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15 October 2003

Surprising findings about the English in Scotland - myth after myth dispelled

Publication of the latest research reveals a number of surprising findings about Scotland's largest ethnic minority group, the English. The research carried out by Dr Murray Watson at the University of Dundee appears in a new book Being English in Scotland.

Professor Tom Devine, author of The Scottish Nation, said: "For the first time we have a thorough examination of English migrants' place in modern Scottish society, which is at once provocative and immensely stimulating".

Until now most people have considered the Irish to be Scotland's largest minority group. Watson's work shows that over the last two hundred years more than a million English people have come to live and work in Scotland and that they overtook the Irish as long ago as 1921. At the last count in 2001 there were over 408,000 English people living all over Scotland. At their height the Irish-born only numbered 218,745 in 1881 and at the last Census in 2001 there were a mere 21,774.

One of the common myths about the English is that they are largely middle class white settlers exchanging expensive Home Counties property for a Highland retreat or retired people seeking free personal care for the elderly. Watson's research proves this to be profoundly misleading. Most English people live in the Central Belt. Most come to work and their social composition essentially matches that of the Scots. And with English migrants being younger than the population as a whole, the research disabuses the idea that the English in Scotland are elderly.

Another myth to bite the dust was that anti-Englishness was a serious and increasing problem. Nine out of ten English migrants claimed they had not experienced anti-Englishness, other than in the form of teasing and banter, which occurred especially when Scotland played England at rugby or football. Watson commented, "there were plenty, indeed too many, recorded incidents of unpleasantness, but we have to remember much of Scots' ire is directed against England the state and not English people. Furthermore compared with other ethnic groups in Scotland, the English, who outnumber them by almost two to one, are at the receiving end of considerably less violence, harassment and discrimination".

According to Dr Watson one of the most surprising things that emerged from his research was the way that most English settlers worked hard to integrate into Scottish society and how many came to prefer living north of the Border. In his analysis of how these migrants reconstructed their national identity he found that more than half of the new settlers considered themselves new Scots, or a combination of Scots/English or British. Less than one in ten considered themselves wholly English.

Being English in Scotland, 12.99, is published by Edinburgh University Press. It will be launched on 29 October 2003.

Notes for editors

  • Around 1 in 8 of the MSPs in the first Scottish Parliament were born in England

  • The only Morris dancing team in Scotland doubles up as a ceilidh band!

  • The SNP has a group of English activists called New Scots for Independence

  • The largest number of English migrants (more than a quarter of a million) live in the Central Belt

  • The largest proportion of English migrants live in Argyll and Bute (17.04%), the Borders (16.84%), Moray (16.22%) and Dumfries and Galloway (15.64%).

  • The English in Scotland are not all middle class. They reflect the socio-economic makeup of the native Scots-born population

  • Many English-born residents commented that they resented the way the media (in England and Scotland) exaggerated tensions and differences between the English and Scots

  • Dr Murray Watson is an honorary research fellow in the history department at the University of Dundee. He is a Scot who spent forty years of his life living and working in England returning to his native Borders with his English-born wife in 1998.

  • He was teased about his Scottish accent by his schoolmates at Pocklington School York and now regrets he cannot shake off his English accent. He was a co-founder of Marketing Options Ltd, a Surrey-based direct marketing company, and sold his interest to undertake doctoral research at the University of Dundee aged 52. He was awarded his PhD for his thesis The Invisible Diaspora The English in Scotland 1945-2000 in July 2003

Author available for interview/features.
Contact: Douglas McNaughton, Edinburgh University Press, 22 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LF
Tel: 0131 650 4220
Email: douglas.mcnaughton@eup.ed.ac.uk

By Jenny Marra, Head of Press 01382 344910 j.m.marra@dundee.ac.uk

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