6. Local Communities
This chapter examines in more detail the potential effects of the proposed policy changes on local communities in Scotland. In particular, it considers how the switch from free movement of EU nationals to the proposed immigration routes is likely to affect patterns of mobility, work and settlement in different areas. And, in turn, it considers how these patterns will affect host communities in terms of demographic sustainability, support for local services and social cohesion.
It is important to note that UK immigration policy, and the White Paper proposals, are intended to manage immigration in a way that contributes to the UK industrial strategy. The proposed means of achieving this is through attracting migrants to higher-skilled and higher-earning jobs, while reducing lower-skilled immigration, at the same time bringing down overall levels of net migration. As such, UK immigration policy is not explicitly designed to address goals of population growth, offsetting population ageing, or sustaining local communities. Within Scotland, however, both national and local branches of government have made the link between migration and its demographic, social and cultural contributions. At national level this is clearly set out in the Scottish Government discussion paper Scotland's Population Needs and Migration Policy. It is also a clear and consistent aspect of COSLA responses to MAC enquiries regarding migration needs and impacts.
The MAC report offered a rigorous analysis of the social impacts of EU immigration, including its effects on healthcare, social care, education and social housing, as well as impacts on crime and on well-being in local communities. The findings align with research on the impacts of immigration in Scotland. Our analysis in this chapter complements this work, focusing on the social effects of migration in local areas, in particular in terms of the impact on public services, and the well-being of migrants and local communities.
Given the challenges in quantifying and measuring these types of impacts, we draw on qualitative data from a range of published studies carried out within Scotland and the UK over the last five to ten years, and from data available in the UK Data Service Reshare archive. The analysis also includes examples of the experiences of EU migrants and local communities, highlighted in text boxes. These often refer to individual migrants, but are included as they are indicative of broader patterns of experiences and decision-making of EU migrants.
6.1 Patterns of mobility and settlement
As we saw in Chapters 2 and 5, the period of free movement has seen a greater spread of migration across a wider variety of urban, rural and remote areas of Scotland. Whilst rural places still have much lower levels of in-migration, there have been higher proportions of inflows of EU migrants than non-EU, particularly into smaller urban centres within rural regions.
Over the period since 2004 the composition of migratory flows and duration of stay have changed. Whilst initial forms of employment and periods of stay have often been temporary and planned as short-term, more recent studies have shown a greater tendency for people to stay longer term. Also moving away from the initial profile of younger men travelling alone, women and families with children have become increasingly prominent amongst EU migrants. It is well-established in international migration studies that longer-term settlement most often arises in an incremental and initially unforeseen fashion. This has also applied to the situation of many EU migrants who have arrived to the UK during the period of free movement, including those arriving to urban and more peripheral/rural regions of Scotland.
Indeed, as the period of free movement has extended, migrant pathways to rural areas of Scotland have sometimes evolved from periods of employment in other areas (both urban and rural) of the UK. At the same time, the search for improved economic security and employment opportunities can also draw migrants away from such locations. More rural areas may offer less opportunities for occupational mobility, as well as fewer leisure or cultural facilities and less well-developed existing migrant communities.
A large qualitative study conducted in both rural and urban areas of Scotland in 2014-15, as well as follow-up focus groups in 2018, found that few EU-8 or EU-2 migrants had arrived in the UK with a clearly defined plan of where or for how long they would stay in the UK. Free movement had allowed many participants to 'try out' life in a number of locations both within the UK and in other EU countries before making more definite and longer-term plans. For a subset of participants, mobility within the UK had specifically facilitated relocation to, and then longer-term settlement in, Scotland.
These participants spoke favourably about life in Scotland in comparison to elsewhere in the UK, perceiving a more reasonable standard of living and more positive social attitudes towards migration and migrants. Others commented on the beauty of the landscape, the opportunities for outdoor leisure activities such as hiking and camping, and a sense of general friendliness and welcome. These 'softer' aspects, whilst perhaps secondary in initial migration decisions, became more important where longer-term decision-making was involved.
