, in newspapers and so on. And regardless of whether it was criticised critically engaged with or whether it was agreed with the repetition of this expression, swarm of migrants really disseminated this narrative of hordes that the gate if you like, the idea that we were being invaded by migrants is just an example. We also saw that narratives tended to align with long held established beliefs around immigration in the UK ideas of deserving and undeserving immigration, desirable and undesirable immigration, etc. And we saw that narratives in the media also tended to align across ideological lands. So if a newspaper was tended to be left wing or right wing, then narratives aligned.


Now if we think about Scotland, then what kind of things returning to what Christina mentioned? What kinds of things do we want to think about then? So is a difference that Scotland the Scottish media does not engage on immigrations as much or as Christina also mentioned, this idea that there’s perhaps more of a pro immigration political consensus in Scotland is that central given the centrality of political actors in media coverage.


If we then think about narratives, in political debate in Parliament, and in policymaking, we can categorise them in much the same way I then refer back to another report that’s online.


Here we saw the that high salience. So whether immigration was considered an important issue led to a proliferation of narratives, so lots of different narratives. We found that the media narratives again, and political narratives really did completely align along ideological lines.


Interestingly, we also found that the media could set the narrative agenda and not only negatively as in a negative anti immigration stance, but also could set a humanitarian narrative agenda. So this emerged in 2015, after the image of Alan Kurdi went viral online, you saw media actively set more humanitarian agenda pushing politically it’s under more pressure. We also saw that on Ukraine, there’s this idea that there’s perhaps a sort of window of opportunity. So in 2015, you saw the parliamentary recess, you saw fewer politicians making statements on immigration issues, and the media really filled that gap.


We also see the strategic deployment of narratives by politicians. This is perhaps unsurprising. But what was interesting was that we found that you could have the same narrative, especially established narratives. The one that really came up a lot was the idea of the UK having a humanitarian tradition that the UK is a country of refuge for asylum seekers and refugees. This was was instrumentalized, often by opposing politicians.


So you really see this deployment of narratives by political actors. And finally, we did not find a difference in narrative content in public political debate and in more policy coordinative and


So we’re talking here about white papers on immigration issues, or home office annual reports, policy documentation. So we see the same narratives, really travelling through into policy event venues. Again, if we think about Scotland now, we might want to think about then what role politicians are playing in framing immigration issues. And what might be different about Scotland? Is it that the media is not engaging in the same way? Is it that because of the political consensus, there’s less to report on, it’s just less politicised there for not coming up in political debate and so on? Or is it simply that it’s not a devolved competence, as Christina mentioned, and therefore not an issue?


So I’ll leave that there on the BRIDGES project. Now, I’m going to just present some slides that hopefully provide some wider context. This, these were sort of scene setting exercises from the BRIDGES project, but provide context for our next two presentations. So we mentioned the word salience the importance that the public allocate to immigration as an issue. So this is your barometer data on what do you think are the two most important issues facing your country at the moment, and we have data here in Germany, France, Hungary, Spain, the UK and Italy. And I’m not sure how clear it is from the back there. But the red line here that starts quite high in 2012, is the UK.


And then we see it peak, that’s Germany at the top there.


Interestingly here is to look at Hungary, sorry to look at Spain, which is the yellow line and to look at France, which is the green line, which is relatively stable over time.


If we then take a closer look at the UK, this is the issue index, very similar question immigration mentioned are the most important or other important issue facing Britain today, the blue line is most and other important issue or the green line is the most important issue. And here you see a real peak in salience in September 2015. I included a line there around the Brexit referendum as a point of context. And then you see immigration as the salient issue really dropping off into 2020. With, we then see an increase in salience again in recent years.


But let’s put that into context. So in September 2015, immigration was mentioned by 56% of respondents. And now in December of 2023, were looking at 29% of respondents.


It was then bearing in mind, we also looked at narratives in the media, we then looked at how salient immigration here it’s focusing on migration flows, were in the British press over time. So here again, from 2012, and two to 2022. And these are absolute numbers of articles in The Times, The Guardian, and of the Daily Mail, referring to migration flows. And here you see the obvious peak in 2015, and 16. But interestingly, you see this sort of increased coverage in recent years on immigration issues.


If we then look at the European social survey data and attitudes to immigration in the UK, so again, taking a longitudinal look so longer term, look at attitudes. This is perhaps not what you might expect. But you can see that it would appear that attitudes towards immigration have become more positive since 2014. So the question here is, is the UK made or worse or a bit better place to live by people coming here from other countries. And a final slide, let’s just put that into wider context of the other countries that we looked at here at the top left hand corner, you’ve got France than a top, across the top, Germany, Hungary, Italy, at the bottom there, Spain and the UK here. So you actually see that attitudes overall, are relatively stable, and are becoming more positive in many countries, although in Italy and Hungary, they were more negative in 2016, but generally becoming a little bit more positive. But notably, UK here is considerably more positive over time. And I’ll leave it there. Please take a look at our BRIDGES website to find all the data or the reports. Thank you.


Thank you, Saskia, that was not only interesting, but it was perfectly timed. And you’ve set a brilliant example for the rest of the evening.


So, Saskia has shown us not only talked about Scotland and about the UK more broadly, but she even got as far as hungry. Sarah is going to bring us back home now. And to look at how attitudes in Scotland compared with the rest of the UK Sarah


Thank you.


Yes, it’s formidable timekeeping, but also just really, really interesting project and interesting, interesting work. And I’m looking forward to reading some of that when I’m not trying to worry about what I’m going to say next.


So, as Christina mentioned, I run Migration Policy Scotland, we’re a third sector organisation set up to,


to try and build capacity on migration policy in Scotland. And that’s both to build more capacity, but also to equip it by building the kinds of data and evidence that we need to put some of that work on a more rational,


thoughtful footing. And that really is the mission at MPS.




so it’s really, it’s really delightful today to be able to tell you a little bit about the attitude survey, which forms a sort of a cornerstone of that kind of effort. Now, why did we Why did we set up MPS? We set it up because we believe that migration is of rising importance for Scotland.


And that there needed to be for some of the reasons Christina mentioned, like the demographics, some of the mentions around like the political divergence, and that complexity. And we thought, really, there was a meet growing need for an organisation that can help coordinate actors


drive better informed discussion, and dialogue, and create pieces of what I’m thinking of as a piece of insight infrastructure, which is what we think this survey is intended to become. So we have we had last year the first round of our Attitudes Survey.


And so it’s really in the early stages of development. And I would say attitudinal data is much more helpful for comparing trends rather than isolated figures. So I don’t think we should be cautious about what meaning we attribute to what we have here so far. And I also want to say that that from our view, you know, attitudinal data is not there to tell policymakers what to do. It’s there to inform policymakers about where publics are, I think the calculations within making policy on this matter require much more broader thinking around the trade offs the interrelationships than you can get from this kind of polling data.


