If Yes Scotland Had Focused on Immigration

I won’t be the only person seeing a lot of comparisons between the Scottish independence referendum two years ago and the upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.  Here’s another, played out as a hypothetical scenario:

So, roll-back to 2014.  A referendum has been called on Scotland’s membership of the UK in which only those born in Scotland have the right to vote, disenfranchising 400,000 fellow British citizens born in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.  The pro-independence campaign, Yes Scotland, losing the economic argument, believes it can instead deliver a victory by focusing on the threat of immigration, allowed by the freedom of movement within the UK.   It berates the Scottish government for allowing 33,000 British citizens to enter the country each year, claiming the country is too full, or that Scottish culture is being eroded by these incomers, who don’t even bother to learn Gaelic or Scots.  Many Scots no longer feel as though they recognise their own country anymore.  Yes Scotland argues that the campaign does not have a problem with immigration in principle, but do we really need so many British people entering Scotland?  Furthermore, their religion is incompatible with Scottish values.  Anglicanism is too foreign for this Presbyterian nation, and the presence of Anglicans in our country will result in greater social upheaval.

Yes Scotland hopes the economic argument will prove their greatest asset.  They argue that the Brits who are crossing north of the border are too unskilled, taking all our Scottish jobs, deflating prices, and bringing unsatisfactory social conditions with them – like, say, HIV infections.  They argue Scotland should be able to take in only those who will contribute to society, which only coincidentally happens to be the wealthier Brits earning a certain income.  It does not seem to matter whether these immigrants may be married to Scots, or have family in Scotland.  Relatedly, they seek to make the case that leaving the UK will help Scotland’s public services.  Despite the fact several of the leading figures in Yes Scotland are on record for seeking public spending cuts – some of them actually oversaw such cuts – and the end of public welfare, they argue that British immigrants put too much strain on these key services, such as healthcare and schools.

The natural conclusion, then, it to vote Yes so Scotland can regain control and take its country back.  Ordinary Scots have had enough of the Scottish Government doing nothing to stem the endless flow of migrants entering our country through England.  We can only achieve this by establishing an Australian-style points system, placing illegal Brits into internment camps for years before forcibly deporting them south of the border.  Scotland is a great country, and will be greater if we vote Yes.


This sounds absurd, and outright offensive, right?  So how come it’s seen as acceptable by a vast proportion of people when we use these terms and style of language to talk about fellow Europeans?




Speaking to South Africa

Last Thursday (7th March), I had the fortune to be involved in a video conference with a South African school, organised for our Advanced Higher History class – in which we study South African history.  The class was comprised of 17 and 18 years olds of around the same level of education as us.  I think they’re from a predominantly Coloured school, somewhere along the Cape Peninsula.

The reason I’m writing about this is because it was truly a thought-provoking experience.  Although some of their comments were drowned out by the passions of their teachers, the students had such an engagement with their history and were keen to hear our views on certain situations.  They were far more talkative than us typically shy Scots, who shuffled awkwardly and never knew what to say.  I found their views fascinating.  There was a lot of bitterness in their comments, as the Coloured community were excluded from the Apartheid regime but are not entirely at home in today’s ‘Rainbow Nation’ either.

The comment which really stayed in my head, however, was made when I asked the class what they believe individuals in foreign countries could do to help situations like Apartheid today – Syria, for instance, which was mentioned frequently.  They were all agreed that political lobbying through letter writing, petitions, etc. were important, as well as raising awareness and donating some of our collective wealth to charities dedicating to helping.  They believed that a general antipathy exists in ‘better off’ nations, where human nature dictates that people are unlikely to go out of their way to change an issue which does not directly affect them.  These comments really resonated with me.  I toyed with the idea of starting up a human rights group in our school – an Amnesty International branch, perhaps – although two months before exams and leaving school maybe is slightly bad timing.  And I’m not optimistic of the level of support it would enjoy, although that’s no reason not to try.

I discovered a deep love for talking to people of different cultures, beliefs and backgrounds – of hearing their views and ideas.  It put me into a bit of a high for the rest of the day, and I was eager to experience more.  Along with a desire to do more to help disadvantaged parts of the world, I think the longest-lasting lesson, for me, from the conference is a reinvigorated desire to become a journalist.