'I arrived two years [ago] and my first target was the UK, anywhere. But around London and the English part wasn't so nice… And the people, the Scottish people are friendlier, I think. So when I was in Glasgow I got plenty of experience there. Here too…'
Andras, 44, Hungary, Highlands
Pathways of arrival and processes of longer-term settlement within the free movement framework have not been simply incidental, but have been promoted by active strategies of recruitment and retention. These have involved investments of financial, material and human resource by local authorities, third sector organisations, and employers. Recruitment was based initially on employers and employment agencies which sought to draw migrants to a range of semi-skilled and low-skilled jobs in agriculture, food processing, and transport services. First Bus companies in Aberdeen city, Aberdeenshire and Angus, for example, ran active recruitment strategies in Poland and other EU-8 countries in the period following 2004. More recently, recruitment has relied more heavily on informal processes of networked migration, but with employers actively involved and keen to see migrants with prior experience and skills development return. In many cases this has meant seasonal workers returning to the same farms year after year, a process which for some can eventually lead to more permanent forms of employment and longer-term settlement. The White Paper's proposals for seasonal and temporary worker schemes are designed to limit such pathways to settlement, with the proposed 'cooling off' period of the transitional temporary worker scheme specifically preventing year on year returns.
A recent report from Scotland's Rural College noted: 'Returnee workers represent over half the Scottish seasonal migrant workforce, often leading to long term working relationships built on mutual trust and respect. Returnees reduce the recruitment and training costs for farmers and recruitment and familiarisation costs for workers. Additionally, it can help workers access opportunities for higher pay, overtime, and progression into supervisory /management roles. Long term returnees often become keystone workers, helping supervise staff and manage the business'.
This can be illustrated by the case of Paskal, a young man from Bulgaria who had been returning to the same farm in Aberdeenshire every year over the period 2011-2015. In keeping with the findings of the SRUC study, he was motivated towards seasonal migration primarily by a higher earning potential than in his home country. However his decision to return annually to a particular farm was linked to working conditions and a positive relationship with his boss and co‑workers. Unlike some, he had no plans to settle long term, preferring instead to build up sufficient savings to start his own agricultural business in Bulgaria.
'It's a small farm, everyone knows everybody [else]. We're close with our boss. It's a very friendly environment here … so that's the reason I come back to this farm.'
Paskal, 26, Bulgaria, Aberdeenshire
Effects on mobility and settlement patterns
The White Paper's proposals for a transitional scheme for short-term labour migration may temporarily alleviate some of the labour shortages created by the end of free movement. However, the restriction of stay to a maximum of 12 months followed by a 12-month 'cooling off' period will limit the possibilities for more flexible patterns of circular movement, and will require employers to hire and train up new workers annually instead of re-employing or extending the contracts of workers they have previously trained. This is likely to produce even greater problems for the social care sector, where in addition to the more formal aspects of training and skills development, workers need to build more personal relationships with clients over time to do their jobs well. The restriction on access to public funds will also limit the possibility of migrants to sustain low-paid work through in-work tax credits. Although the specific bar on accompanying dependents within this scheme may make this less of an issue, the barrier to family migration may also make such employment opportunities less attractive to many, especially female, migrants.
The varied pathways of arrival discussed above are also likely to be significantly curtailed by the current proposals for Tier 2. As we saw in Chapter 3, the vast majority of jobs available in rural and remote areas would not meet the proposed £30,000 threshold. Moreover, even where Tier 2 criteria are met, the restrictions on mobility under Tier 2 will limit opportunities for migrants to move between jobs or occupations, or to mobilise informal networks that facilitate further recruitment. In both cases then, many of the routes to more remote and rural areas, which often begin elsewhere within Scotland or the UK, will be cut off.
Moreover, in limiting the possibilities for more flexible networked migration of family and friends, and putting specific restriction on family reunion routes, the new proposals may well discourage longer-term settlement for a subset of those EU nationals already living in these areas, even where they are eligible to apply for settled status. Existing studies have shown the value placed by EU migrants on their ability to bring over wider networks of family and friends and the ways in which such processes consolidate longer-term settlement plans. The presence of children in the country can be particularly important for decisions to settle but the presence of wider family networks can also be very significant. Concerns about elderly relatives who remain in the country of origin can play a role in deterring longer-term settlement or unsettling those who had previously planned to stay.