That said, and I will skip over this quickly, because I think Saskia has settled some of the contexts, we do, I did want to say that we do have a had a rising warming of attitudes. And the second slide second graphic here is the UK topping the World Value Survey, list of 17 countries reported on here, in terms of both being less inclined to prevent people coming here or to set strict limits on migration. Now that data was collected in 2022, but just reported on, I think, last month.


But it’s absolutely fascinating. And now, I think it’s it’s useful when thinking about attitudes, data to step back a little bit and think about what correlates with positive views on migration. And we know from research that, you know, views sit on a spectrum. And on either end, you may have views that are not not open to much persuasion. But actually what you have is a majority who sit in the middle who are persuadable. And particularly if you do the kind of work I do, where we try to engage with publics and others on migration, those are the people that we’re interested in. And we’re trying to understand what they think, why they think it, what the scope for action is, therefore, in terms of what can we do on on migration that feels like it, it addresses both the benefits that migration offers, but also the challenges that it makes it.


So there, I would say,


we know that there is a degree of consistency in what shapes people’s attitudes. And therefore you might not think were both younger age groups, people with higher qualifications, people have higher social groups, people who are more urban and have more contacts with migrants generally have more positive attitudes. And in our survey, we found exactly that as well. So our survey finds the same kind of underlying factors.


But what is in our survey, and I’ll just skip over this. So we had eight questions. So this is still a very small survey, but it’s a representative sample of over 1000. And we focused on awareness and support for migration, perceived impacts of immigration, and social contact, and you can read the report on our website, if you Google Migration Policy Scotland.


So what did we find?


I think the first is the pie charts show show the the MPS survey results from last year.


And what we found is that in our survey, the Scottish public was the large proportion of respondents actually favoured an increase over a reduction in the number of migrants come to the UK.


And that’s an increase like so. On the other side is the immigration tracker that shows you a UK result for the same question. And you can see there that the level wanting an increase were more positive. And the level favouring a decrease was significantly less negative. I think that’s a very interesting result.


And again, it’s also very interesting because this differed greatly from the Kanto migration observatory polling that was done late last year where we had as high as 52, favouring a reduction in migration with just 14%, favouring an increase.


It’s also really interesting because it shows change over time, it reverses a finding from a decade ago, were actually 58% supported of the Scottish public supported a decrease in Scotland.


So from this data,


we think this is very, this is a very interesting finding. But I think, again, it’s the first finding, and we need to see how this emerges. It may be explained by other factors such as that our survey was considerably earlier in the year last year than these these surveys that came through in the autumn. So it might be that we had not caught quite as much of that returning upswing of concern, more negative concern about migration.


The next set of data that we have is around perceived income. And again, here in our survey, we found significant difference between our survey data and that for UK wide data in the immigration tracker.


Our, again, our report compares this also with the Kantar Media, the counter and migration observatory report. And the 2014 survey, were again, you see a similar picture. So we had more,


more being positive


in terms of seeing if the impact is positive rather than negative. That’s different to what the immigration trackers as where.


But what is really interesting in our data, again, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t hold too much store by these differences. The surveys are done at different points in time, they’re all in the same year, but they’re in different points in time. I wouldn’t be cautious about comparing them too directly. What I do think is really interesting is that we asked the question on impact, both at Scotland level, under local area level. And we found that our results at local area level were far more muted than they were at national level. And by national I mean Scotland. So they weren’t more or less the same. But they were more muted. And that that’s really interesting, because it reverses what we’d seen an attitudinal data about a decade ago, were generally local level responses in UK surveys tended to be more positive than national level responses. And I thought on a, you know, talk about narratives that that’s really interesting, because it seemed, at that time, you know, one of the hypothesis about how you would explain that is to say, Well, is it that media narratives give you the sense that migration is something really to be worried about, but at a local level, you think, well, actually, I don’t feel worried. Whereas, potentially, you have the opposite going on in Scotland, where media narratives or political narratives are more positive. And yet at local level, maybe people don’t really quite see what they think. But um, so I think, again, it’s a very early stage.


And but just to run through some of this impacts data, so we asked around different both positive and negatively framed impact. And I think here, that that was randomised in the survey. And I think what’s really interesting is people tended to agree with positive statements about impact, but they also tended to disagree about with negative statements around impact. So we think this is really, that that’s an indication that this is really people are thinking about their answers. And we get really consistent results. And what’s really interesting here, for instance, is to the both the helping to fill jobs for which it’s hard to find workers, I mean, we have 75%, either strongly agreeing or tending to agree on that. That’s very strongly positive. But also a question that we introduced that hasn’t really been asked in other surveys that I’m aware of, which is migration brings new people to areas which need them, where again, over and so that’s 59% positive on that. And that really changes the idea that we had previously that potentially understanding the contribution migration can make to facing demographic challenges is something that’s really more of an elite narrative than something that the general public understand. I think, certainly that result makes me feel like people think think that far more in a far more widespread way. So So I think that’s, that’s really encouraging in terms of thinking about some of that messaging permeating. I mean, it’s not not a long time ago that where we thought the best research evidence we had essentially stated that that was an elite narrative that didn’t really permeate.


But also on the negative, that’s my phone everything switched, everything switched off. That is, anyway. So, again, so we on accuracy tend to disagree. But I think I want to end on this slide as well, which I think is is interesting when you consider what attitudes to migration mean. So we were also asking about people’s attitudes to diversity. And we see very strongly that people are positive about seeing migration, you know, having different people living in Aramex an enjoyable place to live. And they’ve that they disagreed with wanting to live in an area with people with the same ethnic background, and believing that diversity is good for Scotland. And I think those responses need to be taken together with the other response to one of the questions, only 14 46% of our survey respondents actually saw themselves as, as having no social contact with immigrants. So while in most places, we see that that social contact tends to create more positive views about migration, that can’t really be the case with much of Scotland. And yet, we are seeing strongly positive views. And I think that’s really, that’s really, really interesting. And it’s something that we hope to, as our survey develops, that we can investigate further, both those issues, but also, as we go forward to a time where, you know, migration to Scotland is rising, we’re expecting it to go to areas of Scotland that had not experienced migration before. So I think it’s incredibly significant. That actually, we seem to be seeing positive views to a greater extent than seems to be correlated to the amount of experience of migration.


Thank you. So I think that’s the most innovative way I’ve known a speaker claiming bit of extra time for the tool. But anyway, she’s clearly out she clearly asked somebody to phone a friend.


So anyway, thank you. that was very, very interesting. Now, this is the moment when as a chair, you go nervously in your hope that the technology is going to work. Ah, there is.


So Sergei, welcome to this evening’s event. And thank you for joining us. So I should warn you that I will endeavour to give you about a two minute warning about two minutes towards the end. Okay.


