Immigration and the mongrel nation

by Lorenzo Piccoli

With reference to my previous post, and with the Scottish referendum on independence fast approaching it is fascinating to look at the moves of the Yes side. For me, part of my research involves an analysis of parties’ attitude towards immigrants, who may be well crucial for the outcome of the vote.

Nationalist parties in Scotland seems to be fairly enlightened in this sense. Since 1994, SNP leader and current Prime Minister Alex Salmon has repeatedly pointed to the positive contribution brought by newcomers and to the fact that diversity is not a problem. “We are proud to be part of what Willie McIlvanney called our ‘mongrel nation’. In fact, our biggest problem is not immigration, but emigration. Every year we lose talented Scots and we welcome any talented replacements from wherever they come.”

These developments are interesting if compared with other cases. In Québec’s 1995 referendum for independence, for instance, the Parti Québécois initially appealed to a broad cultural identity that included immigrants; and then, in the weeks before the vote, it shifted to a much narrower ethnic conception of collective identity. In that context, the party “increasingly made emotional appeals to ‘old-stock’ Québecers, whilst placing immigrant groups onto the ‘them’ side of the ‘us versus them’ (or French versus English) fence” (Hepburn, 2009: 520).