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We are diminished without welcome tide of immigrants

THE din of siren voices from the British Right will echo all the way to Referendum Day:

Scotland is a right-wing country after all. Indeed, this self-styled Eden of social justice and equality would appear to possess just as healthy a quantum of the swivel-eyed and the reactionary as exist in Chipping Norton.

What else are we to conclude from the survey of more than 1000 Scots conducted by Dundee University's Five Million Questions project, as revealed by The Herald this week? It showed that some two-thirds of Scots back stricter immigration controls and that more than half of us want international aid budgets to be cut.

Meanwhile, 60% of us would deny benefits to those who have not lived in the UK for at least five years. By stealth, it seems, our nation has been kidnapped by Ukip.

The survey, though, and the questions it opted to ask are far more remarkable and troubling than the findings it revealed. How does Ukip, possessing not a single elected Westminster MP and no representative in Scotland, get to dictate the national agenda so easily and unquestioningly? And to the extent that its leader, Nigel Farage, is afforded as much air time by the BBC as Nick Clegg?

The Five Thousand Questions survey is an unsophisticated poll and it has delivered some unsophisticated results. What is meant by "stricter immigration controls?"

Does this refer to so-called "bad immigrants" such as Africans and East Europeans or does it also include nice, white immigrants from affluent countries who wear clothes that fit and know when to go home at a decent time? Does it take account of the thousands of students in Scotland and the UK on Erasmus placements? Of course it doesn't.

And what does it mean when it refers to benefits for those who have worked here for fewer than five years? Presumably, it did not specify that it is already virtually impossible for many immigrants to receive anything at all from the UK. Spouses and fiancees can't secure benefits; nor are they allowed to work here.

Glasgow possesses the UK's biggest population of immigrants and asylum-seekers, yet issues stemming from this simply do not resonate in Scotland's biggest and most populous city.

In this, Glasgow is similar to other big urban centres throughout the world whose greatness and economic might have all been built, to a significant degree, on a vibrant, large and industrious immigrant population.

The tides of immigration that have washed over my home city have been constant for more than 150 years. Without them, Glasgow would be diminished and reduced.

In the more sparsely-populated and wilder fastnesses of Scotland, where a chap with a vivid skin pigmentation might stand out a little more, the social attitudes might be a little different. Aren't we always more fearful of that which appears strange? Hell, in some Highland villages they stare at you if your shirt is not tucked in properly.

We need to be careful when asking loosely-framed questions about the movement of peoples and the turbid currents that stir beneath them.

Was it merely coincidence this survey happened a few days before a European election that has served as an oxygen tent for a party that would have you believe our children will be speaking Bulgarian and living in caravans if we do not get a grip? The question on overseas aid was especially pernicious.

Many immigrants who come to work in the UK, no matter how poorly paid, send a significant portion of their wages back to their country of origin to help families living in abject and unimaginable poverty.

If we allowed more of these people to work here, our overseas aid bill would not need not be so high. And, lest we forget, many of these visitors are seeking solace and sustenance here because Britain's chaotic geo-political 20th and 21st century adventures distorted the social fabric of their own countries. They, on the other hand, are enhancing the social fabric of ours.

According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, 11% of all NHS staff in England and Wales are not British. They comprise workers from 200 different countries. For professionally qualified staff and doctors the figure rises to 26%. There is not a comparable Scottish NHS survey but I would predict our numbers would be in the same neighbourhood.

The British Medical Association has stated that, without their contribution, "many NHS services would struggle to provide effective care to their patients".

Research undertaken by the Committee Of The Regions, the EU's assembly of local and regional representatives, found only 3% of European citizens are mobile.

Many of these, including British nationals, are students on Erasmus programmes. And many are British couples retiring to Spain. The dissemination of peoples and cultures is one of the most important and fundamental principles of the European Union. The philosophy behind it, you see, is that the more we see of each other, the less we will want to attack each other.

Scotland's population, according to the 2011 census, stands at just over 5.2 million. It is reckoned we could do with another 300,000 incomers to contribute to our economy who are unhindered by the barrage of entry qualifications that the endlessly suspicious and paranoid south-east sets for the rest of the UK.

Scottish employers routinely speak of the high esteem in which they hold immigrant workers in terms of commitment, time-keeping and efficiency; they do not get hangovers. There is a disproportionately high number of them running their own businesses and making their own money. They do not contribute to a swollen public sector and they do not fall ill as often. They are not a burden on the NHS.

Today, we will receive the long-awaited report from the Scottish Government's Land Reform Review Group. To what extent this addresses the feudal pattern of land ownership in this country will determine how serious the Government is about redressing authentic inequality and unearned privilege.

More than half of our land remains in the hand of some 450 individuals whose families unlawfully annexed it for the purposes of making themselves richer and more powerful.

Nowhere in Europe is the concentration of land in so few hands greater than in this country.

Some of these people are among the richest in the UK and yet we continue to allow them to augment their fortunes by disfiguring our countryside with windfarms while blasting their heaths to ensure they are fit only for shooting.

They secure millions of pounds in agricultural subsidies by insisting they are working farmers.

In the sacred matters of soil and honest toil it is not immigrants and refugees who are a burden on our resources.

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Local government

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