Experience of immigrants to Scotland, 1830s-1939

Experience of immigrants to Scotland, 1830s-1939

Arrival and Adaptation

  • Most immigrants arrived in Scotland due to reasons like economic opportunities, family ties and escaping political or religious persecution in their home countries.
  • Immigrants often settled in urban areas due to availability of jobs, particularly in shipbuilding, mining, and textiles.
  • Many immigrants were integrating into Scottish society, which sometimes led to tensions and prejudices, such as anti-Catholic sentiment against Irish immigrants.

Economic Impact

  • Immigrants significantly contributed to local economies, often taking on low-paid, unskilled or dangerous jobs that were avoided by local workers.
  • Irish immigrants specifically played a key role in the expansion of the railways and infrastructure development.
  • The arrival of Lithuanians boosted the coal mining industry, while Italians added to the catering and entertainment sectors.

Social Impact

  • Immigrants significantly impacted Scotland’s cultural diversity, leading to an enriching mix of customs, traditions, and cuisine.
  • Irish immigrants also introduced Catholic faith in Scotland dramatically, which reshaped the religious landscape.
  • Some immigrants and their descendants went on to become prominent figures in Scottish society, contributing to politics, science, and the arts.

Legislation and Representation

  • The Aliens Act 1905 marked the first legislative attempt to control immigration in Britain, largely fuelled by public and political protest.
  • Subsequent legislative measures also impacted the immigrant communities, and were met with series of campaigns defending the rights of these communities.
  • Ethnically diverse populace led to the establishment of various organisations representing their interests, like the Irish National Foresters and the Italian Catholic Society.

World War I and its Aftermath

  • The outbreak of WWI affected immigrants significantly. Many signed up to serve in the armed forces for their adopted country.
  • Post-WW1, returning soldiers needed jobs, leading to increased competition for employment. Political and economic tensions became prominent, leading to the 1924 Immigration Act which sought to control immigration numbers.
  • Rising anti-foreign sentiment also impacted immigrant populations, evidenced in the 1919 Glasgow race riots.