This review set out to summarise and evaluate the recent literature on the impacts that migrants and migration have had on Scotland. It also aimed to differentiate, where possible, between migrant groups and to explore ways in which migrants and migration have impacted differently on Scotland from the rest of the UK.
On balance, the evidence paints a positive picture of the impacts of migration on Scotland, and there is compelling evidence that migrants' contributions may be welcomed and appreciated. There is no evidence that migrants are a burden on Scotland's economy and public services.
Although the evidence base is rich and diverse, greater consistency is required across the definitions and classifications used to describe where people come from. At present, it is difficult to draw insights to inform policy in relation to particular groups. Scotland has several scholars specialising on particular aspects of migration, and local studies generate valid insights for those locations and migrants groups examined, but to collate an assessment of national, or generalisable, impacts remains a challenge.
One recurring finding from the review is that migrants tend to become more like the Scotland/ UK-born population over time. Although this can be a welcome part of the ways in which migrants integrate into their new communities, it is not always a positive development. Research has identified poorer health behaviours and loss of trust in government among some migrants who have been in Scotland for longer periods of time.
Given that the evidence base in Scotland is weaker than the UK as a whole, and that Scotland's experience of migration is relatively recent, it is important to gain a better understanding of the dynamic of migration in Scotland. This is particularly the case in the following areas:
- Public services (particularly migrants' contribution to public service delivery)
- The impact that migrants from the rest of the UK have on Scotland
- Measuring the cultural and civic integration of migrants
- The impacts of migration on the Scottish economy.
Looking ahead, changes to the legislative landscape in Scotland and the devolution of additional powers and responsibilities to Scotland warrant appropriate investment in strengthening the evidence base.