The current Scottish government has expressed a positive approach to immigration which makes Scotland a particularly attractive destination for migrants from Eastern Europe. Figures showing a higher than UK average increase of East European migrants to Scotland bear this out. Despite a twenty-fold increase of Polish and Lithuanian immigration to Scotland since the early 2000s, the largest increase in any part of the UK, public and voluntary organisations, charities and councils have few resources to address urgent issues of East European migration.
During 2014/15, the Scottish Universities Insight Institute (SUII) funded an intercultural research project on migration, led jointly by the IRC and the Aberdeen Centre for Russian and East European History. Heriot-Watt's Prof. Ullrich Kockel was joint leader, with Aberdeen University's Prof. Karin Friedrich, of Linking Northern Communities, a policy and community oriented research project on Eastern European immigration to Scotland. The project brought together academics, policy makers and local communities, and involved a number of the IRC's research partners in Poland and Lithuania. A full report is available on the SUII website.
The project's focus has been on the importance of understanding social, cultural and economic parameters of integration of migrants into Scottish society, and how awareness of common links of heritage and its influence on identity can improve and ease the integration of migrants into their new environment. The comparison of different migration waves over time, as well as the comparison of experiences of different groups of East European migrants facilitated a dialogue between academics, policy-makers, charities and migrant communities to aid better coordination of their endeavours at community-level.
Our goal has been to apply models and develop resources for future policy-making and improve understanding of the potential social, cultural and economic benefits that could be derived from the integration of these communities. Novel approaches included outreach to schools which are under pressure from large numbers of Polish and other East European pupils, a public seminar on 'Transnational Biographies' of people that have shaped a shared East European-Scottish heritage into the present, policy papers for MSPs in the cross-party group on Poland in the Scottish Parliament, seminars including the business community on particular features of the East European migrant market, and "Community Cafes" on the sustainability of business and tourism from Eastern Europe to Scotland.
The first event,
A model for Polish community integration in Scotland,
took place in Aberdeen
on 17 November 2014
Prof. Rebecca Kay's (Glasgow) blog about the event is live.
The second event,
took place in Glasgow
on 18 December 2014
The third event,
Newcomers and hometowns
took place in Glasgow
on 16 February 2015
Professor Karin Friedrich, University of Aberdeen
Professor Ullrich Kockel, Heriot-Watt University
Dr Marta Trzebiatowska, University of Aberdeen
Professor Claire Wallace, University of Aberdeen
Professor Andrew Blaikie, University of Aberdeen
Lidia Krzynowek, Polish Cultural Festival Association
Dr Liz Curtis, University of Aberdeen
Magda Czarnecka, FENIKS, Counselling
Jean Urquhart MSP
Professor Máiréad Nic Craith, Heriot-Watt University
Colm Wilson, Fife Migrants Forum
Martin Stepek, Scottish Family Business Association