The impacts of migrants and migration into Scotland

Aims to summarise and evaluate the recent literature on the impacts of migrants and migration into Scotland.

5. Migrant integration and culture

Key points

  • The role of social interaction is crucial to the process of migrant integration into the host society. It is through social contacts and the climate created by the possibility of such contacts that people develop a sense of belonging in a particular social space.
  • An ongoing debate in the international literature centres on the effects of large-scale migration and increased ethnic diversity in host communities, in terms of the disruption of existing social solidarity and social capital.
  • The experiences of migrants, and the ease or difficulty with which they are able to integrate into local communities, may be key to whether they decide to stay or leave.


'Integration' is understood as a process whereby migrants become successfully incorporated into the host society. Ager and Strang (2004) describe four parts to integration:

  • Public outcomes related to employment, housing, education and health
  • Social connections with members of their own and other communities
  • Personal competencies in language, cultural knowledge and security/stability
  • Status, or 'shared notions of nationhood and citizenship,' implying membership and identification with the country of residence (2004:5).

Discussions of integration have also highlighted the importance of social interaction between migrants and those born in the host country. However, definitions reflect differing perspectives on the desired end goal: the optimal relationship between migrants and the host society. The assimilation approach focuses on migrants' one-way adaptation to the values and rights system of the host society; while two-way integration is based on an approach in which both migrants and the host society contribute to a common culture, while a sense of diversity and cultural heritage is retained (see, for example, Spencer, 2006:14; Rudiger and Spencer, 2003:4-7).

Many of the public dimensions of integration have been covered, to some extent, in the earlier chapters of this report. This chapter focuses on elements of social and cultural integration. It also includes a short section on public attitudes to migration, given the importance of the public and private ways in which the host society responds to migrants.

The role of social interaction is crucial to the process of integration. It is through social contacts and the climate created by the possibility of such contacts that people develop a sense of belonging in a particular social space (Rudiger and Spencer, 2003:6). In their 2009 review, Rolfe and Metcalf noted that the experiences of migrants, and the ease or difficulty with which they can integrate into local communities, may be key to whether they decide to stay or leave (2009: para 4.53). The Rolfe and Metcalf report includes a useful definition of community cohesion, which emphasises the role of both migrants and locals in this process:

'Community cohesion is what must happen to all communities to enable different groups of people to get on well together. A key contributor to community cohesion is integration, which is what must happen to enable new residents and existing residents to adjust to one another' ( UK Department for Communities and Local Government, 2008, quoted in Rolfe and Metcalf (2009: para 4.52)).

The Migration Advisory Committee ( MAC) report on the impacts of migration in the UK (2012) makes the point that, of all the public service and social impacts of migration the Committee addressed, it felt least able to provide a firm conclusion on the overall impact on social cohesion and integration, due to 'insufficient evidence in the existing literature to enable us to define and accurately measure' the impacts (2012:91).

An ongoing debate in the international literature centres on ethno-racial diversity and its alleged effects on public trust and cohesion (associated in particular with the work of Putnam, in the United States and Goodhart, in the UK (Putnam, 2007; Goodhart, 2004; Portes and Vickstrom, 2011, for example)). These authors highlight the possible negative impact of large-scale migration and increased ethnic diversity in communities, in terms of the reduction of existing social solidarity and social capital, at least in the short term. Goodhart draws attention to the tension between the aspiration for solidarity (high social cohesion and generous social security) and diversity (equal respect for a wide range of people, values and ways of life), given that solidarity requires the state to be a ' homogenous society with intensely shared values' (2004:2).