Ewa moved from Poland to a small town in rural Scotland with her husband and three school-age children, motivated primarily by the wish to join her parents and siblings, who had left Poland a few years earlier:
'As far as [coming to] Scotland is concerned, my whole family lives here. They all came one after the other. I was the last to join. All my siblings... My parents... We were on our own there [in Poland] so we wanted to come here.'
Ewa, 37, Poland, Angus
For others, new family formations had arisen as a direct result of migration. These new formations often involved the birth of children in Scotland and were frequently described as a significant factor behind longer-term settlement decisions. Gatis became part of an extended family of Latvian migrants when he met Madara and her older sister, Dita, in England. The three travelled to Scotland together and Madara and Gatis became a couple. At the time of interview, their child had recently started primary school, whilst the family's increasing sense of security had led Madara's older son and Dita's two adult daughters and their grandchildren to join them in Scotland. As the three of them explained, the extended family was now well embedded in the village where they lived, the children were settled at school and Dita's daughter was engaged to a local Scottish man. Although they remained concerned about their elderly parents still in Latvia, they stated that they were unlikely to leave Scotland:
'Of course, we can go back and find a job, but I don't see any prospects for my grandchildren in Latvia. What will they do there? Here they go to a good school and I don't have to pay a lot of money because they go to a state school. They go on school trips, and they're treated well. The teachers are good and treat them very well.'
Dita, 45, single, 2 children, Latvia
As we saw in Chapter 4, the absence of pathways to longer-term stay will increase the demographic challenges for areas facing depopulation, and run counter to the specific investment by many Scottish local authorities in encouraging longer-term stays, with the aim of reducing depopulation in both rural and peri-urban locations. Such temporary programmes will also create other challenges for communities in terms of churn and lack of incentives or opportunities for successful integration (described in more detail in section 6.3).
Local authorities have been aware that longer-term settlement is unlikely to take place successfully without systems of support in place. Whilst these have been incomplete and imperfect in most areas, nonetheless, community planning partners and non-governmental organisations, as well as local authorities themselves, have invested both financial and human resources in developing support systems and programmes.
6.2 Local services and infrastructure
Impacts of EU migrants on public services
Migrant workers have a significant impact on public services in many areas of Scotland. EU migrants provide labour in schools, health and social care settings, as both front-line and auxiliary staff. In so doing they contribute to maintaining communities and supporting the delivery of key public services. As we saw in Chapter 3, many of these jobs would not meet the Tier 2 wage threshold, or a lower variant of £25,000, and particularly with regard to women's employment. The examples of teachers and social care workers are relevant.
Local authorities employ significant numbers of teachers from both EU and third countries, especially at secondary levels. A stark fall in applications for teacher registration from EU nationals was reported by the General Teaching Council of Scotland in 2018, raising concerns about the impacts on schools, especially in the context of teacher shortages, particularly in more remote and rural areas. Scottish Government and COSLA have previously presented evidence of the importance of recruitment of teachers from EU and third countries for Scottish schools. It has been noted that a number of local authorities (e.g. Highland) had experienced considerable barriers in their attempts to recruit teachers from third countries through Tier 2. Bureaucratic barriers and difficulties with applications for certificates of sponsorship were commonly cited. Some of these challenges may be alleviated by a simplified sponsorship system as proposed in the White Paper, but plans for this have not yet been set out.
As discussed in Chapter 3, the social care sector is already facing acute shortages, and is reliant on non-EU workers to help fill gaps. LFS data suggests that over 9% of the workforce in this sector were born outside the UK, with 38.5% of these coming from the EU. These levels are similar across urban and rural areas. Drawing on a survey of care providers, a Scottish Government report from 2018 found somewhat higher proportions of EU staff. The study showed that the proportion of EU staff was 4.9% in remote rural Scotland, 5.6% in accessible rural Scotland, and 5.7% in the rest of Scotland. The study also found that EU workers were more prevalent in private sector services (6.4%), than in voluntary sector services (5.4%) and public sector services (3.7%). This breakdown shows a more nuanced picture than the headline figure in that study of 5.6% EU nationals employed within adult social care and childcare services in Scotland as a whole. It highlights a convergence of areas with more acute recruitment issues such as nursing staff, particularly agency workers, and higher dependency on EU workers. It also shows that rural areas, where the overall rates of migration are lower, show similar levels of EU workers in this sector.
