Pakistanis living in Scotland feel more at home north of the border than the 400,000 English who live there

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Pakistani immigrants feel more at home in Scotland than the English people that live there. Research into why Pakistanis, the largest non-white ethnic-minority group in Scotland, find it easier to adapt to the Scottish culture than the neighbouring Sassenachs reveals that it is all down to English notions of identity.

A survey by the University of Glasgow discovered English perceptions of identity were primarily influenced by birthplace but Pakistanis defined themselves by religion.

The study of more than 1,200 people and 12 focus groups around Scotland found that almost half of English people living north of the border felt that to be "truly Scottish" it was essential to be born in Scotland but less than a quarter of Pakistanis believed birthplace matters. Current estimates suggest there are up to 400,000 English in Scotland, and there are now 21,000 Pakistanis - most of them in Glasgow.

The study, by Professor William Miller and Dr Asifa Hussain of the university's politics department, discovered that while English people in Scotland were still more sympathetic than Pakistanis towards Scottish symbols - such as the Saltire - or towards the teaching of Scottish history in schools, such attitudes did not make them more comfortable living among Scots.

"English people in Scotland have a more rigid, territorial identity than people in the Scottish Pakistani community," Professor Miller said.

"They are self-consciously aware they are not living in their birthplace, making it difficult for them to feel Scottish even though they respect and sympathise with Scotland." Professor Miller said that because the Scottish Pakistani community considered its identity was based on religion rather than birthplace, they did not struggle to choose allegiance between two territories. "Their identity is portable. Being Muslim first and Scottish second does not conflict," Professor Miller said.

By contrast, English people tended to believe their identity was "tied to the soil".

While religion was the main influence behind Pakistani identity, with 60 per cent of participants saying they were Muslim rather than Pakistani, British or Scottish, only 2 per cent of English subjects chose a religious identity. Nearly six out of ten saw themselves as British opposed to English, Scottish, Catholic, Episcopalian or Protestant.

In addition, the Pakistani identity also meant they could more easily express Scottish nationalist sympathies.

Proportionally more Pakistanis were in favour of Scottish independence than Scots in general and, in the parliamentary election earlier this year, the Pakistani community voted more for the SNP than the typical Scot did.

"Here we have an ethnic minority which identifies with nationalism and independence," Professor Miller said.

By contrast the position south of the border was very different in terms of ethnic inclusiveness. The study found that even among ethnic Pakistanis born outside Scotland, a mere 15 per cent identified more strongly with Britain than with Scotland.

The Government's General Household Survey suggested "Britishness" was viewed as inclusive while "Englishness" was seen as exclusive and found that, among non-whites in England, almost five times as many felt British rather than English.

Masood Chaudhry, 51, a Glasgow shopkeeper, has no trouble cheering for his adopted country against England in football, though he supports the Pakistan cricket team. He said: "As far as we are concerned, we are Scottish. We are Muslim first, Scottish second and Pakistani third."