Page last updated at 23:56 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 00:56 UK

Scots 'not tolerant' of migrants

Immigration service officer
The commission believes Scotland will become more dependent on migrants

Scotland needs to stop fooling itself into thinking it is a tolerant and welcoming nation, a specially convened seminar is to be warned.

The event, hosted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), will hear Scotland is to become increasingly dependent on migrant workers.

But work needs to be done to transform the country's attitudes towards migrants, the EHRC said.

The seminar will be held in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

It is being held in the light of demographic projections that suggest Scotland will face difficulties in the next 15 to 20 years with an ageing population.

We suspect it's too easy for us as a nation to talk a good game about our decency, but the truth is often less noble
Morag Alexander

But half of those surveyed for the most recent Social Attitudes Survey believed that Scotland would begin to lose its identity if more Muslims moved to the country, while 30% felt that ethnic minorities and people from Eastern Europe take jobs away from Scots.

Morag Alexander, Scottish commissioner for the EHRC, said the figures betrayed Scotland's perception of itself as a tolerant society.

And she warned the Scotland of 2030 will not be economically or socially fit for purpose unless Scots become more welcoming and tolerant of foreigners.

Population growth

She added: "It strikes me that too often we seek comfort in a Scottish consensus that we are all 'Jock Tamson's bairns' - citizens of a fair and equal nation.

"At EHRC we suspect it's too easy for us as a nation to talk a good game about our decency, but the truth is often less noble.

"We like to think we are free of racism and other inequalities because we prefer that to the truth.

"In order to live up to our own self image, we have to make the sentiment of our songs real and openly say 'this Scotland is not good enough' and then work to make it better."

The commission called for better planning for population growth, a stronger policy focus on the issues that deter people from settling in Scotland and a realisation that the country's positive history of welcoming new people means that issues such as racism and inequality are not problems in modern Scotland.

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