Managers interviewed as part of the study also highlighted the qualitative advantages that EU workers bring to the sector: 'Some managers felt the contribution of their EU workers was greater than their basic numerical representation might suggest. Specifically, managers spoke of these employees' strong “work ethic”, exemplified through a willingness to “go the extra mile” to get the job done and to continually learn and develop. Relatedly, managers sometimes said that EU workers appeared to be motivated by an “ethos” of care, manifest in a high level of commitment to their work. Less commonly, there was reference to non-UK EU workers being more highly qualified and/or experienced than local applicants. This perspective was advanced mainly by managers of childcare services, who described how their EU workers often had specialist degrees in childcare or in teaching'.
The greater prevalence of EU workers in the private sector may also indicate potentially greater impact on that workforce as a result of the end of free movement. The bureaucratic barriers encountered by local authorities in recruiting teachers, noted above, are likely to be experienced all the more acutely by smaller private sector businesses, such as small family-run care homes which provide a greater proportion of social care in Scotland, primarily through contracts with local authorities, than is the case in England.
The loss of this workforce would have a potentially negative impact for the resident population. A deterioration in key services such as schools, health or social care in areas with already declining populations could further undermine the capacity of those areas to retain their existing populations, including the locally born, thus potentially amplifying the demographic impacts of reduced immigration.
Challenges of relying on low-paid EU workers
While EU immigration to lower-skilled jobs has brought many benefits to local communities, there are also drawbacks to relying on migrant workers to fill less attractive jobs. As the MAC report argues, where jobs do not offer sufficiently high wages and acceptable working conditions to be attractive to the locally born population, they will also struggle over time to retain migrant workers. EU migrants working in agriculture, hospitality, social care and other lower paid sectors have often accepted considerable de-skilling and downward social mobility during the period of free movement. This has been a conscious trade-off made by EU nationals in return for the greater stability and security of the UK economy and welfare system than that available in many countries of origin, particularly in Eastern and some Southern European states.
Nonetheless, migrant workers in such jobs have expressed a strong desire for career development and have often suffered emotionally, socially and in terms of positive integration outcomes where they have been unable to progress to better paid and more skilled jobs over the longer term. They also consistently aspire to a different experience for their children.
The Scottish Government's draft budget 2018-19 includes a commitment to make Scotland an open and welcoming nation for people and their families to live, work and make a positive contribution to our country. It also aims to create a fairer Scotland, support inclusive growth, and promote community empowerment and the participation of people in all aspects of Scottish life. Neither of these goals is well served by an assumption that migrants will be content to do jobs which are unattractive to locally-born residents over the longer term.
Local infrastructure and support for EU migrants
There are clear links between employment in lower-paid and lower-skilled jobs (especially over the longer-term), difficulties in improving English language competencies, and needs for tailored or adapted support services for migrants. In response to the employment of significant numbers of EU migrants within their areas, local authorities, community planning partners and non-governmental organisations have invested time, effort and money to develop a range of support services and initiatives. Cuts in funding have caused difficulty in the provision of support, and efforts are not always joined up or well aligned to migrant needs. ESOL services are overstretched in many local authority areas and there are particular difficulties in reaching more temporary and seasonal migrants as well as those in rural and remote areas.
The proposed introduction of a new SAWS or a transitional temporary migration scheme as the principal route for lower-skilled and lower-paid workers is likely to have significant effects on their age profile, family status and length of stay. Younger workers, present in the country for a shorter time period and without dependents, may not need the same services which have been developed over the past 10-15 years. Nonetheless, they are likely to have some support needs, at the very least in terms of dealing with administrative processes, and managing their day-to-day lives. Such support would either fall to employers to provide, in which case regulation would be required to ensure consistent and comprehensive provision across a wide range of employers; or it would require the development of new programmes and interventions by public and third sectors.
In many areas third sector projects complement local authority led initiatives to translate information, provide interpreting and tailored support and advice, for example in relation to housing, community care and welfare rights. Such projects are often supported by the paid and unpaid labour of EU and non-EU nationals. Indeed, even statutory services are often facilitated by EU nationals in the employment of local authorities, schools or community planning partners who support the provision of important services as support workers, local authority officers, teachers and classroom assistants, and so on. As outlined in Chapter 3, there are likely to be significant difficulties in recruiting to such posts through Tier 2 if a salary threshold of £30,000 is maintained, and, for some jobs and areas, even where a lower threshold of £25,000 is applied.
