Whew, mention immigration in this country and you can be certain the roof will collapse in on you. I made two errors when I tweeted the results of the study of voting patterns in the Independence Referendum by Professor Ailsa Henderson of Edinburgh University, followed by the question, "Does open door immigration make sense?" The cardinal misjudgement was thinking immigration can be discussed sensibly or even at all, in a tweet. The intended blog for which the tweet was a lead, was unready therefore I should have delayed the tweet until it was. The second was in using the word "Scots" instead of the term "Scots born" as I meant to. Scott Macnab's article in The Scotsman, which reported the turmoil which the original tweet caused, was reasonable. Unfortunately he failed to include, as other reports did and, as I have pointed out in a letter to The Scotsman which at the time of writing has yet to be published, the response from the highly respected journalist Iain Macwhirter. The original tweet generated over a thousand responses, which continued into the following day and ranged from the crass to the acceptable.
The figures in the Edinburgh study, covering the votes of 4,500 people, showed that 52.7% of people born in Scotland voted Yes; 72.1% born in rest of UK and 57% born outside UK, voted No. I quoted those figures followed by the question. There was no mention of race, colour, religion, ethnicity or anything other than the figures quoted. Sadly, the highly respected journalist Iain Macwhirter, led the charge by tweeting, "Yes - Scotland is hideously white", followed by "Scotland also has ageing population which erodes tax base. Need young taxpayers. Any colour will do". He concluded with, "Scotland needs cultural diversity and younger population. Only immigration will do that. Nothing to do with indy/ref" The highlighting is mine. His first comment is crass, openly racist and I can only imagine the uproar if I, or anyone else, had tweeted, Kenya/Ghana et al is hideously black". No more than a dozen or so respondents raised that very issue with Mr Macwhirter, the rest - hundreds of them - either agreed with him, applauded him or simply ignored the open racism of his tweets, while the vast majority accused me of every kind of racism and bigotry. The sheer hypocrisy, to say nothing of the ignorance and stupidity of many of the responses, was quite breathtaking.
Of course there was no attempt made to explain why Scotland needs cultural diversity, it was simply asserted and accepted. The results of the Edinburgh study showed that immigration to Scotland had a very obvious effect on the results of the referendum, contrary to Mr Macwhirter's claim, in response to which I asked, "Why open our doors to those more likely to vote to deny us our independence and skew vote more?" - more of which below. Migration is one of the greatest problems facing many European countries just now and the consequences of a sudden influx of people of a different culture, race, values and mores can be horrendous, with the immigrants frequently paying the heaviest price. Thousands have lost their lives in desperate attempts to reach Europe from Africa, parts of England are in turmoil as a consequence of Labour's open door immigration policy and Scotland has still to fully come to terms with the Irish influx of the 19th and 20th centuries, while Northern Ireland has its own story to tell. We hold refugees and asylum seekers, who have already lost everything, in dentenion centres like Dungavel to the detriment of both their physical and mental health. Scotland, historically has been, and still is, rather choosey about those it makes welcome.
Just to set the scene, a few pieces of personal information are in order. Born in Perth of a Catholic mother and Protestant father, I was taught religeous tolerance from the earliest age. As I attended the only Catholic school in Perth from 1945 onwards, my earliest friends included Irish, Italian and Polish children as well as the native Scots. One of my closest friends for over forty years is Polish. My wife of fifty three years, was born in Glasgow of Irish parents, her father from Mayo and her mother from Donegal, therefore our five children are half Irish with a number of relatives still living in Dublin and Donegal. Two of our great grandchildren are half Chinese and our family from the outset, encouraged them to embrace the language, history (which I taught for several years) and culture of their father's people. The wedding ceremony included both Scots and Chinese features, including the charming "Tea Ceremony" where the newly wedded young couple pay respects to their parents and grandparents. My brother-in-law of almost fifty years is English as is the partner of one of our sons. Cultural diversity? Aye, I think I know a wee bit about it, having actually lived with it quite happily for most of my life, as opposed to just paying lip service to it in order to assert my "superiority" or parade my unco guidness, as is likely true of the majority of my critics. The Irish immigration, particularly to the West Central Belt of Scotland, has been anything but a total blessing and we could have well done without some of the obscenities of the Rangers/Celtic relationship (see my blog "Scottish Nationalism And Catholicism") but NO, I will not be singing "The Famine Song" as one cretin suggested.
