Little Evidence Scots Are More Welcoming

6 December 2018, 06:51 | Updated: 6 December 2018, 06:52

Edinburgh

There is "remarkably little evidence" that public opinion in Scotland is more liberal towards immigration than in England and Wales, according to a study.

The National Centre for Social Research found voters for some parties north of the border have a less positive view of immigration than counterparts in other parts of the UK.

The study, led by Professor John Curtice, analysed responses to the Scottish Social Attitude Survey and British Social Attitude Survey.

Overall, it was found more people think that immigration is good for the British economy than believe it is bad.

While a "substantial proportion" of the population said immigration is neither good or bad for the economy, the number of positive responses to the surveys outweighed the negative.

Comparing the responses from Scotland and England and Wales it was found there is "remarkably little evidence that public opinion in Scotland is any more liberal towards immigration".

When looking at differences across the UK, it was found that those who voted for the Conservatives or Labour in Scotland "do appear to be somewhat less likely" than the supporters of those parties in England and Wales to take a positive view of the economic consequences of immigration.

Only around a half (51%) of Labour voters in Scotland think that migration is good for Britain's economy, compared with 59% that do so in England and Wales, it was found.

The study said 22% of Scottish Conservative voters believe that migration is bad for the economy - higher than the equivalent figure of 15% for Conservative supporters in England and Wales.

The analysis also found that at 70%, the proportion of EU referendum Remain voters in England and Wales who believe immigration has been good for the economy is higher than the equivalent figure of 56% among Remain voters in Scotland.

Professor Curtice said: "Scotland may have voted differently from England and Wales in an EU referendum in which immigration was a key issue, and it may have a devolved Government that is much more positive about immigration than is the UK Government in London.

"But that does not mean that the balance of public opinion about the consequences of immigration is markedly more positive than it is in England and Wales, or that the demographic differences that are in evidence south of the border are not just as apparent in Scotland too.

"What differs between Scotland and the rest of the UK is how attitudes towards migration are reflected in the ballot box.

"The SNP has gathered for itself an electorate that is relatively positive about immigration, an electorate whose views are then counterbalanced to some degree by a pattern of support for other parties in Scotland that is somewhat less positive towards migration than is found among those in England and Wales who back such parties.

"Support for Scottish independence is associated with a more positive outlook too, even though on its own a strong Scottish identity is not."

He added: "Our analysis is a reminder of the dangers of attempting to infer the prevalence of attitudes from the outcome of an election or a referendum.

"Two sets of voters with very similar attitudes to each other can behave very differently if the political choices with which they are presented and the political appeals to which they are exposed are very different.

"The relative success of the SNP, with its civic nationalist appeal, means that the link between how people vote and their views about immigration are rather different in Scotland than in England and Wales. But the party's relative liberalism about immigration does not necessarily accurately reflect the views of Scots as a whole."