In Perth and Kinross, the PKAVS minority communities hub, established in 2010, provides support services to people from minority backgrounds, particularly Eastern European, South Asian and Chinese. In 2013 the hub, then known as MEAD, dealt with 774 individual clients, over 70% of whom were EU nationals. Having identified language barriers as a key area where support is needed, and one which defines access to assistance in regard to almost all other support needs, the organisation has developed bespoke local interpreting and translation services, as well as language classes, referral and advocacy services, and rural outreach.
The provision of education services has also had to adapt to the increasing number of languages (and associated cultures) within schools. In Glasgow, Shawlands Academy now has over 50 languages spoken by its pupils, whilst Annette Street Primary is nearly completely bilingual. Clearly, this presents challenges in ensuring adequate support is provided for teachers and pupils alike. However, it should also be noted that the positive impact of exposing young children to a cross-section of cultures and languages cannot be under-estimated. Education inspectors have commended Glasgow's approach to integration in education in the past.
In Perth and Kinross, there has been an on-going year-on-year increase in the numbers of bilingual pupils in schools. Perth and Kinross Council currently employs, among the wider pool of Community Link Workers, two bilingual workers specifically supporting the Polish families in pursuing education. This is required due to communication issues and lack of integration of pupils and families with the wider community and the school environment. However, there are many positive aspects, including what is perceived to be a very positive educational ethos.
Support for EU and non-EU migrants
The White Paper proposes treating EU migrants in the same way as non-EU nationals in future. This would apply both to Tier 2, which would be the principal route for EU nationals to access skilled employment, and to the proposed seasonal and temporary routes, with the former being open to all nationalities, and the latter (transitional) scheme to those from 'low-risk' countries. This change might imply a different balance of ethnic, linguistic and cultural needs within the new migration system. Whilst there is certainly nothing inherently problematic or wrong with this, existing services would need to adapt if these newer groups are to be well supported and this would require further financial and human resource investments, and would need to be carefully planned for.
A more narrowly defined and tightly controlled set of migrant routes into particular jobs and sectors could also undermine the ability of co-national, co-ethnic or language groups to provide support. If migrants arrive in smaller or much more diverse groupings, access to a critical mass of co-nationals with sufficient in-country experience to provide migrant-led support initiatives may be curtailed. This has already been the experience of some smaller groups of EU nationals (e.g. from the Czech Republic and Hungary) who have commented on their limited ability either to receive support in accessing statutory assistance, or to provide their own community-based support services by comparison to larger groups of Poles.
6.3 Integration and thriving communities
Processes of integration among recent EU nationals
Integration implies a process of adaptation of both host populations and more newly arrived individuals, over a period of time. Successful integration is typically associated with good educational and employment outcomes of first or second generation migrants, and positive social interaction between migrant and 'host' communities, the latter defined broadly to include both locally born, and other migrant groups. Successful integration requires the provision of services, guarantees and rights by governments and local authorities.
Experiences of EU migrants and host communities over the last 10-15 years bear out these assumptions, and show that – as with other, previous, instances of immigration – integration is often a difficult process. In some of Scotland's larger cities, EU migrants have brought increased cultural diversity, including into neighbourhoods with high indicators of social deprivation. Indeed some housing associations have implemented specific policies of placing migrant families in 'low demand' housing as a part of local improvement and regeneration projects. There is some evidence that this increased diversity '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'. However, migrants themselves have sometimes struggled, certainly in the initial period, with living in such contexts and have in some cases expressed fears about personal safety and about the risk of their children 'over assimilating' into negative local sub cultures and practices.
Especially in smaller, more peripheral areas with limited previous experience of migration in significant numbers, EU migrants have faced many of the same issues previously experienced by BAME communities and Commonwealth migrants. These include issues with social isolation, pressure to assimilate to dominant cultural norms, difficulties with language learning, long working hours, living in concentrated groups within particular housing schemes and neighbourhoods, and concerns about longer-term prospects of full economic, cultural and political inclusion for themselves and their children. Nonetheless, many EU migrants also express a growing sense of 'home' in Scotland and more specifically in the cities, towns and neighbourhoods where they live and work. 