While acknowledging that 'locally concentrated surges of migration may have a negative impact on levels of social cohesion,' (2012:91) the MAC research found that 'it is economic deprivation rather than ethnic diversity which is negatively related to social cohesion' (2012:92). The report argues that, 'according to the main available survey measure of integration' (it does not specify what these are) 'some migrants in the UK appear to be better integrated and engaged in society than some members of the UK-born population' ( ibid:91). The research found that, immediately after they arrive in the UK, many migrant groups have more trust in British political institutions, and express higher levels of belonging to Britain than UK-born individuals with no migrant heritage. However, this higher level of trust is not sustained. The report notes that, over time, the attitudes of migrants assimilate to the more negative attitudes of the UK-born population, although migrant minorities tend to retain a higher sense of belonging to Britain even when they are long established in the country ( ibid:91). The finding chimes with the literature on 'segmented assimilation theory' from the United States. This is based on the recognition that American society is extremely diverse and segmented, with an underclass residing in central cities where new migrant families first settle on arrival. Thus, it is argued that different groups are available to which new migrants may assimilate, and that as a result they may take divergent assimilation paths (see, for example, Portes and Zhou, 1993; Xie and Greenman, 2005).

Social and cultural networks

Key points

  • Qualitative research undertaken in rural Scotland has found that migrants in small rural communities experience pressure to assimilate to dominant cultural norms.
  • In the absence of co-ethnic groups nearby, it is difficult to maintain a sense of belonging that includes elements of both the cultures of migrants' country of birth and host country.
  • In the urban context, several quantitative and qualitative studies in Scotland have established that factors such as the ability to speak English without difficulty, employment and educational qualifications have a significant impact on migrants' ability to develop a social support network and access social amenities within the community.
  • Participation in clubs and sporting activities encourages children to interact together and contributes to the building of social capital. However, low income and narrow networks of support can limit the options available to migrant children.
  • Evidence suggest that the longer that migrants live in the same area, the more likely they are to feel integrated in the community.

A number of studies have examined aspects of the social and cultural networks formed by migrants in particular areas of Scotland. In the rural context, de Lima's work offers insights into processes through which the presence of ' minority ethnic groups' disrupts traditional conceptualisations of 'the rural' as homogenous and unchanging. In a book chapter on 'belonging/unbelonging' in rural Scotland (2012) she used previous qualitative studies to investigate the strong pressures for migrants to assimilate to 'dominant' cultural norms in rural areas. De Lima acknowledges that 'integration' as a concept is ' highly contested and has different meanings,' but focuses on exploring how minority ethnic groups in rural areas negotiate belonging and identity (notions of identity, community, acceptance, affiliation and home making) as they navigate through their daily lives (2012:208).

De Lima's research found that study participants in small rural communities experienced pressure to assimilate to the ''dominant' cultural norms' and, in the absence of co-ethnic groups within reasonable distance, struggled to maintain a sense of belonging that 'incorporated multiple places and cultures' ( ibid:212). Her analysis also identified a range of barriers, such as long working hours and living in overcrowded accommodation in order to send money to family living in their country of birth, that limit migrants' ability to integrate into their host communities.

Identifying gaps in evidence, De Lima concluded her study by arguing that we need a better understanding of the ways in which minority ethnic groups might be transforming the majority communities and cultures, and how the lives and identities of the majority communities might be transformed through the presence of minority ethnic groups ( ibid:215).

In the urban context, a key contribution to the evidence base is Kearns and Whitley's research (2015) on social integration within communities and the role of functional factors (such as employment, education and language) as potential facilitators. The authors highlight the debate about the role of time, wherein 'integration' is a form of acculturation: a learning process of second-culture acquisition by both groups, rather than migrant assimilation of the host culture. This quantitative study was based on two surveys of 1,400 migrants (many of whom were asylum seekers) across 15 Glasgow communities, all of which were within the 15 per cent most deprived in Scotland. The research was conducted in 2008 and 2011, as part of the GoWell study of the impacts of housing investment and regeneration. Kearns and Whitley were anxious to explore the effects of time and place on social integration in Glasgow, given that the city has received many 'new migrants' over the past decade, as well as hosting 'more traditional migrant groups' (2015:2107).

