Public attitudes towards migration in Scotland: exceptionality and possible policy implications
Scotland is often perceived as having a relatively welcoming view towards migrants and is presented as such by its politicians and policymakers. This positioning sits within a broader political context in which the Scottish Government favours immigration but has limited policy levers with which to directly influence it. This paper seeks to scrutinise the supposition that Scotland can be seen as ‘different’ to the rest of the UK in terms of how immigration is perceived in the public realm. This is pursued through the analysis of attitudinal data to explore public views on migration, the potential drivers of these perceptions and their implications for future immigration policy in the context of the 2014 referendum on the constitutional future of Scotland. The research finds that the public in Scotland does hold relatively positive views towards migration and that this could be related to Scotland's particular experience of population in and out movements. However there is evidence of some (growing) hostility towards migration on the part of the general public in Scotland and a possible link between nationalist leanings and opposition to ‘Others’. These findings have significant implications for debates regarding possible future immigration policies in Scotland.