Welcome pack for New Scots

The New Scots vision is “For a welcoming Scotland where refugees and asylum seekers are able to rebuild their lives from the day they arrive”.

Life in Scotland

Scotland is a beautiful country with a lot of variety. Many of the attractions in Scotland are nature-orientated. There are many castles, nature reserves, museums and other cultural attractions you can visit. Scotland has a population of around 5.29 million people.

The 8 cities in Scotland are:

  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • Aberdeen
  • Dundee
  • Inverness
  • Perth
  • Stirling
  • Dunfermline

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland.

Read more general information about living in Scotland.


Scotland's official languages are English, Gaelic, and Scots. Over 5 million people are able to speak English in Scotland. Around 87,000 people speak Gaelic and more than a million people speak Scots.

Dating back centuries, Gaelic is the founding language of Scotland that is thought to originate from Ireland. It spread its way across the country as the main language of the medieval Kingdom of Alba, extending from the Borders to Aberdeenshire, the Highlands and Islands. There are six standalone Gaelic schools and Gaelic is taught in over 50 other schools across Scotland.

English is the most commonly spoken language in Scotland with 98.6% of the population age 3 and above being able to speak English. The Scots language is also used by some Scots but usually only the occasional word or expression, such as 'wee', 'scunner', 'bonny', or 'peely-wally'. Some people use the Scots language more than others, and some not at all. Read more information on Gaelic and Scots culture.

English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) forms a vital part of our work to support refugees and asylum seekers through the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy. We fund a number of organisations to deliver classes, programmes and other support for teaching English to speakers of other languages delivered by colleges, community learning and development services in local authorities, and third sector organisations. Further information is also included in the Education section.


The weather in Scotland is similar to the rest of the UK and varies between the seasons. Average temperatures throughout the year are outlined below:

  • spring - March, April and May (average of 7-13 degrees)
  • summer - June, July and August (average of 15-17 degrees)
  • autumn – September, October and November (average of 8-14 degrees)
  • winter – December, January and February (average of 5 degrees)

Find out more about the Scottish weather on the VisitScotland website.

At times there will be weather that has an impact on the public safety. See the Met Office website for weather warnings


Transport Scotland is the national transport agency for Scotland, covering buses, ferries, rail and air transport. Those aged over 60, or with a disability, and living in Scotland could be eligible for free bus travel by applying for a National Entitlement Card and should apply to their local council. Young people aged 5 to 21 years old living in Scotland can also apply to access free bus travel through the Young Scot Card which can be applied for online, or through their local council.

Scotland has 5 main international airports which are:

  • Aberdeen
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • Glasgow Prestwick
  • Inverness

Public transport in Scotland is reliable. Local bus services, express coaches, national rail services, Glasgow subway and Edinburgh tram lines make up Scotland's public transport network.

The rail operator for Scotland is Scotrail. See further information, including timetables

One of the biggest bus operators in Scotland is First Bus.

The Traveline Scotland website provides a journey planner which will help you find out how to travel using public transport. It also tells you how to get travel discounts when buying different types of tickets.

Various apps available for your android or Apple phone are free to download and provide information to help plan journeys in Scotland, including Traveline-App and Traveline Scotland. Smart Travel Apps offers the convenience of purchasing tickets by smart contactless payment for travel on bus, rail and subway, rather than needing separate paper tickets for each operator. It includes useful information on different travel options depending on location and journey.


There are three levels of government in Scotland:

  • UK Government
  • Scottish Government
  • local government

The UK Government is led by the Prime Minister. It is made up of all elected members of the UK Government (MPs) and is the law making body for reserved matters, meaning some issues (such as those related to immigration, asylum and visas) that have a UK or international impact remain the responsibility of the UK Government alone.

The Scottish Government is led by the First Minister. It is made up of all elected members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and is the law making body for devolved matters. The Scottish Government runs the country in relation to matters that are devolved from the UK Government. These devolved matters include:

  • health and social care
  • education
  • justice and policing
  • rural affairs
  • economic development
  • transport

Local government is organised through 32 local authorities with councillors elected every five years by registered voters in each of the council areas. Find the contact details for your local authority.