But Sergei, as Christina said earlier, is University of Glasgow, he’s going to be talking about attitudes in Scotland. He’s also just so you know, he’s a member of the Migration Advisory Committee, which is responsible for advising the UK Government, about migration policy, though, of course, doubtless, he will say straight away, that the UK Government doesn’t always follow the advice at the Migration Advisory Committee gets it. But anyway, Sergey,


thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you anyway.


I hope you can hear me well, if the the chair is anxious about technology, I cannot even begin to tell you how the speaker feels about all this. But in any case, thank you so much for having me.


Yes, so attitudes to migration in Scotland. So if I could just summarise what I’m going to be developing in the next 10 minutes. So it sounds like levels of pro immigration sentiment in Scotland are higher. And this is of course, an incredibly interesting finding. And then when when listening to Sarah, and when listening to Saskia, the BRIDGES project, and all the great work that Migration Policy Scotland is doing, you know, it seems to be leading to this kind of finding. And then what I was trying to do was to delve a little bit deeper, not so much into the level, but into the distribution of this immigration sentiment across social groups. In other words, is Scottish society homogeneous in this sort of like pro immigration sentiment? Or are there the well known divides over immigration also present? And then the first conclusion of these of these little presentation is that while the levels of pro immigration sentiment are high, the well known divides over immigration, across educational groups, age groups, etc, are also there. Right? Which is very consistent with the recent data that Sarah was also presenting. Right? So anyways, this leads to a puzzle right? So those potential latent divides over immigration are there, why are they not more polity size and then


These are the three hypotheses that I wanted to rehearse with you and perhaps to be developed a little bit more during q&a. One potential hypothesis is that the territorial conflict is somewhat absorbing the immigration conflict. Hypothesis to it depends a little bit on the framing of the survey question that we use. And sometimes depending on how we ask on which aspect of migration, sometimes we get slightly different answers. And hypothesis three, which connects perhaps a little bit more with the work that I’ve been doing with my colleagues at the Migration Advisory Committee. Immigration, perhaps surprisingly, is really not a massive demographic phenomenon in Scotland yet, and also we didn’t find evidence of downward pressure, on wages because of immigration. So in other words, perhaps we’re talking about a demographic and economic phenomenon that needs unusually low threat, so to speak, in Scotland, for the time for the time being.


So as for the first part of this, sort of like little outline, I’m not going to go too much into detail about it, because Sarah was summarising this very, very well. But essentially, this is a graph telling us that divides over immigration are there, right. So this is basically a set of regression coefficients trying to predict negative views over the cultural impact of immigration in Scotland, on the basis of data from the Scottish elections study 2021, which is a huge project that we that we host at the University of Glasgow, and the pattern is exactly the same as what migration policies Scotland data was, was telling us. No. So for example, if you look at, you know, regression coefficients of different age groups on the on the on the top of this graph, values towards the right mean that belonging to this social group, increases negative attitudes towards immigration. And essentially, the first sort of like point estimates are telling us that compared to the youngest in our society, each age group, each older age group is a bit more anti immigrant than the youngest one. If you focus, for example, on university degree, surprise, surprise, highly educated people are less anti immigrant than sort of like people without a university degree, and more mothers, but statistically significant, and actually relevant relationships between immigration sentiment and income levels, compared to the lowest quintile in income in Scotland, middle high, and high income levels tend to be more positive towards immigration tend to reduce anti immigration sentiment. Anyway, this is a spectacularly boring graph for anybody, sort of like following attitudes towards immigration, because the same graph that I could show if you’re looking at British data, Italian data, French data, or Spanish data, so while we see perhaps an unusually positive level of pro immigration sentiment in Scotland, the divides are actually there. And we have good evidence that they are not negligible in magnitude, and very highly significant from a statistical sort of, like perspective. So what’s going on? Why are they so late? And why are we not talking more about them and so on? One potential hypotheses, which is not contradictory, with so many other hypotheses is that the territorial conflict these identity conflict is us versus them sort of thing is very much very much driven by the Constitutional divide or conflict, if you will, and not so much and not so much by the by the immigration debate, as such, you know, and in other words, the two things have aligned with one another, especially post Brexit. So here, you see average levels of anti immigrant sentiment over the economic impact of immigration on the left graph, or the cultural impact of immigration on the on the right graph, still on the basis of Scottish election study data. And here you see a very significant correlation of anti immigrant sentiment across partisan groups or across groups of voters with green voters and SNP voters being remarkably more positive towards immigration. Now, this realignment is relatively recent in history, because when looking at the immigration item that we had, in the earlier Scottish election survey in 2016, higher values mean, once again, more negative attitudes towards immigration. Here, the differences were actually not significant at all, at least not when comparing Scottish Nationalist Party voters with lib Liberal Democrats and also with Labour, right. So these differences have accentuated at a very rapid speed post Brexit, showing that immigration and territorial identities can actually realign very quickly, and they are very context dependent. Interestingly, this is something that we’ve seen in the context of Catalonia, and then people are going to be like, what is why is this guy talking about Catalonia now? Apart from the fact that he’s connecting from there right now, but you know, I thought it’s a relatively comparable case for so many obvious reasons. But


Also just to just to, just to sort of like tell you and I have more graphs to prove this point, but because of the very short presentation last decade during the maximum level of territorial confrontation between the pro independence movement and, and the central government, central state, positive immigration attitudes were very much correlated with Catalan National Identity similar to what’s happening in Scotland right now. However, in the context of a bit of a generalised sort of like this affection of the movement, because in a generalised perception that the independence pushes over, there’s a new radical right party that made it in the last local elections, gaining representation in some city councils and anti immigrant attitudes on the basis of a survey that came out last week, among Catalan identities went up by 30% by 30%, which is a huge change in public opinion. You know, from one trimester to the other, right? It reminded me of what happened in Quebec, one that particular qua lost a bit that push for independence after those two referenda in the 1990s. And they became actually much more anti immigrant, later on. Scottish nationalism, as we know, has evolved itself towards more civic versions of nationalism in the since the 80s onwards. So in other words, the relationship between immigration and territorial divides, seems to be very volatile, and context dependent, there is nothing in the DNA of a particular national identity that will make it more or less pro immigration. This is very much driven by these elite framings, that Saskia was talking about, and Sarah was was referring to as well. And they are very much context dependent in maximum confrontation with the central government. It looks like peripheral national identities, if I can call them like this, using sort of like political science terminology, they tend to see immigration more as an ally. But whenever the circumstances in the territorial debate change, immigrants can also be seen as a threat, very quickly, you know, so this is a bit of a cautionary tale in a way for what could happen also, you know, in terms of Scottish politics, the one hypothesis what, you know, the territorial confrontation and divides, and I’m aware that I’m approaching that my last two minutes or a minute and a half. But in any case, the second hypothesis is that sometimes respondents show different attitudes depending on how you frame the debate. Now newer research seems to suggest that the public differentiates very well between what in policymaking we call external regulation. So who gets in and why and how many migrants are allowed from internal regulation. So the migrants, the rights that migrants are granted, once in the destination country and the impact that migrants have, right? So those two things that are very present in the policymaker mind seem to be relatively present in the respondents of public opinion mind, which means that considering immigration good for for your economy or for your cultural life, does not mean that you agree with increasing immigration as such as a demographic phenomenon, right. And then, for example, if we look at the item that was available in the 2016, Scottish election study, which is, of course, probably spectacularly outdated, because it happened before the big realignment that we’ve witnessed post Brexit, but almost 48, and a half percent of people would strongly disagree and disagree across Scotland, that increasing immigration