So, what are the possible consequences of open door immigration, other than to rid Scotland of its "hideous white culture" as so many of Mr Macwhirter's supporters would appear to want? We have been sheltered from the consequences of Labour's attempt to socially engineer the population, by adopting open door immigration but England has not. For years the political elites ignored the expressed concerns of the English electorate about the pressures on schools, hospitals, housing, the lack of social integration and what has been termed the "ghetoisation" of several of England's major cities. The pressure on education, health, housing; the increase in zero hours contracts with the subsequent drop in living standards, were denied, denied, denied and therefore ignored. The supporters of UKIP objected strongly to being dismissed as racists until finally, Ed Miliband admitted "Labour got immigration wrong". Now the major parties have all promised to control the number of immigrants, although there is nothing they can do about those coming from the EU. People have grown tired of hearing the elites defend immigration in terms of the massive contribution immigrants make to the economy, the NHS and public transport, as if their own contributions to these things are of no account. The outcome is frequently the scapegoating of immigrants for the poor housing, unemployment, low pay and fall in living standards that have become the reality for so many ordinary people in England's worst areas of social deprivation which have been unable to cope with the growth in population. Political elites have grown accustomed to turning working people against each other, largely because they find it so easy to engineer.
Immigration has become a "No-go zone" for debate and the responses to my original tweet, are a pretty fair indication of why this should be so. The authorities have finally been forced to admit that the grooming, leading to the rape and sexual abuse of thousands of young girls in large areas of England, could have been stopped years ago, had they not been terrified to highlight the racial overtones involved. That is wrong at every level and again, the poorest and most socially deprived are the prime victims. Refusal to debate the potential consequences of an open door immigration policy in Scotland must not be allowed to take root because the elites find it uncomfortable or because it suits their purpose but of far greater importance, it must not be allowed to take root because the likely victims will be those least able to defend themselves, many of them the newly arrived immigrants. Even controlled immigration will have consequences, some acceptable, some not. Open door immigration will allow greater numbers to come into Scotland therefore the consequences will be correspondingly greater, for good or ill.
I have been accused of blaming immigration for the rejection of independence in the referendum last September. That is absolute tripe but it suits a Tory politician to make the claim. I am on record as making several statements at the time of the referendum, arguing strongly that the vote should be restricted to those people living in Scotland at the time and registered to vote, irrespective of their origin, colour or creed. I argued equally strongly that ex-pat Scots should NOT have the vote because that would link the vote to ethnicity or national origin, which would be wrong. I disagreed strongly with much of the Yes campaign because I considered it to have several contradictions, particularly on the question of the currency. My strongest criticism however, was that I considered the campaign was far more about class war than about independence. When a member and office bearer in the SNP I disagreed strongly with the political analysis of the '79 Group, several of whose ex- members now hold senior positions in the SNP and Scottish government. I am again on record as one of my main disagreements is their attitude to those natural conservatives in Scotland, who have been encouraged to feel that independence has little to offer them. Over 400,000 Scots voted Tory in 2010, although they returned only one MP because of the first-past-the-post electoral system. Only 8% or 32,000 of those natural Tory voters voted Yes for independence.
I blamed an inept, class war for the defeat of the referendum on independence. Immigrants and the part they played did not even enter my mind. BUT, and this is vital, the Edinburgh study showed that the immigrant vote played a significant role because the majority voted No. In other words, the genie has been released from the bottle and no one is going to put it back in. People may be angry that the figures were released because of the implications they raise but it is how they are dealt with that is important.There were several social and age groups who voted No in the referendum, not least the over 65s and pensioners. We have to look at the reasons why immigrants and pensioners voted No but the reasons are hardly difficult to find. There is ample evidence that Unionists told immigrant groups they would be deported, while pensioners were told their UK pensions would be stopped. The Labour Party is currently distributing a leaflet that continues to make the same threat to pensioners. The number of assurances that the Unionists were lying (are still lying) had little impact. The treatment meted out to the "over 65s" in the aftermath of the No vote in the referendum, was nothing short of obscene. They were regularly attacked on social media, their tormentors caring little for their reasons for voting No. Those responsible for instilling their fear for the future cared even less.
It has always been a fallacy that Scotland has welcomed immigrants without question, although we have been more tolerant than many countries.The Irish have always been an exception but again, had the numbers been lower, the outcome may have been different. Anyone who argues there have been no problems is either deluding themselves or wilfully distorting the truth. There are no longer signs exclaiming "NO Irish" but we still have sectarianism, we still have Celtic and Rangers. The result of the referendum was a great disappointment to me but the targetting and scapegoating of the elderly as the main cause of the No vote, left a bad taste. The Edinburgh study has identified another group which can now be scapegoated. Are those who advocate open door immigration, because like Macwhirter they consider Scotland to be "hideously white" or for some other reason, prepared to be answerable for the possible consequences? Probably not, but then, they never are, are they?