EU migrants living in rural regions of Scotland with previous experience of living and working elsewhere in the UK or Scotland have cited a more welcoming attitude in Scottish peripheral/rural contexts, as well as the absence of some of the challenges of living in urban neighbourhoods with high indicators of social deprivation as 'pull factors'. This has been the case particularly for families with younger children. The development of Polish and East European shops, and other retail and consumer services (e.g. hairdressers, legal and advice services), even in relatively peripheral towns such as Peterhead or Arbroath, can add to this sense of 'putting down roots' and developing established communities.
Kornelia and her family arrived in Glasgow in 2007 through personal networks and were still living in the same deprived area in 2015. She was interviewed in both 2010 and 2015 and despite having some serious reservations about her neighbourhood expressed a strong and growing sense of being 'at home' in the area:
'I do [feel at home here] in a sense… I mean, I got used to living in this dirty area… When we come back from, say, shopping, and we come out of the tube, we say: Good old [neighbourhood]. If we say that, it must mean something... We know people by sight. Some older people address my husband saying: “Hiya, my friend.” People know us as well. We've blended with the environment. So in a way, I have got used to living here and it feels as if I've been here for a long time…'
Kornelia, 57 years old, Poland, Glasgow, interviewed 2010
Elizabete had moved from Latvia to a small town in Angus in 2011, following her mother who was already settled there and bringing her teenage daughter with her. She talked about her close relationship with a Scottish neighbour and the friendly reception the family had received as key to a sense of being at home in Scotland.
'The neighbour's spoiling us! Well, actually, she loves my daughter and she makes stuff for her, so if she catches me in the garden, she gives me stuff. It's actually, what I find, it's very very friendly, Scottish people around. It's unbelievable, it's very welcoming and… When we came just to visit mum for first days it's people what we met in [small town], it's just… Ooh! Really, and it was just first time and I thought then it can be place where we move ourselves.'
Elizabete, 39 years old, Latvia, Angus
Initiatives supporting social integration in a range of cities, towns and smaller settlements seek to ensure that this process continues with positive outcomes for both migrants and longer-term residents. COSLA have observed that 'local authorities are at the forefront of integration and there is significant work being carried out by Scottish local authorities to make their areas attractive places to live and work. There are many examples of local policies specifically tailored to attract and retain migrants. For example, a focus on drawing skills and talent from abroad to support public and private sector skills shortages through, for instance, relocation and overseas recruitment packages; the provision of workplace ESOL to support the retention of migrants in local employment; and the provision of community based adult and family ESOL to enable inclusion and participation of migrants in their local communities.'
Impacts of short-term programmes on integration
As noted earlier in the chapter, the removal of free movement and the introduction of more restricted routes under Tier 2 and seasonal/temporary schemes will have a significant effect on patterns of mobility and settlement. Migrant networks which have flourished in the context of free movement as a flexible and open migration system not only facilitate new arrivals but can also encourage and facilitate the longer-term settlement of migrants. Moreover, the relatively simple and adaptable ways in which this context has facilitated family reunion may also support better integration. International research has shown a positive correlation between more open and supportive family reunion policies (such as those in Sweden), and better integration outcomes.
The analysis of labour markets within the Scottish regions and particularly more rural areas presented in Chapter 3 suggests that in many areas, most or all jobs currently filled by EU migrants would not meet the Tier 2 salary threshold. This implies that the only viable migration routes into some communities will be under the proposed new seasonal agricultural workers and/or transitional temporary workers schemes. This is likely to severely disrupt opportunities for family reunion, and for longer-term processes of integration as outlined above.
The constant churn which is integral to the seasonal and temporary schemes proposed will bring new challenges and tensions to community relations and to processes of integration, especially if it becomes a long-term feature of particular local communities. Previous experience of SAWS and other forms of temporary migration have seen larger groups of migrants often living 'on site' at farms with very little opportunity or motivation to learn about Scottish regulations, employment rights, culture or indeed language. Issues relating to work-based exploitation, health and safety concerns, as well as infringements of driving regulations have all been noted. Local authorities have needed to work hard to ensure migrant workers are safely housed, have the necessary knowledge of, for example, fire safety regulations and their rights as employees, as well as a sense of being welcomed in their communities. Where long-term residents have little contact with these workers, negative experiences and mutual misperceptions can flourish.