was a good idea, right? So this is a substantial shift, probably very much driven by asking about these inflow. Even if Sarah was now telling us that perhaps recently this attitude has soften, or soften as well. And then finally, the third hypothesis, perhaps a bit more connected with the work that we’ve been doing the math, we were trying to analyse, what is the probability of observing economic migration or sort of like certificates of sponsorship, as we call it, according to the terminology of the new immigration system, as a function of you know, the region or nation in the UK that we were observing these economic migration. And surprisingly, to me as an immigrant living in Scotland, you know, a wonderful place to settle when compared to London, which is the region or in this case, the city attracting most immigration into the UK, as you will imagine, Scotland was the lowest the least likely nation in the UK to observe migration. So in other words, you know, compared to any other region or nation, Scotland receives way fewer economic migrants and the others, then what we try to do is to try to explain this, you know, huge disparity with wages structures, maybe in Scotland, you aren’t less not at all wages, structures in which levels in Scotland are actually, you know, quite high, comparatively speaking now in the UK, right, and then I’m finishing with this. So essentially, demographic pressure and


an immigration flows into Scotland are actually quite small. And therefore, the economic and potential demographic threats are read relatively easily in decreasing the saliency of this topic. I’m going to leave it there just throwing ideas, hopefully to be picked up later on in the q&a. Thank you so much, everybody.


Okay, thank you, Sergey, thank you for so much for being so self disciplined. Could I invite the three panellists who are physically here to come up onto the stage? And we now go into the q&a.


If you’ve got a question, just do that thing that you learned to do at school and put your hand up. But the one thing you probably didn’t learn to do at school, was to make sure you waited for the microphone before you articulated your question. But because we are streaming this, that’s actually quite important, otherwise, you won’t be heard. Those of you who are online, if you are interested, if you want to pose a question, please put it into the chat. And it will be articulated for you from within this room.


But in a good time honoured fashion, I’m going to start off by exercising chairs privilege to ask the first question. Now, in his presentation, Sergei declared himself to be a migrant to Scotland.


The question I want to ask is about as far as I am I also a migrant to Scotland?


When we talk about migration to Scotland, in other words, should we simply be talking about migration from outside the United Kingdom? Or is actually the migration issue in Scotland inevitably a different one. Because it’s not just about migration from outside the UK. It’s also about the ability of people like myself to exercise freedom of movement to move from England to Scotland.




I think in terms of international migration, clearly not at present. But at the same time, I think, what I find very,


what I use as a rule of thumb and trying to determine what what kind of definition of migrant to us is often what is the challenge I’m trying to address, either in a piece of research or on a piece of policy work. So I think there are circumstances in which if we were talking about bringing people to Scotland to address demographic issues, that that would encompass people that we might be bringing from other parts of the UK at the moment in terms of sorrow, and I’m thinking about this very much. I’m a, you know, I work in policy. So I’m thinking about it in terms of a problem. And within that problem, I might be looking at, you know, people from from the rest of the UK, and looking at kind of encouraging that kind of mobility. So I tend to tailor how I’m trying to define migration in terms of what what, what the underlying issue is.


Why is it why are the underlying issues different about migrants coming from outside the UK, I suppose, from fields coming from within the UK?


I mean, I’m happy to build on that a bit. I mean, I absolutely agree with Sarah, that it, you know, classifications partly depend on legal definitions, partly on policy definitions, but also crucially on how the issue is constructed as a problem, or as a benefit.


We did we deliberately tried to deconstruct this, let’s see, so so. So I guess the issue, for example, if it’s defined in here, we come to the narratives, of course, if it’s narrated, if the story is about, say welfare, who is entitled to access welfare, and that’s often been a lens through which immigration is considered quite often there are assumptions about say UK nationals having privileged access to welfare visa vie non nationals, or it might be an issue, some people might believe the length of stay in residency in the UK should determine access to welfare. So whether you’re constructed as a migrant who is or isn’t entitled to access, those sorts of resources might depend on those fault lines. For other forms of debate or other narratives, it might be an ethnicity issue. So traditionally, many countries have defined who is a member in terms of their racial identity or an ethnicity or religion. So there again, you might, you know, in the context of yourself, John, many people might say, Oh, well, John’s not a migrant because he’s, he’s white and he you know, he’s from from Ireland, and not from a, you know, country, which is traditionally constructed as a sort of othered in certain respects. So that’s another answer.


Alternatively, if it’s seen as a demographic issue,


certain populations that don’t say contribute demographically might be considered as more problematic and that by


It might be neutral across those other dimensions we just mentioned. So I mean, this is just to unpack how that narrative can shape who is seen as a migrant and why that’s,


Sergei, when it comes to the kind of survey questions that you’ve been presenting, how do we know what people understand? Who are answering that survey? What do they understand by the term migration? Can we be actually sure that they necessarily mean migration from outside the UK?


Yeah, I think it’s a very relevant question. And I think the honest answer is we don’t fully knowJohn. And I think that you’re tapping into something very interesting. I mean, the definition of migration is basically someone who’s born in a different country. And then the word country here can be sort of like ambiguous, right? And that it’s, you know, coming to the destination place for relatively permanent or in a relatively permanent timeframe. And here in the UK, we officially defined that as one year, but one year, two years, three years. But I think it is not far. So I think that there’s two answers to these. One of them is the how people understand the word migrant in questions. And I think that Saskia and Christina had a lot of interesting things to say about these narratives is constructions, etc. I think it’s not completely far fetched to suspect that they’re not thinking of you in a way, and that they are thinking more of me in those questions, but this is just an assumption that I cannot prove. And I think you’re totally right, the second part of the answer, and if I could share something would be the demographic bit and I’m just sharing something very briefly from the mock annual report 2022, when we saw that there is a bit of a paradox, on the one hand, population is projected to decline in Scotland, because of you know, these these negative natural growth as we were discussing, but net cross border migration, meaning people, people like John, essentially, that is projected to increase in Scotland, according to ons estimates, right. So while Scotland is going to be a demographic loser in the long run in the coming decades, is actually going to be a winner of intra UK migration, which is a slightly different aspect of what you’re asking.


