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Anger over citizenship test

A new version of the British citizenship test that includes questions on everything from Robert Burns to Monty Python has been condemned by a Scottish charity that helps asylum seekers.

From today, migrants will have to study for a new test that places a greater emphasis on British culture rather than practical aspects of life.

The Scottish Refugee Council said the changes would make the test much harder for refugees to pass, and called for the whole process to be reformed. The test, which is to take place at five centres in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen and Dundee, was introduced in 2007 and every migrant applying for citizenship must sit it. Candidates are given a handbook to help them pass, and must score at least 75%.

The test and the handbook have been rewritten, removing questions on job interviews and public transport and replacing them with questions about British culture, history and values. New questions include "who is the patron saint of Scotland?" and "which admiral has a monument in Trafalgar Square?" Immigration Minister Mark Harper said changing the test and handbook was part of an attempt to ensure migrants are able to integrate into British society. The test will be introduced in March and the new handbook is available from today.

"The new book rightly focuses on values and principles at the heart of being British," said Mr Harper. "Instead of telling people how to claim benefits, it encourages participation in British life."

But a spokesman for the Scottish Refugee Council said the new test would make it harder for refugees to pass.

He said: "We did research with refugees on their views on citizenship, and it's clear that rather than this one view of what citizenship is, people think of it in different ways. Some of them are drawn to the idea of being a citizen of Britain but for others it's about getting out of a difficult situation. The process does not reflect this, and we've asked the Government to review it."

The council also believes the test does not reflect the different educational backgrounds of the migrants and that the changes will raise the barriers.

"This is not a direction we would go in," said the spokesman. "The minister says they have stripped out mundane information but we would say if you're a refugee you need mundane information; you're thinking about a new life. For the majority of refugees, it's about finding safety and security. The whole process has to be changed, not just the test."

Last year, 6414 tests, called Life in the UK, were sat in Scotland; 151,139 were sat nationally.

The new test will include questions on Shakespeare and Burns, Isaac Newton, Alexander Fleming and Churchill.

But it will also reflect modern popular culture.

The Government says the reforms are part of its attempts to reduce net migration to sustainable levels.

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