Findings suggest that the migrants who took part in the study were on the whole 'less positive than British-born citizens about social integration' ( ibid:2114) (scoring lower with regard to trust, reliance and safety). Differences were greatest in relation to issues of trust in others, with British-born citizens twice as likely as migrants to feel their neighbours were honest, one-and-a-half times more likely than migrants to have social relations with their neighbours, and three times more likely to know people in the neighbourhood. However, this analysis combines recent and established migrants and British non- UK born citizens with asylum seekers and refugees in the migrant group. When the groups were further disaggregated, EU citizens, economic migrants and students tended to have more positive views of their neighbours and safety in the neighbourhood than asylum seekers and refugees ( ibid:2114-2117).

Using indicators of trust, safety and reliance, the study established that factors such as ability to speak English without difficulty, employment and educational qualifications have a significant impact on the migrant's ability to develop a social support network and access social amenities within the community. The study identified that positive social integration generally increased across all three factors the longer time that migrants spent in the UK and, more importantly, within the same area ( ibid:2119).

Kearns and Whitley's findings support earlier research by Shubin and Dickey (2013) who considered 'integration' as:

  • A 'two-way relational process and not as an outcome in the form of 'success' or 'failure' in settling in a new country
  • A dynamic process, in order to account for unpredictable trajectories and the potential reversal of integration of migrants
  • A changeable process, which changes both the people who are integrating and the societies they are trying to integrate into' (2013:2961)

Shubin and Dickey's work focused on the integration of Eastern Europeans into North East Scotland and found that 'respondents who considered themselves integrated into the local community have been in Scotland for a longer period; have a higher level of education; participate more in local community events; have a good skills match to their current job; had engaged in search activity before migrating; have greater job security; have undertaken training for their current job; have better job prospects with current employer and experience better working conditions than expected before migrating' (2013:2965).

Crucially, Kearns and Whitley's Glasgow-based study highlights the importance of the socio-economic characteristics of the areas under investigation. The authors use their findings to argue that living in a 'regeneration area' has predominantly negative effects on reports of social integration, although it should be borne in mind that many of the migrants in the study were asylum seekers and refugees subject to dispersal programmes in some of the most deprived areas of Glasgow (2015:2120-21). However, the argument supports findings from Kay and Morrison's 2012 study of the social and cultural benefits and costs of migration in Scotland , which explored the importance of placement location in debates about the impact of migration. Kay and Morrison used a series of semi-structured interviews and a facilitated workshop with stakeholders from a range of organisations and services to conduct a Glasgow-based research project to explore localised social and cultural impacts of migration. The people interviewed for the study 'warned against complacency or overly optimistic assumptions that Scotland or Glasgow were 'naturally' open or welcoming places for new arrivals' (2012:4). The authors pointed out that ' especially when migrants or asylum seekers moved into or were placed in areas with little former experiences of migration and/or where there were pre-existing issues of deprivation, social exclusion and anti-social behaviours, the challenges for both local residents and migrants themselves could be substantial' ( ibid:4).

Kay and Morrison's research also identified cases where perceptions about the flow of public sector funding and resources to the area, and the upsurge in third sector activity, added to tensions between migrants and the local residents. The latter group felt that longstanding needs for regeneration and development in the area were being overlooked in favour of 'troublesome' newcomers (2012:7).

However, the study also found that 'increased cultural diversity in certain areas of the city has changed the 'feel' of the area, softening a tendency for outsiders of any kind to feel vulnerable to attack or harassment and increasing the range of retail and leisure outlets, thus turning rather grim and forbidden streets into much more welcoming places' (2012:8). An example of the positive impact of an increase in migrants to an area was also reported to the Scottish Government Equal Opportunities Committee's Inquiry into migration and trafficking (2010).

'There was an area of the city with lots of empty housing stock that nobody wanted. The houses were given to migrants from the eight 2004 EU accession countries and, as a result, the entire area was regenerated. Businesses sprung up and a new community blossomed.' Ethnic Minorities Law Centre (2010: para 120).

Sime and Fox's (2015) study of migrant children, social capital and access to services post-migration further highlights the importance of ethnicity, social class and placement on migrant experiences in Scotland. Their study, described more fully in Chapter 4, found that, among Eastern European migrants, individuals' participation in clubs and sports activities encouraged people to interact together, and contributed to the building of social capital. This supports Putnam's argument (2000) that participation in associational activities contributes to social cohesion.