Okay. All right. I just thought I’d deliberately ask an awkward question. But anybody who knows me knows I’ll do that. Right. Do we have some questions in the room? Please? Can I take the Lady first? And then the gentleman next to her, please?


Just please wait for the microphone.


I just wanted to make a comment on the previous, the previous discussion around, you know, who is a migrant? sure isn’t. And I just because I just wonder, by not being clear about who we mean, when we do our research. We sort of other the international migrants even further? And would it be helpful if we looked at migration and looked at internal and international migration together, in some cases, depending on what the focus is to break down this issue, that there aren’t commonalities or differences between them? Because I think, you know, I’m thinking about rural areas. And I know that the word white settlers are used they’re seen as migrants, quite often. And that can be a very contentious issue that there were there was a sort of anthropological study done many years ago, looking at that issue. And I think there’s this sort of blind spot in academic discussions around this. And I know that there are academics who can be argued very strongly that we should look at it.


The point that much, I should perhaps also declare huddling born and brought up about Cornwall, I can also tell you about attitudes towards people who come into the county from across the river tamer as well. But Saskia, I wonder if you could just pick this up for a moment? Because


I know this wasn’t the focus of your research. But when you look at the narratives that we tell about narratives in Scotland, do we in fact, talk do we make the distinction or do we, in fact, often in these discussions talk about both migration from within the UK as well as migration from outside the UK.


And mean, that’s that was unfortunately, a little bit beyond what we studied in in BRIDGES. But what what I perhaps can say is that there were no narratives that appeared in the British media now that the UK level or in parliament that brought up demographic issues that brought up different regions unless it was the arrival of small boats on the on the south coast. So if we’re thinking about the problem definition, if we’re thinking about internal movement or are international migration, the focus was absolutely international without any exception.


I don’t think too many people in England are worried about being swamped by hordes from Scotland. We’re just a wee bit too small. The gentleman here.


Barry, from COSLA really interesting, I want to ask you about whether or not we should be careful of treating Scotland as one homogenous whole, because I wonder if different parts have very different Migration Stories. You know, Glasgow has had lots of low scale immigration from Ireland or the subcontinent. But over a very long time, Edinburgh is now slated to become more diverse than Glasgow, the highlands have seen, like labour shortage, levels of migration in recent years. And also we’re seeing a big demographic shift in Scotland, from the West Coast to the East Coast. And the areas that are depopulating are on the West Coast. And the areas that are seeing rapid population growth, Mid Lothian East Lothian around Edinburgh, are seeing that not from migration, but from people moving within the UK. So I wonder if if we drill down into those questions? Does that start telling us that the different hypotheses apply differently in Scotland, different parts of Scotland? Perhaps Sarah, and then allow Sergei? Yeah.


I think that’s a great question. And you’re right, you know, that we are we actually at the new really interesting moment in terms of Scottish Scotland’s migration story with, you know, with with a change with where people are coming from, but also lots of internal change. And I think, certainly, in the data that we have, I mean, you can see that there was a limit about how much how granular an analysis one could do.


But in the next round of the survey, which went into the field lost, earlier this month, we have doubled the sample size, we have also a few more questions. And that will increase the scope for for more kind of geographic location analysis. So I’m, I’m very excited about that as we go forward, to try and understand better how that changes, but also, to really stress the need to understand that better because I think we have a that there is a risk with all this change and a changing future. And I think some of what Sergei has about, you know, the idea of the data about where migration is going to under the skilled worker visa, we are at a time of incredible change.


Some of which will be you know, bringing change migrants into parts of Scotland that haven’t seen them before. Certainly, we think we’re gonna see a change in in the complexion of migrants far more visible minorities in those inflows.


And I think that it’s really important that we managed to stay ahead of that. And while we’ve had a remarkably positive story over the last 20 years, not to take that for granted,


Because Sarah is gonna come to you. Isn’t that that isn’t just a point. It’s true of Scotland. It’s also true of the UK as a whole because, as it were, one of the ironies of the fallout from Brexit was that while we tighten the rules for people coming into the UK from the European Union, we actually liberalise the rules for people coming from outside the European Union. Of course, what’s happened is that as a result, we are seeing although migratory flows to the European Union are lower than they were before Brexit, migratory flows from outside the European Union have now grown, which is why Brexit has not delivered what people would expect it. But it does mean that as a result, we now have in terms of ethnic and religious origins, we now are getting a more diverse form of emigration than we had before 2020, which was probably not what mostly voters were expecting to happen, but anyway, but but but it does, therefore pose, you know, broader challenges to United Kingdom. Sergei, if you’ve got any thoughts about within Scotland variation?


Yeah, no, that was that was a great question. I mean, so some of the flows that the gentleman was referring to, were tapping into an urban rural kind of divide No, and that kind of internal flow. If it is true that migration is going to more urban settings like Edinburgh or Glasgow, you know, I don’t think that’s necessarily going to result in a sort of like negative turning in immigration attitudes, because we know that urban settings tend to be on average, more positive towards immigration. And this is partly because there’s a bit of a self selection of local populations, you know, more. The Cosmopolitan type, for some reason tends to go to live in cities, and the opposite, and the opposite might happen in some in some rural areas. We also know that immigration is not perceived as a threat when the labour market is doing is doing well. You know, in places with high demand in thriving economies, immigrants are not necessarily perceived as a threat. And the third reason that I would suspect these these kinds of inequality wouldn’t necessarily change. The pattern that we’re seeing is that sometimes positive attitudes and something that Sarah was saying as well, positive attitudes are seen in places where more contact with migrants can be seen. No. Sometimes you see more negative attitudes in places where actually there’s no immigration at all. No. So that kind of inequality. It’s true is there in terms of, you know, internal Scottish flows. However, they seem to be tapping into this urban rural divide, that shouldn’t change the overall pattern we’ve been describing up until now.


Christina Saskia, did you want to come in on this particular subject? Fine. Okay. Are you happy to sit right? Yes, we’ve got a question from outside the room?


Yes, we do. We’ve got one from our online. And that’s coming from Agnieszka who’s had, what is the difference between migrant communities and ethnic minorities? When do we start referring to them as different groups?


Christina might be one for you to start with, given we’ve already started talking about definitions of migrants.


