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).


Professor of Politics, University of Strathclyde; Senior Fellow, Scottish Centre for Social Research

Professor Sir John Curtice is Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, and Senior Research Fellow, National/Scottish Centre for Social Research and the ESRC’s ‘The UK in a Changing Europe’ initiative. Co-host of the ‘Trendy’ podcast, he has written extensively about voting behaviour in elections and referendums in the UK, as well as on British political and social attitudes more generally. He has been a co-editor of the National Centre’s annual British Social Attitudes reports series for over twenty years, a co-director of the Scottish Social Attitudes series, and is a regular contributor to Scottish, British and international media coverage of politics in the UK. 


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Dr Sarah Kyambi

Director of Migration Policy Scotland

Sarah is an expert on UK immigration policy. with over 20 years’ experience delivering policy-relevant analysis and a strong track-record of securing policy impact. Sarah worked for think tanks in London, Brussels and Edinburgh before founding Migration Policy Scotland to meet the need for greater policy capacity on migration in Scotland. Launched in 2021 the organisation focuses on non-protection migration. It focuses issues of particular pertinence to Scotland and develops collaborative, cross cutting ways of working. Last September Migration Policy Scotland published the findings of the first representative survey on attitudes to migration in Scotland in almost a decade.
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Professor Christina Boswell

Chair in Politics and Vice Principal for Research at the University of Edinburgh

Christina Boswell is Chair in Politics and Vice Principal of Research at the University of Edinburgh. She is also Vice President for Public Policy for the British Academy and former Chair of the Scottish Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population. Her most significant contributions include work on the role of narratives in migration policy, the symbolic and instrumental uses of expert knowledge in policy, the use of performance indicators and targets in immigration and asylum, and the role of ideas in political discourse on migration. Her work is comparative, with a focus on the UK, Germany and the EU. She has extensive experience in policy advice for EU institutions and international organisations, including the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the UN Global Commission on Migration.
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Dr Saskia Smellie

Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh

Saskia Smellie is a Research Fellow in Politics and International Relations at the University of Edinburgh. She specialises in the politics of migration, comparative immigration policy, and foreign policy. Saskia holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Edinburgh and studied German Studies and European and International Politics at the University of Birmingham, the Humboldt University Berlin, and the University of Edinburgh. Her research interests include migration policy and politics, migration crises and diplomacy, ‘responsibility-sharing’ in Europe, and decision-making processes from a foreign policy analysis perspective. She teaches and lectures at honours level on Europe and international migration. Saskia has previously worked as Public Relations and Policy Officer at the German Consulate General Edinburgh and has experience consulting the Scottish Government on migration policy after Brexit. At BRIDGES, she leads research on migration narratives in political debate and policy-making and on the British case.
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Prof Sergi Pardos-Prado

Professor of Comparative Politics, University of Glasgow

Sergi Pardos-Prado is full Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Glasgow. He is also a member of the Migration Advisory Committee, which gives independent and evidence-based advice to the UK Government. Before this, he was an Associate Professor in Politics at Merton College, and a Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow at Nuffield College, both at the University of Oxford. His research and teaching interests lie at the intersection between immigration, political behaviour, comparative politics, comparative political economy, and quantitative methods.
In partnership with
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Thursday February 29th, 2024 18:00-19:30


The Royal Society of Edinburgh