However, findings from the study suggest that ' access to resources is by no means equal, and class, ethnicity, gender and social capital are bound up with the segregated opportunities that are available to different families, depending on the characteristics of the local area and their families' resources' (2015:532). Focusing on child migrants, the Sime and Fox's research showed that 'low income after migration and narrow networks of support often limited the use of services important to children's integration and civic participation' (2015:532).

Moskal's study of Circulating capitals between Poland and Scotland: a transnational perspective on European Labour Mobility (2013) makes a further important contribution to the evidence base. This work applied the concepts of social, economic and cultural capital to reflect on gains and losses in capital of Polish migrants in Scotland and in their country of birth. Based on 65 narrative interviews (conducted in 2008 and 2010), a survey of 158 Polish residents and 25 follow-up interviews, the study points to the importance of networks within the receiving country (Scotland).

These networks, Moskal argues, can facilitate the long term and even permanent settlement of migrants (2013:373), although it is important to note that they may be networks of co-ethnics. This is a crucial distinction in the debate relating to the building of social capital: is there a trade-off between social interaction within ethnic groups (bonding social capital) and with non-co-ethnics (bridging social capital) or can the two co-exist or even be mutually reinforcing? The study also found that the ability to speak English and communicate with a diverse range of people is particularly important in gaining a fuller understanding of, and confidence in, British society.


Key points

  • The importance of language in relation to migrant integration is emphasised in several qualitative studies conducted in Scotland. The process of learning a language in itself encourages mutual adaptation of migrants and the host society. However, there is a wider range of evidence to indicate that migrants are often defined as being out of place in their new environment, despite being multilingual.

The importance of language in debates about citizenship and belonging is highlighted further in Moskal's (2016a, 2016b, 2014) qualitative study conducted in six primary and secondary schools in Scotland. This research combined participant observation with interviews with young migrants, their parents/carers and teachers. The study noted that the lack of transferability of cultural capital (formal qualifications, knowledge about the functioning of educational and employment systems, for example) often leads to downward social mobility for migrant families and their offspring as parents experience deskilling and underemployment (2016b:92-93).

Moskal found that language was the most evident of many issues faced by migrant youth, affecting their ability to make friends, adapt to the new school and culture, deal with loss and loneliness, as well as racism or anti-migration sentiments. However, the author argues that, although language proficiency is regarded in many countries as a vehicle for integration of migrant children and a necessary part of belonging, it is misleading to simply equate language acquisition with acculturation into a new society (2014:285). While limited language skills prevent Polish migrants from fully participating in the community, and strong social networks with co-ethnics may isolate migrants and lock them into specific ethnic niches (2014:283) there is a wider range of evidence to suggest that migrants are often defined as being 'out of place' in their new environment, despite being multilingual. This could be because their 'particular linguistic competencies do not always fit the norms or expectations of the spaces they inhabit' (2016b:86). Moskal uses findings from this study to argue that the introduction of discussion in schools about language, identity and social change in Scotland would benefit 'both native Scottish and immigrant pupils' (2016b:99).

Two further studies provide evidence of the importance of language in relation to migrant integration. Weishaar's (2008) small study on stress among Polish migrant workers in Scotland found that communication problems pose barriers to accessing information and are a particular challenge in the workplace and in accessing official services such as job centres (2008:1252). Shubin and Dickey's (2013) qualitative study on the integration and mobility of Eastern European migrants 'found a positive and statistically significant relationship' between English language proficiency and migrant integration. Such proficiency was also found to improve migrant employability and engagement within local labour markets (2013:2973). The authors also argue that learning a language and cultural practices is not a one way street, but involves 'mutual adaptation of migrants and the host society' (2013:2969). For example, new Polish migrants coming to Peterhead were found to learn to speak Russian, rather than English, in order to communicate at work ( ibid:2969).