Yeah. So migrants are typically we will we typically refer to them as first generation migrants. So they’re the people that have actually moved country. And, and the definition is, you know, if you’re a migrant, you will have relocated internationally for more than 12 months as Sir, you mentioned. Now, over time, you might then naturalise and become a citizen of your country of destination, for example. And then, you know, you would be a national of that country, you might still see yourself or others might still see you as a migrant. But then for both you and then for your children for the next generation, what we call second and then third generation migrants, we do use that terminology. Typically, that grouping is more likely to be labelled as an ethnic minority group or an ethnic group, rather than as migrants, because they are not the ones who have actively moved in their lifetime. So I guess that’s how I would generally answer the question. I don’t know whether others would would want to nuance that or introduce any variation to that to that broad response. I mean, I guess it does raise that issue, which Sergei touched on it’s interesting segue, you mentioned some recent German Research, saying that people have quite different attitudes towards income are so new arrivals versus ethnic minority groups, or sort of second or third or fourth generation migrants who settled a long time ago in the country of origin or might be might might go back centuries, as an ethnic minority, and in that in that country. I mean, it’s interesting, I don’t think that’s very surprising or new in the UK context, where in terms of political discourse, since the 1960s, there has been this clear distinction in the way political parties talk about and mobilise around immigration issues between what we do about newcomers and how many more people we want coming into our country and settling in our country vis a vis, what’s often termed integration. So what we do, or how we deal with issues around assimilation or integration or issues of diversity, for those who have settled been settled for a long time, and their children and their grandchildren, and so on. And typically, mobilisation is tend to feel safer around new comers than it has around mobilising around ethnic minorities who are permanently resident a settled etc. And that’s partly because it’s seen as potentially provoking forms of discrimination and racism, and creating all sorts of potential social divisions and problems if we start stirring up negative attitudes towards those who’ve been settled for a long time in the UK, and clearly members in a British citizens and nationals group, because there’s also of course, because a crucial feature of a lot of migration into the UK, is that they arrived with citizens rights, thanks to the 1948 British Nationality Act, which is a wonderful piece of freedom of movement within that within the Commonwealth. And that that’s, that’s important. So once they’re here, they have votes, and they therefore have every political leverage. So did you want to come in? So? Yeah, I mean, just to, to maybe build on that. And potentially, this is where the question is going. And it links into your opening question, as well.


I mean, while these two categories in a way are distinct, of course, the way people respond to surveys and so on, is, you know, often people have very mixed views and cannot tell


you often you can’t tell by looking. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t, you know, and but also that, that you that sometimes,


you know, views on migration are and politics or migration is used as a dog whistle for politics on race.


And that that obviously plays out quite differently. Maybe in Scotland, where, you know, the last 20 years of freedom of movement maybe hasn’t had that. So much of that dimension in it even though I think it will have to add to some degree with people coming mainly from Central and Eastern Europe. So I think I think there’s a lot of


You know, these these things, these issues, the complex and overlapping? And I think particularly at a time when they are changing so significantly, it feels very important to try and search for them. Yes, thank you, you know, just to just to agree with many of the things that Christina was saying, I think the selection plus integration Nexus is an important one. And indeed, it has been a driving force in in British immigration policymaking and immigration matters. And now we’re discovering that it also matters for public opinion. Also, the research that I mentioned in passing, is showing us by helping and colleagues in Mannheim University and other German universities, they are telling us basically, for people with a negative predisposition towards immigration,


this policy combination of a hard border, but an inclusive, more softer, sort of like, insight of the immigration system is something that they are ready to agree with now. However, the the external regulation needs to be harder. And this is one of the potential explained explanations why as some of you highlighted why attitudes in the UK paradoxically, according to some people have softened after Brexit, because this idea that immigration was controlled, and now we have control over our borders kicked in, and then some people sort of relaxed. However, we’ll see how this pans out in the future, when people realise what John was saying that actually, we have more net migration than ever is going to be more diverse than ever not, but that’s going to be a different issue. Okay. All right. Do we have any more questions in the room? Please? Right? Can I take the towards the back? And then I’ll take the gentleman who’s further forward.


Thank you really interesting. So far. My question relates to the definition of an immigrant. And potentially the, the definition that Scottish people have is different to people in the rest of the UK. So for example, in Scotland, you might consider ourselves from England or maybe Northern Ireland as an immigrant, whereas people from England may not think that people from Scotland are. So maybe that shapes the difference in attitudes between Scotland in the rest of the UK that we see that people coming from England, or Northern Ireland is positive. So we see people coming from beyond the UK also as positive. And maybe it doesn’t work the same way if you’re in England, and potentially the same reason going for Brexit, that people maybe voted


not really understand the issue. And the definition, for example, voting for Brexit, because it didn’t like immigration from outside the EU and not understanding that Brexit was only issues within the EU. Yeah, that’s me. Okay. That’s an interesting point of view that it’s because of people like me that people in Scotland are therefore happy with people who come from outside the UK


really want to respond to that. I mean, I have I’ve seen the argument put in, in I believe it was in Brexit land around that, that the defeat, the difference in Scotland is, is that the other is the English


rather than the migrant, if you see what I mean. So that’s your other that that sentiment is excluded. And somehow, you know, kind of cast aspersions upon. But this takes us to a crucial point that Sergei mentioned in his talk, which is the character of the nationalist movement in Scotland, right. And that, you know, you can argue that some of the smaller nationalism that you see in England and suddenly this has been argued by people like Elsa Henderson


tends to be ethnocentric. In its conception, ie you’re interested in primary, you’re interesting in wanting to have a country where you have people that are ethnically similar to you. Scotland is always has this Civic conception of Scotland. And the SNP are quite happy to have me so long as I’m willing to live here and stay here. And that therefore, as a result, you again, it comes back to elite level discourse, which we’ve talked about the throughout this evening, which is that the character of public attitudes isn’t necessarily simply a function of people’s education or their experience, etc. But it’s also a function of the discourse within which they operate. And that because the Nationalist Party in Scotland is very much a civic movement, and is frankly quite touchy about any suggestion that is in any way anti English or in any way ethnocentric that you therefore get a very different kind of discourse, but anyway.


Yes, Saskia? Um, could I just build on what you’ve what you’ve shared, because that’s certainly played out in the narratives emerging in parliamentary debate debate from the SNP so


definitely around


supporting neighbouring countries in times of crisis, whether it was in the 2015 2016, so called European crisis, or on Ukraine and and now we see the narrative of Scotland being more pro immigration, really following through into, you know, into policy when Scotland became a super sponsor for Ukrainians. So


that’s certainly the point.


But you’re making certainly is borne out in the narrative analysis as well. Okay, there was a gentleman further forward here with a kind of greyish. Sorry, I’m terrible that colours, my wife will tell you. I think we’ve got the point. Excellent. Okay. Yeah, thanks so very much for that. It’s really interesting. One of the things that are wanting to know is, Have you’ve thought about asking people in Scotland, what their understanding of migration is historically? And in other words, have you asked people about their family’s experience of migration, you know, migration to Canada, or Australia, whatever? And does that colour the way that people actually think about migration in Scotland? And does that affect you know, the results of your survey? Survey? Do you want to pick that up at all?


