Scotland no more tolerant of immigrants than the rest of UK, poll finds

Almost two thirds think the number of migrants entering the UK should be reduced

The political perception that Scottish people are more tolerant of immigrants has been dismissed as “a myth”, after a poll showed that almost two thirds think the number of migrants entering the UK should be reduced.

The proportion of Scots who believe that current levels of immigration are too high is exactly the same as Britain as a whole, the results suggest – undermining the SNP’s previously-stated view that the people of Scotland “celebrate” when the country’s population rises.

The YouGov poll of 1,100 Scottish adults for the BBC found that 49 per cent think the level of immigration to Britain should be reduced, a level in line with a different survey conducted across Great Britain last year. A further 15 per cent said they would like to see it stopped completely.

Only one in 20 Scots said immigration should be increased, a similar proportion as the Great Britain poll, while around a quarter said it should stay at the same level. The largest proportion thought immigration has been mostly bad for Britain (38 per cent), compared with 27 per cent who said it was mostly good.

Sir Geoff Palmer, professor emeritus at Heriot Watt University’s school of life sciences in Edinburgh, said the idea that Scots are “more tolerant than the English” was a “myth”. He added that the Scottish Government had been open about the need for more immigrants to balance the economic impact of an ageing population, but “for political reasons” had not given a survey of the facts.

“I think politicians are worried about the fact that the British people, you know, are a bit sort of anti-foreigner and therefore they don’t want to talk about it,” he added.

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Sir Geoff Palmer, professor emeritus at Heriot Watt University’s school of life sciences

Ahead of the Scottish independence referendum, the SNP’s Pete Wishart said Scots “celebrate the good news” when the country’s population increased, whereas “at Westminster it couldn’t make the politicians more miserable”.

In response to the poll, the SNP’s Humza Yousaf said politicians needed to address public concerns about immigration. “I think if you ask most Scottish people and most people around the UK ‘do they want to see high-skilled migration to fill gaps?’ then the majority do not want to see that reduced,” he added.

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