The Scottish Government Equal Opportunities Committee's Inquiry into migration and trafficking (2010) provided evidence which identified language as a vital ingredient in establishing links and encouraging engagement with migrants, specifically in relation to police officer participation in English language classes as part of their day to day business. (See also above: Chapter 4.)

'They [police officers] join the classes when they are out on patrol and build that into their beat. They have the opportunity to supplement their training and enable the community to meet the police so that we can explain what we do as a police force by engaging in policing by consent. As far as we are concerned, that has been successful as well.' Inspector Brian Gibson, Strathclyde Police (2010: para 364).


Key points

  • There is little evidence of the impact of migrant religions. However, one piece of research on the arrival of Polish Catholics to Scotland indicates that Catholic parishes have changed and that congregations have become increasingly diverse. This has led to some tensions between migrant and host parishioners and between Polish priests and existing clergy.

This review found little evidence relating to potential impacts on Scotland of religions unfamiliar to people born in Scotland, or the influx of large numbers of people practising specific religions. However, the dynamics of mutual adaptation and migrant integration were explored in detail in Trzebiatowska's (2010) study of Polish Catholic priests living in the UK. The author drew on a study of Polish Catholics in Aberdeen to examine the complex relations between migrant Polish Catholics and host Catholic Priests and congregations. Using a combination of qualitative methods (participant observation and interviews with clergy and parishioners) the study described ways in which the presence of Polish migrants has significantly transformed Catholic parishes.

The research found that the arrival of large numbers of Polish Catholics has had a positive impact on the size of Catholic congregations in Scotland. However, tensions have arisen between the spiritual and institutional agendas of the Polish priests brought in to help to deal with unexpected pressure on the existing clergy in Scotland and existing Scottish Catholic norms. Trzebiatowska found that this led to a degree of friction between the Polish Catholics and local parishioners, as priests struggled to reconcile the interests of Polish parishioners with the needs of wider congregations. The study suggests that the practice of offering masses in Polish can have a negative impact on the integration of Polish migrants into their host communities. One example was a church in Aberdeen which, by offering mass in Polish, drew migrants away from another church where a Scottish priest was working towards integration (2010:1063).

Part of Shubin's 2012 small study of mobility, religion and exclusion of Eastern European migrants in rural Scotland offers further insights into the role of religion in migrant integration. Based on a series of semi-structured interviews with Eastern European migrants, rural clerics, and observation and participation in public meetings, the study noted examples of where new informal religious practices were introduced by migrants and accepted by local congregations, contributing to the inclusion of migrants in the local community. Shubin argues that 'religious beliefs often help migrants in dealing with the trauma and stress of uprooting, migration, and arriving in a new country' (2012:621) and 'provide opportunities for migrants' meditation and escape from the immediate environment of social marginalisation' (2012:623).

Public attitudes to migration

Key points

  • Public attitudes to migrants underpin the empirical evidence on the impacts of migration.
  • If migrants are to integrate successfully in host communities, it is important to understand the attitudes of the host society towards migrants, and how these may be influenced.
  • The evidence base in this area is substantial, both in relation to Scotland and the rest of the UK.
  • Key questions addressed by attitudinal survey data include whether people wish migration to be reduced or stopped (regardless of the effect on the economy); the perceived impact of migration on the labour market; whether greater exposure to migrants increases or decreases negative feelings; attitudes to different groups of migrants; and whether the evidence indicates that attitudes in Scotland are more welcoming than in the rest of the UK.
  • Available data indicate that greater exposure to migrants increases tolerance and understanding, and that people in Scotland are, generally, more welcoming of migrants than most other parts of the UK.
  • However, attitudes are not fixed, and data suggest that in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, a majority want to see an overall reduction in migration. In addition, a sizeable minority have concerns about the impact of migration on the labour market in Scotland

This chapter began by considering the tension between solidarity and diversity. As Goodhart (2004) points out, 'after three centuries of homogenisation through industrialisation, urbanisation, nation-building and war, the British have become freer and more varied. Fifty years of peace, wealth and mobility have allowed a greater diversity in lifestyles and values. To this 'value diversity' has been added ethnic diversity …' (2004:1). Greater diversity can produce conflicts of values and interests, and generate unjustified fears. While exposure to a wider spread of lifestyles, greater mobility and better education have all helped to combat some of these fears, ' feelings of suspicion and hostility towards outsiders are latent in most of us' ( ibid:5).