In Angus where there have been some of the highest numbers of seasonal workers in Scotland the local authority has organised regular roadshows to try to deal with some of the wide range of difficulties encountered by such workers. The equalities officer explained the various issues these events have sought to tackle and some of the difficulties in doing so:
'We have these roadshows … every summer. And it's a partnership, so its ourselves from the council, it's health, the Gangmasters Licencing Agency joined us last year… fire and police, English as an Additional Language… What we're trying to do is just give people information about their rights and living conditions, what's acceptable. The firemen will often give a demonstration of how to put out a fire. The police will talk about drink driving.
'We have the health people, they come along and have information on the safe limits of alcohol. They have information on smoking cessation ... But because we know they're restricted in terms of what they can do, timewise, because they're working so much on the farms, they're trying to get a smoking cessation clinic to go round the farms. Because there's not much sense measuring and going 'oh yeah, you've got really high levels here' and then not trying to do anything to help people. So that's what they're thinking about right now.
'In terms of physical activity… last year I think it was, the police organised for some Zumba classes to take place on the farms as well, to keep people motivated…
'We've had really positive feedback about the roadshows that we do, and we try to have them on the farms so people are not having to travel. One year we did try at libraries because we thought, well, free internet access, people might be coming to libraries, that didn't really work very well because people were having to travel then to come to see us… nobody turned up'.
Summary and Implications
Free movement has facilitated flexible and open-ended migration routes, bringing EU migrants, and importantly, their families, to virtually all parts of Scotland. Such flexible pathways have been promoted through actives strategies of recruitment and retention. These have involved substantial investments of financial, material and human resource by employers, local authorities and third sector organisations. The White Paper's proposals will curtail many of the pre-existing pathways, particularly to more rural areas, where many of the jobs which migrants have taken up will not meet the salary threshold, even if they are accommodated within a lowered skills threshold.
The White Paper's proposals for a transitional scheme for short-term labour migration may help to alleviate immediate labour shortages. However, the new restrictions on stay and return are likely to create considerable challenges for employers, particularly in key public services such as the care sector. They will also limit the possibilities for more flexible patterns of circular movement, and the potential for temporary labour migration to evolve into family settlement over the longer term. For those already settled in Scotland, the new restrictions on bringing over wider networks of family and friends may make permanent stays less attractive.
Migrants have provided labour to key public services in many areas of Scotland, including schools, health and social care settings. Again, many of these jobs would not meet the proposed salary threshold, or even a lower variant of £25,000. The loss of this workforce, which in many cases may contribute to a deterioration of key services, is likely to have a negative impact for the resident population. This could further undermine the capacity of areas to retain their existing populations, potentially amplifying the demographic impacts of reduced immigration.
At the same time, this chapter has suggested some drawbacks of relying on migrant workers to fill jobs which are unattractive to locally born workers due to low wages, low status, or poor career prospects. Such a reliance can have negative impacts on migrants' social, economic and emotional well-being as well as lowering positive integration outcomes for wider communities. As such, it runs against Scottish Government commitments to equality, diversity and the creation of fair and welcoming communities.
Integration, understood as a long-term process of adaptation of both host populations and more newly arrived individuals, is also likely to be challenged by the introduction of more restrictive policies and temporary schemes. If the proposed new seasonal agricultural workers and transitional temporary workers schemes are the only viable migration routes for some rural areas of Scotland, the changes are likely to produce constant churn in migrant populations. The proposed programmes are therefore likely to pose significant challenges for local communities, necessitating the adaption of support services, and disrupting longer-term processes of integration. Local authorities and employers are likely to struggle to meet these challenges.
A wide range of public and third sector support and advice services have been developed over the 10-15 years to assist EU migrants, especially those in lower-paid and lower-skilled jobs. These will require significant revision and new resources if they are successfully to support migrants coming from a more diverse range of linguistic and national backgrounds and under a new set of migration rules.
Email: Neil Meehan