Commission in Scotland calls time on consensus that threatens Scotland's future.

The Commission in Scotland has today issued a warning that the Scotland of 2030 will not be economically or socially fit for purpose unless Scots stop talking a good game on how fair and welcoming we are as a nation and start taking steps to realise our self image.

Speaking ahead of a specially convened expert seminar considering good race relations in the light of future migration, the Commission has called for better planning for population growth, a stronger policy focus on the issues that deter people from settling in Scotland and crucially an end to the consensus that our positive history of welcoming new people means that issues such as racism and inequality are not problems in modern Scotland.

Morag Alexander, Scotland Commissioner, Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

'We pride ourselves in being a welcoming nation but 30% of Scots surveyed in the latest Social Attitudes Survey felt that ethnic minorities and people from Eastern Europe take jobs away from Scots. Sadly we are also learning that our young people are becoming less comfortable with people who are different to them and not, as we would hope , more so.' 

'It strikes me that too often we seek comfort in a Scottish consensus that we are all Jock Tamsons's  bairns -citizens of a fair and equal nation . We have to be braver about the change that is required to make a fairer Scotland  and part of that means looking afresh at whether the consensus holds. At EHRC we suspect it's too easy for us as a nation to talk a good game about our decency but the truth is often less noble. We like to think we are free of racism and other inequalities because we prefer that to the truth. In order to live up to our own self image we have to make the sentiment of our songs real and openly say 'this Scotland is not good enough' and then work to make it better and this, our welcome and behaviour towards newcomers, is only the starting point.'

The event is being held in the light of demographic projections that highlight the difficulties Scotland will face in the next fifteen to twenty years with an ageing population and higher ratio of workers to dependents. Recent research, conducted by Roger Wright of the University of Strathclyde and quoted in a paper published by the Commission for launch at today's event, looks at the impact of population decline and shows that by 2031 without migration to Scotland:

  • the working age population will shrink by 12.8%
  • GDP will shrink by 6.4%
  • Employment by 6.9%
  • Competitiveness by almost 3%

Morag Alexander added:

'Today is about looking squarely into Scotland's future. What is at issue here is not if we will need new migrants, we know we do. It's about making sure that we are equipped as a nation to deal positively with population change. It's about putting the proper planning in place so that our communities and vital public services such as health, housing and education are match fit and not placed under undue and unnecessary strain. The first challenge we face in Scotland is building our population in order to meet the challenge of the future and stay viable as a country, the second is transforming Scotland into the kind of country that attracts new Scots who will be welcomed and wish to settle here. The kind of Scotland we all benefit from and want to live in.  As such, we need to start work on what would deter people from settling here. Sadly as a Commission we can't change the weather but we can start building the right social climate for a positive future.'

Speakers at the seminar include Dr Sarah Kyambi, a migration expert, Donald McRae and Chris Oswald Head of Policy and Government Affairs Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland.


Notes to Editors

  1. The event takes place in Edinburgh on 13th May 2009.
  2. Spokespeople from the Commission are available for interview. To arrange please contact Deborah Cowan on 0141 228 5938.
  3. The EHRC will launch a discussion paper  'Room to Manoeuvre - Options for Migration policy by Dr Sarah Kyambi at the event.  To receive a copy of the publication please visit our website or contact Deborah Cowan on 0141 228 5938.
  4. 50% of Scots surveyed for the most recent Social Attitudes Survey believed that Scotland would begin to lose its identity if more Muslims came to live here and 30% felt that ethnic minorities and people from Eastern Europe take jobs away from Scots – a viewpoint alarmingly prevalent amongst 18-24 year olds.

Local studies show a more varied picture, with 45% of respondents to a survey in Argyll and Bute agreeing that migration is a good thing for the local economy, but with almost equal numbers agreeing and disagreeing to the statement that 'local services have been capable of accommodating incoming workers and families' (IBP Strategy and Research, 2008).
A number of local studies have found a substantial minority of migrants have experience of hostility and crime: 17% of A8 migrants in a Glasgow study said they had received verbal threats and 7% had been physically attacked (Blake Stevenson, 2007a).  Similarly, almost one in four of 904 migrant workers in Fife said they had experienced verbal abuse and 5% have experienced physical abuse because of their ethnicity and nationality.  (Fife Partnership, 2007)


Last Updated: 01 Jul 2009