Yeah, it’s a, it’s a great question. I’m afraid I haven’t been looking at these topics specifically. But it’s definitely a hypothesis that has been rehearsed in the academic literature, for example, in the Spanish context, as well, now in Spain, despite massive integration inflows, despite going through a tremendous 2008 crisis and aftermath, everything you can imagine all the ingredients do have a terrible politics of immigration and a big anti immigrant sort of like electoral space, but then Spain doesn’t have it. And then there’s 1000 hypotheses behind it. But one of them is that no is because you know, it’s been a country with with a long history of out migration, and therefore, people have relatives, people have stories, you know, that have been on the table during dinner. And therefore, you kind of sympathise with that with that sort of migration. So I’m afraid I don’t have the evidence to support that. But it’s definitely a very plausible hypothesis. And in a great line of research, it kind of says it can make sense that if you live in a country, which for years has suffered net outward migration, if all of a sudden your country becomes popular, you might think this is something to be proud of. And when certainly, the reaction in Ireland to it until the financial crash is to weigh the island, which of course, even more so than Scotland has suffered a lot of net Abbott migration, all of a sudden, it was becoming a place to which people were migrating to. You certainly saw a relatively for a while favourable reaction there. But does anybody here want to pick up?


Maybe picking up on that? Because I think it’s an interesting hypotheses. I haven’t seen conclusive research on it, but it could go either way, as well. So I think on the one hand, you could get a tendency, and I’ve heard, for example, Italian migration scholars talk about, well, of course, you know, Southern Italy is more tolerant or whatever, because of this history of out migration and so on. But also you do get evidence of migrant communities who if I can use the phrase, pull up the ladder, but there is there is also can be a tendency to say, Well, look, we’ve made it now. And actually, we’d like to sort of protect what we own Oh, sure. Well,


very prominent UK politicians. I should mention, I didn’t want to go there, John. But okay. So there is that there can be that tendency as well. But I would also distinguish between in a sense, I think what our questioner alluded to was almost a sort of direct familial, or lived experience or sort of inexperienced via close connections and relatives. And that can be sometimes a bit different from a more sort of abstract shared national story. So I think basically, when we talk about narratives, it raises really interesting questions about how those develop and what kind of what we’d call inter subjective. Relationships produce different narratives. Do you derive your narrative from what you read in the national press, as opposed to your discussion at the pub on a Friday evening, which is a broader social grouping, as opposed to your direct experience or that of your family? And I think those can create different kinds of narratives. And just add to that complexity, that we


were quietly writing Christina’s next grant application, something by raising all sorts of difficult questions, right. There’s a gentleman here, and then there’s a lady further back.


In terms of narrative, I wonder if you could reflect on the phrase, new Scots as used in Scottish Government policy, basically, in terms of refugee integration and either the value of that term the penetration of that term, the uniqueness of that term to Scotland compared I don’t know if there is similar terms in Europe, but it seems to be it captures an aspiration for incorporation and non threat. But I wondered what you you your thought on it in terms of its comparative value?


Sergei? I think it’s volunteering to rescue.


Yeah, no, I think it’s a great question once again, and I think he talks a little bit into that civic construction of Scottish nationalism. That very much taps into this relationship with a territorial debate. Now, once again, in Catalonia, they also have the new Catalan. So it seems to be a recurring theme in this sort of like, places with strong centre periphery conflicts. So I think that this goes back to the initial question of, essentially, why is it that a strong, sort of like Scottish National Identity correlates so prominently now with pro immigration narratives? And I think that, you know, once again, I think it goes back to this idea that in a context of confrontation, again, when the English so to speak is the other, then you see the newcomer, potential newcomer, that doesn’t come from England as an ally in that identity struggle, and this has a sincere, but also a strategic component not, then there’s a different, but related theory behind this news called construction or behind these alliances between Scottish nationalism and immigrants, so to speak, which is that after all, the narrative of the peripheral nationalism, if you want to call it like this is very much based on minority rights not so you know, for the Catalans, they fight for the right to speak Catalan and to have their Catalan things. And Scotland, of course, wants to just cap the Scottish nationalist movement wants to advocate the right of this minority within the UK to decide its own future, and so on and so forth. And then this narrative of minority rights gets extended, so to speak to other minorities, in this case, also migrants. So this could be one potential explanation behind that. There’s a lady towards the back there, write a question in the green top.


Hi, Rebecca Kay, I also work for Migration Policy Scotland, I had a question since we’re on narratives for Saskia because I was really interested in your finding around the key protagonists in the media narratives being the politicians. And I think you had a graph where you were showing the salience of migration, increasing, but also a graph showing a big spike in kind of media narratives, which I’m assuming, are coming from some of those protagonists being particularly controversial recently in what they’re saying about migration. And I wonder how far you see that as being something that’s also driving those public attitudes and that increased salience? And whether that isn’t something that we see differently in Scotland for whatever the reasons are, that the political narratives are different that then there’s not that that relationship happening in the same way. So that was my little supplementary to that. Should we be surprised that the principal protagonist, politicians?


You tell me I mean,


I don’t know. Should we?


I mean, I think I think you’ve sort of half answered your own question. But that’s essentially what I was alluding to on my slides when I was trying to bring it bring it back to Scotland. Yes, I do think it’s key. I do think, you know, when you have a statement like David Cameron statement about the swarm of migrants coming to the UK, that is then it was actually repeated more in The Guardian than any other newspaper as a criticism of the rhetoric being used by a senior politician or by Prime Minister at the time.


But, but that process still meant that it was, you know,


on the front page, or, you know, in the first 1010 pages of The Guardian, consecutively over weeks coming up again, and again, every time a immigration issue in some context was being mentioned. We’re talking the peak of the crisis in 2015. That autumn.


It being reiterated, which does suggest that that narrative, that idea that there are hordes at the game that we are being invaded,


you know, is being disseminated. It’s being perpetuated. And I do think that is key. And I think there is something to suggest that because we do not have Scottish politicians out in the media in front of cameras making these these sort of highly divisive statements, that it’s not politicised, and therefore, people don’t see it as a defining issue for them. I’m Christina. And I can I quickly add as well. And also, what came out of your presentation was that interesting lull in political activity and noise over the summer recess, and how that provides space for the media to start setting the agenda. And actually, when the media sets the agenda, we sometimes actually get a more more pro migrant narrative coming through, as we did in you know, around the 2015 incident and also around Ukraine. And we actually found that across our European case studies as well, that when politicians aren’t taking the platform, the media can set the narrative more prominently. So I think that that’s that’s a really, really interesting finding. Actually, we assume that the the media are the baddies, but actually the media are very much picking up on the political discourse. Okay, we’ve got two or three minutes left maximum. So there’s a gentleman here. There’s a gentleman he has a gentleman in the back, can we just take all three questions and then, in time honoured for