Elections and voting

Under our human rights law, voting is a right, not a privilege. Voting rights are important to other human rights protected by the Human Rights Act including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

Everyone who is lawfully resident in Scotland has voting rights; and those with indefinite leave to remain have candidacy rights. This sends a clear message that Scotland is a welcoming, inclusive country, where everyone should be treated equally not matter where they are from.

Foreign nationals living in Scotland who have leave to enter or stay in the UK, including people with refugee status, can register to vote in Scotland. Age ranges for this are 14 or older for Scottish Parliament and council elections, or aged 16 or older for UK Parliament elections.

Increasing the number of people that vote in each election means better representation, more funding to communities, and a better quality of life. Education, healthcare, immigration, infrastructure, the economy, etc. are all affected by vote.

You can read more information about how you can register to vote in Scotland.

You can find out who your local MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament), MP (Member of Parliament, UK Government) and Councillor is by entering your postcode at the following link: Write to Them. Find out how your MSP can help you


The currency in Scotland, as it is in the rest of the UK, is the Pound Sterling (£). £1 (one pound) = 100p (100 pennies, or pence). Cash is accepted in most places but increasingly people use debit/credit cards to pay for goods and services.

Opening a bank account

You have the right to open a bank account in Scotland or any other part of the UK if you have:

  • refugee status
  • humanitarian protection
  • discretionary leave (DLR)
  • indefinite leave to remain (ILR),

A basic bank account offers basic banking services. You can use it to pay money into your account, pay other people and take out money.

Each bank has its own list of acceptable identification documents and some banks may require more information than others. You will need to visit the branch of the bank you have chosen and take documents that show who you are and where you live, You should always check with the bank beforehand for what documentation they will accept.

The Scottish Refugee Council has produced some useful information on how to open a bank account.

Normally to open a bank account you will need to give the bank documents confirming:

Proof of identity:

  • passport
  • driving licences
  • national identity cards

Immigration status:

  • Home Office letter confirming your status

Proof of UK address:

  • generally a recent utility bill
  • rental contract
  • council tax bill

Mobile phone bills are generally not accepted.

Note that most banks will normally only accept original documents or certified copies.

Weekends and public holidays

The weekend, in Scotland and across the UK, falls on Saturday and Sunday when most business offices close. Banks and post offices are usually open Monday to Friday and on Saturday morning, but close on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Most shops and restaurants remain open on Saturday and for much of Sunday. However, this may not be the case in all areas of Scotland.

There are a number of public holidays throughout the year. Most businesses close, but shops, restaurants and leisure facilities usually remain open. See a list of public holidays in your council area

Taxes in Scotland

Taxes are paid by individuals and businesses based in Scotland on things like income, property transactions and certain goods and services. The revenues collected from taxes are used to fund public services in Scotland such as health and social care, education and transport.

There are three different types of tax in Scotland:

  • local taxes, such as council tax are managed and collected by your local authority area. Council tax is a tax on domestic property collected by local councils and is normally paid by an adult occupying the property. For rented property, payment will be determined by the agreement in place. The money is used to pay for local services like rubbish collection, roads and street lighting. Read more information on local taxes.
  • devolved taxes are taxes controlled by the Scottish Government, such as Income Tax and Land and Buildings Transaction Tax. These are either collected by Revenue Scotland or Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Income Tax is a tax you pay on your income if you live in Scotland. Land and Buildings Transaction Tax is a tax applied to purchases of land or property, both residential and non-residential, and to non-residential leases in Scotland.
  • reserved taxes are controlled by the UK Government and collected by HMRC. Examples of reserved taxes you might pay are available to view via the following links - National Insurance, VAT and reserved taxes

You can get advice and further information about taxes by contacting agencies such as Citizens Advice Scotland or TaxAid.


Email: ceu@gov.scot

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