This conflict of values and interests, and underlying fears and uncertainties, make it important to be aware of public attitudes to migrants and migration. The evidence base on attitudes is substantial, both in the UK and in Scotland. As migration has risen up the UK policy agenda, a number of reports have used social attitudes data to investigate a range of topics in relation to migration and the general public (see, for example, Duffy and Frere-Smith, 2014; Blinder, 2014; McCollum et al, 2014). This review, with its specific focus on the impacts of migration, is not the place for a detailed examination of that evidence base. However, because the process of acculturation and integration involves both incoming and host communities and cultures, it is important to include some consideration of the attitudes of Scots to migrants. In addition, there are different implications for the nature and level of public service provision in communities where migrants are, and are not, able to integrate, and implications for the labour market and the economy if migrants choose to return to their countries of origin. For these reasons, a brief summary of the evidence in relation to specific issues is included below.

The most important source of information on public attitudes is national attitudinal survey data, collected via face to face or telephone interviews. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey ( SSAS) and British Social Attitudes Survey ( BSAS) are key data sources, and both are based on samples that are claimed to be representative of the Scottish or British public. Such surveys are methodologically robust, in that they use trained interviewers, generally achieve higher response rates, allow more complex questions to be asked and yield better quality data. The evidence from these surveys will be considered first in the section below. However, such surveys are costly to set up and run, and slow in terms of turnaround. Consequently, the evidence base also includes a number of snapshot online surveys, which will be summarised at the end of the section. Although such surveys have the advantage of being fast turnaround and low cost, they have important disadvantages: for example, they are unlikely to target a representative sample of the population, interviews are not conducted by trained interviewers and data quality may be poor. (For more information about methods of data collection in social surveys, see, for example, Question Bank Factsheet 2, 2007; NatCen, 2015).

Key questions addressed by attitudinal survey data include whether people wish migration to be reduced or stopped, regardless of the effect on the economy; whether migrants take work from people born in Scotland/the UK; whether greater exposure to migrants increases or decreases negative feelings; attitudes to different groups of migrants; and whether the evidence indicates that attitudes in Scotland are more welcoming than in the rest of the UK.

In 2014, Ipsos MORI published a review which aimed to bring together a wide range of attitudinal data relating to the UK in one place. The research draws on a number of different sources, some of which include Scotland (Duffy and Frere-Smith, 2014). As part of the work, the authors focused on the 2010/11 Citizenship Survey to examine the attitudes of the white British population and the ethnic diversity of neighbourhoods. They found that, in the 10 per cent least ethnically diverse wards, the proportion self-identified as white British who thought that migration should be reduced 'a lot' was 64 per cent. However, this fell steadily as ethnic diversity increased: in the 10 per cent most ethnically diverse wards, it was 44 per cent (2014:21).

The work by Duffy and Frere-Smith also investigated the evidence on attitudes to particular types of migrant (using Ipsos- MORI survey data from 2011). They found that people are least likely to want to reduce the number of skilled migrants and students (approximately a third of those sampled) and most likely to favour reducing the number of low-skilled workers (almost two thirds of those sampled) (2014:77).

Scotland has generally been perceived as having a relatively welcoming view, and is presented as such by politicians and policymakers (McCollum et al, 2014:79). Drawing on data from several years of the methodologically robust Scottish Social Attitudes (up to 2010) and British Social Attitudes (2011) Surveys, McCollum et al investigated attitudes to migration in the context of the independence referendum. The authors pointed out that data support the belief that the Scottish public is more welcoming of migrants than in most other parts of the UK (see Figure 5.1).