And you can  choose which ones to answer. Yeah, I was going to ask that we after what Saskia was saying. I thank you, Christina for saying that the there isn’t a kind of actually uniform media Suite user or Guardian journalist. A, but on the why is it so easy in a way to weaponize this issue in south of the border. And notably, actually, inside the conservative party rather than rather Trumpian Republican Party in the in the States, clearly by second generation, migrant politicians, I can think of three very highly prominent, okay, politicians, they’re wise, whereas here, it’s unimaginable that either the First Minister, or at the leader of the Labour Party, okay, so why is it weaponized issue south of the border gentleman here. And then there was one further back as well. That was a gentleman there, too, but two or three rows from the far back. So but this gentleman here first? Thank you. I wanted to ask what the panel thought the impact of if we end up with a Labour government in Westminster this year, what that would be on Scottish, the Scottish public’s attitudes towards immigration given that often we kind of think of this Scottish exceptionalism as being in contrast to this kind of post Kagan so brilliant, right? Well, they will make a difference to Scotland. And it was a gentleman writing the book, just on the issue of politicised politicisation, I just wonder with any sense of an absence of political incentives in Scotland, to go for to go for this given the the dominance of so goes Glasgow, Sukkot Scotland as far as elections go, and that being the, the base of both historical Irish emigration, but also also sort of regulation in East Asia. So I just wonder whether there’s a lack of that. But I also touched on the the Irish example of where the hidden narratives are, we saw an Ireland a horrible incident that resulted in some extreme responses and the right wing media, and you only need to look at the comments pages, or the social media in Scotland to see somewhere around the issues with my own area of housing and homelessness, to see there is a very violent anti immigrant narrative. So just that political incentive, size and scope. Thanks very much. So you got one minute each answer is no those questions you do or do not wish to do. So in any other remarks, you want to make a start with sasco at the far end. Okay, so how is it? Why is it so divisive? Has it become so divisive? I mean, this wasn’t something we looked at in the research, but one of the findings was that we found that a lot of the dominant narratives both in political debate and in the media really, were built on long held ideas and discourses on immigration in this country. And we’re talking about the idea of a deserving or an undeserving immigrant and idea of an immigrant being a criminal or being a drain on society going back to the 1905 Alien Act that language in that. So there’s this you know, there’s this idea that, that these are not new narratives, they are they are maybe strategically deployed, adapted changed, maybe a different policy solutions are proposed, but a lot of the long, long standing discourses are reoccurring and coming around again and again. Okay, so Okay.


Fine, yes. Yeah. So, if I could pick up on the labour question, I suppose it will depend on on what labour does


and says about the issue, which we still don’t fully know. So it could be that it might weaken this very strong correlation that we see now between immigration attitudes and national identity because at the moment, the alignment is very strong, not like the Scottish identity, pro immigration versus the English conservative pro Brexit, anti immigration. So depending on how Scot labour positions itself, and how ambiguous or Scottish or specific its narrative will be that relationship that realigned and might weaken. And finally, on the last question, that politicisation question again, a great question.


I think the gentleman might be right that there’s an absence of incentives now to politicise the issue. But this doesn’t tell us about what’s going to happen in the future. There’s nothing written in stone, so we should we should say, Okay, thanks, Sergei, Sara.


Well, just to follow on from circus point, I mean, I think it’s, you know, yes, there’s a lack of political incentive. That doesn’t mean there will always be a lack of a political incentive, or that there’s in some way this is given in Scotland, I think. I think one of the things I would want to reflect upon in relation to the Attitudes Survey results that we have is, is actually that they’re are remarkable that we’ve had, in the last 20 years through free movement, Scotland has had the highest pace of change of growth of its migrant population proportionately. And that actually that’s correlating with still can you consistently achieve this level of positivity where we are seeing also, that final slide about attitudes towards diversity, when you consider that in a context where, you know, almost close to half the people are actually not living in that context. This is this is really quite, it’s remarkable, but it’s not a given. And I think in that I want to kind of circle back to the new Scots, not as a rhetorical device. But also just to comment from a policy perspective, I think it’s interesting to have a new Scots strategy, but it is for asylum seekers and refugees. And it would be great if that, you know, some of the thinking about how we approach migration, how we integrate migration, how we tried to secure, you know, a broadly benign conversation around migration is something


that we should be considering more widely in relation to migration, and not just in relation to asylum seekers and refugees. Christina, you have the last word, my very briefly pressure. So I just wanted to come back to the weaponized question, because that goes to the heart, I think of some of the discussion this evening and just saying, in fact, we were discussing this earlier before the event, and why is it rational quote, in terms of electoral maximising electoral gain for the Tories to be weaponizing this issue? And the answer is potentially not? Because you know, and I think, as you pointed out, John, and you have a brutal have a great answer to this question. It’s probably responding more to sort of core Tory members than it is to wider population, you know, concerns in the wider electorate. And that’s also partly because the dynamic of competition with far right parties, and we see that across Europe where centre right parties try to capture and compete, capture that issue and compete with far right parties, it doesn’t typically go well. It also might be a function of the media and the fact that some of the popular or populist media is playing very strongly on these issues. And I think that does influence perhaps the Conservative Party disproportionately. Now, does that mean it will yield electoral success may well not. And, and I think, just as a final point, maybe to end with this insight, which might be a sort of positive thing to reflect on, that it’s actually interesting that where you do get that level of focus on anti immigration approaches, and you still see public opinion actually shifting towards the more tolerant or positive set of views towards immigration, it actually shows that there is a capacity of populations to sort of withstand and hold their ground on issues despite constant lobbying. So I think that’s that’s a nice, nice note to end on. Thank you, Christina. I’m two minutes away for being turned into a pumpkin.


Can I first of all, say thank you very much to the Royal Society of Edinburgh for organising this event. Thank you, above all yourselves, both here and online for this thing, but of course, we have to thank in particular and I will invite you to in a moment to recognise their contribution in the traditional way. So thank you to all four speakers for an interesting contribution. I should say that for those of you who have been invited I’m sorry it’s nothing to do with me as to who isn’t who isn’t invited. But there is a private drinks reception afterwards in the Scott room and you will darkness be


directed in the right direction by the staff if you don’t know where that is. So I can I invite you pleased to say, show your appreciation to the speakers this evening.

1:28:28 Without I wish you the best of the remaining of the evening and thank you all very much for being

You might also like

  • Resources

    Professor Banting and Professor McEwen speak about welfare.

  • News

    The Winter 2022 edition of ReSourcE delves into technological advancement and disruption as a primary focus. We hear from experts and leading thinkers within the RSE Fellowship and beyond on the rapidly-accelerating innovation in technology across multiple disciplines, while considering the wider implications for society.

  • News

    The challenges that now face us are how to translate our findings into action and how to ensure that a commitment to justice, diversity and equality stands at the core of the long term strategy and work of the RSE.