Anti-English Sentiment

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 15th April 2010.

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Photo of Ian McKee Ian McKee Scottish National Party 12:00 pm, 15th April 2010

To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government's response is to the report from the University of Edinburgh's department of sociology, published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies , that finds that anti-English sentiment expressed toward undergraduates from England has the potential to weaken the capacity for Scotland to retain highly skilled graduates from that country. (S3F-2329)

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

We should be careful before we accept a characterisation of Scots' attitudes towards our neighbours on the basis of one report, and still less on newspaper articles on that report. The recent press articles are based on interviews carried out in 2005 with some 80 graduates who completed their undergraduate course at Edinburgh University in 2000. It is therefore hardly representative of Scottish society today.

We are proud of our reputation as a welcoming nation for students from any country and background, grateful for the contribution they make and keen that our own students can benefit from the opportunities that are offered by a diverse student population. The attraction of Scotland is reflected in the numbers of international students choosing to come here—about 40,000 overall. Looking specifically at English entrants to higher education in Scotland in 2008-09—the latest data that are available—the number has increased by almost 6 per cent since the previous year.

In a race equality statement published in December 2008, we are clear that we want a Scotland where people from all backgrounds—irrespective of race, faith, belief and place of birth—feel respected, have a sense of belonging and are confident that they can achieve their full potential in our country.

Photo of Ian McKee Ian McKee Scottish National Party

I am grateful to the First Minister for his answer and for confirming that Scotland welcomes and values the contribution of students from England and other countries to the academic, cultural and social life of Scotland. Indeed, if I may declare an interest, I am one of such immigrants and have experienced nothing but positive support since coming to this country many years ago. Does the First Minister agree that the key to successful assimilation of newcomers in any nation is a sense of national self-confidence and purpose among all citizens, and that the more Scotland is able to control its own future, the more likely we are to progress towards that goal?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

I agree with that. I would also agree that Scots have a long history and tradition of extending a warm welcome to migrants coming to Scotland to work, study and live. The Scottish Government welcomes the contribution that everyone makes to the economic and cultural life of Scotland and we remain committed to an independent Scotland in which Scots from all backgrounds feel respected and have a sense of belonging.

I am grateful to Ian McKee for raising the issue, particularly because I noticed that the co-author of the report, Ross Bond, wrote to The Scotsman yesterday about the media coverage, which he saw as a misrepresentation. He criticised The Scotsman for encouraging

"the very conclusions we"— the authors of the report—

"took pains to avoid".

It is right and proper that Ian McKee raised the issue because we should take every opportunity in this national Parliament to emphasise the nature and characteristics of what is best in Scotland and our attitude to people coming from overseas, and indeed to make the connection between Scottish self-respect and Scottish self-government. We should all respect our internationalist, outgoing attitude.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

The report to which Dr McKee refers confirms that anti-English sentiment in Scotland appears to increase during major sporting tournaments such as football's world cup. In that context, I welcome the example being set by the First Minister in saying that he will support England at the world cup, and ask him whether he will encourage the rest of his party to follow his lead.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

I have many and various responsibilities as the First Minister of Scotland, but when it comes to supporting football teams, I take the responsibility for my own words and my own actions. I would not dare to tell any member of Parliament, least of all Murdo Fraser, which team they should support at a national or international level.