EVERYTHING you thought you knew about British attitudes to immigration is wrong.

According to Ipsos Mori, “the UK now leads the world in being most positive about the impact of immigration”. Just let that sink in for a moment. We usually talk of Brexit Britain as a country steeped, if not in actual Tommy Robinson racism, then certainly hostility to immigration. Wasn’t that what leaving the European Union and ending free movement was all about?

What about Theresa May’s “hostile environment”; those statistics about increasing racial assaults; nurses being sent home because they don’t earn more than £30,000; tabloid newspapers demonising immigrants as scroungers?

Well, think again. It seems we are entering the sunny uplands of racial harmony, as British voters celebrate the contribution made to the NHS and our nation’s tax revenues by those hard-working migrants. It’s a culture shock, that’s for sure. But there appears to be no Panglossian jiggery-pokery about this survey. Ipsos Mori interviewed 20,000 adults in 27 countries for the BBC’s Crossing Divides season. They found that on average nations are about 24 per cent positively disposed to immigrants. But in Britain, the number is a stand-out 48 per cent.

This is a recent development too. In 2015, 56 per cent of voters thought that immigration was the number one problem to be addressed by politicians. Now it is 19 per cent.

You might be inclined to say: good, England is finally catching up with the Scots. But that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. As a number of researchers, including Professor John Curtice, have noted over the last decade, attitudes to immigration have not been radically different north and south of the Border.

Around the same proportions of Scots had negative and positive views in the past about migrants. And intriguingly, this still holds true today. The proportion of Scots with positive views on immigration, in the Ipsos Mori study, is 47 per cent, more or less the same as in England.

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The reason immigration has not been such a toxic issue in Scotland, it seems, is that it has never been exploited to the same degree by unscrupulous politicians and newspapers. There is no Ukip to speak of and the Scottish Tories have largely avoided the politics of race and immigration. Ruth Davidson has been strikingly intolerant of racist remarks by councillors, was highly critical of Boris Johnson’s rhetorical excesses and was a leading campaigner for Remain in 2016.

There hasn’t been the same undertone of racial tension in the streets in Scotland, partly because there are far fewer members of ethnic minorities here. England is around 85 per cent white according to the latest census figures, but Scotland is 95 per cent white. There are only around 40,000 Afro-Caribbeans. That alone may account for the lack of high-profile racial incidents – though of course Scotland is by no means immune to racial hatred. But let’s not do what people like me always do, which is seek the negative in the positive. This turnaround in UK public attitudes to immigration is real, hugely important politically, and is probably the result of a combination of factors.

Public information campaigns and social media have played a part in challenging the demonisation of migrants. Actual hostility to immigrants in the UK was at its worst in 2011, according to Ipsos Mori, before social media really got off the ground. Racist attitudes are increasingly stigmatised – as demonstrated by Tommy Robinson of the EDL being banned from Twitter and Facebook. There are significantly more black faces on TV. The police are more likely to record racist incidents that in the past and to prosecute those accused of hate crimes.

Partly as a result of these changes in the climate of opinion, newspapers like the Sun, the Express and the Daily Mail, have become noticeably less hostile toward immigrants. Columnists like Katie Hopkins, who use objectionable language about immigrants,are being removed from their media perches. In this, they are coming more into line with the Scottish press which has rarely featured racially-charged commentary.

The UK Conservative Party is also becoming more circumspect in its treatment of race, especially since the Windrush scandal. That traumatised the May Government and forced the resignation of Amber Rudd. The UK now has a Tory Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, who is himself from an ethnic minority. That would have been unimaginable 20 years ago.

I don’t want to overplay this, however. There is ample evidence that Theresa May is still “obsessed” with immigration and it is her determination to reduce it that led to her Brexit red lines on freedom of movement. The press is still capable of treating immigrants as undesirables, especially illegal asylum seekers arriving by boat.

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Brexit itself may of course also be a contributing factor in the sea change in racial attitudes. It may be that, after the catharsis of 2016, voters in England have been reassured that immigration is now “under control”. They have been persuaded that the Government has ended the “flood” of migrants, and that it is possible for Britons to default to their generally benevolent attitude to people who have come here to work and study. Well, maybe.

A very stern caveat is needed here. English voters may be content that net migration from the EU, at 57,000 is now lower than at any time since 2004. But the stinger is that migration from non-EU countries – in Africa and Asia largely – is now higher than ever at 261,000. Indeed, the overall inward migration figure has hardly fallen, much to the consternation of organisations like MigrationWatch, and is still running at around a million new migrants every four years. Moreover, unlike the Polish plumber and Spanish waitress, non-EU migrants are much more visible because of the colour of their skin. Leave voters may not have caught up.

But to repeat: let’s not be too eager to pick holes in what looks like a breakthrough in British social attitudes. Scotland may still be economically damaged by the senseless ending of freedom of movement. But at least the far right is not, despite all forecasts, having the same success exploiting immigration fears here as it is in many other European countries. Be thankful for small mercies