Figure 5.1: Indicators of attitudes towards migration in 2011, by Government Office Region

Figure 5.1: Indicators of attitudes towards migration in 2011, by Government Office Region

Source: Analysis of British Social Attitudes Survey 2011, David McCollum, Beata Nowak and Scott Tindal.

The authors suggest that, if accurate, findings could be related to 'three aspects of Scotland's distinctive historical and contemporary patterns of migration: historical net losses of population through migration, a relatively small migrant population and reliance on migration for demographic stability' (2014:88). It is also likely that low political salience, partly due to broad cross-party consensus on the need for migrants to boost Scotland's population is a contributory factor.

More recently, September 2016, the Scottish Government published work that explored public attitudes to discrimination and positive action towards different groups of people protected by equalities legislation, using SSAS data from several time points. Most of the analysis relevant to migration focuses on religion, or ethnic background rather than migrants per se. However, findings indicate that respondents to the SSAS are becoming more receptive to the idea of living in an area 'with lots of different kinds of people' (47 per cent agreed in 2015; 37 per cent in 2010; 34 per cent in 2006.)

Questions on the impact of migration from particular groups on Scotland's identity and culture were also included, to further explore attitudes towards diversity. Respondents were asked how much they agreed or disagreed with specific statements (see Table 5.1). There has been a decrease between 2010 and 2015 in the proportion who believe that more people from each of these groups coming to live in Scotland would mean Scotland beginning to lose its identity. However, while there appears to have been a shift towards greater acceptance of diversity, a fairly substantial minority still have concerns about the impact of migration on Scotland's identity (2016b:18-19).

Table 5.1: Perceived impact of migrants on Scotland's identity

% agreeing
% agreeing
% agreeing
Scotland would begin to lose its identity if more Muslims came to live in Scotland 49 50 41
Scotland would begin to lose its identity if more people from Easter Europe came to live in Scotland 45 46 38
Scotland would begin to lose its identity if more black and Asian people came to live in Scotland 46 45 34

Source: Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2015: Attitudes to discrimination and positive action (Scottish Government, 2016). Information taken from Table 5.1 in the report.

On the subject of perceived labour market competition, the study found that the proportion of respondents who believed that people from Eastern Europe take jobs away from other people in Scotland decreased between 2010 and 2015 (from 37 per cent to 30 per cent), reversing an increase between 2006 and 2010. The same pattern was evident when respondents were asked to consider people from ethnic minorities, although the percentages were lower (26 per cent in 2015; 31 per cent in 2010; 27 per cent in 2006). The authors suggest that one reason for the spike in 2010 could be the poor economic situation at the height of the recession. Again, although findings are positive, findings indicate that a sizeable proportion of people in Scotland continue to be concerned about the impact of migration on the labour market ( ibid:19-20).

Finally in this section, Table 5.2 summaries findings from recent fast turnaround, online surveys. Three studies were conducted by the international market research organisation YouGov between 2013 and 2015. It should be emphasised that data are not fully comparable: the YouGov/Channel 5 survey included Scotland in the UK sample, whereas the YouGov/Migration Observatory disaggregated Scotland and England and Wales. The two most recent surveys also included an additional response option: that migration should be stopped completely.

While there does appear to be a difference between attitudes in Scotland and the rest of the UK, with people in Scotland generally more positive, data suggest that in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, a majority of the general public want to see an overall reduction in migration.

Table 5.2: Attitudes to migrants: Scotland/ UK

YouGov/ Migration Observatory Survey, October 2013 YouGov/ BBC Survey, March 2015 YouGov/Channel 5 Survey, February 2014
Scotland England & Wales Scotland UK (including Scotland)
Sample size 2,000 2,000 1,100 1,899
% agreeing % agreeing % agreeing % agreeing
Levels of migration should be: 10 7 5 4
Reduced 58 75 49 49
Kept at current levels 23 12 26 20
Stopped completely * * 15 21
Don't know 8 4 5 6

Source: tables from original surveys

* Option not offered to respondents


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