18 December 2012

S4M-04857 Migrants’ Rights Day

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-04857, in the name of Christina McKelvie, on migrants’ rights day. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

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Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the Migrants’ Rights Day celebrations that will take place across the country on 18 December 2012; notes that the date marks the 22nd anniversary of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1990; appreciates the continuing contribution that migrants from around the world make to Scotland, both economically and culturally, and continues to support people seeking sanctuary and solace in Scotland; commends the work of the organisation, Migrants’ Rights Scotland, in its bid to promote the rights of all migrants, regardless of where they are from and acknowledges their commitment to providing support for migrant community organisations (MCOs), and understands that Migrants’ Rights Scotland supports MCOs in representing themselves more effectively in the immigration system by sharing information and building on existing knowledge and campaigns on their behalf for justice across all social policy areas.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

The modern United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Brazil exist as they do today only because of migration, albeit imposed migration that failed to respect indigenous people’s rights adequately. My great-great-grandfather Archibald Stewart left Stirling in 1852 to cross the Atlantic. I now have 400 or so living relatives in North America—more than I have anywhere else in the world, although I have a substantial number of relatives in Australia. There is nothing uncommon about that story, which will be true for many of us.

Modern migration has a rather different character. Much of it comes towards us in response to our economic needs and to migrants’ economic needs. Probably 3,000 to 4,000 people have come to my constituency in recent years, because we need people to fill the vacancies in many of our important industries. Unemployment is less of an issue in my area than it is elsewhere.

In the early stages, some of the problems that are associated with migration were immediately manifest. Single men came, which created social pressures—and opportunities for many of the unattached young ladies in Peterhead, Fraserburgh and other fishing communities.

Now, the pattern has changed. It is important that the immigration system does not create barriers that prevent families from coming. When families and couples come, that is a much more stable form of immigration that helps receiving communities—such as mine and those elsewhere in Scotland—and those who come to live and work with us.

There are some surprising side effects from all that. I once visited a primary 6 class at the Peterhead Central school. There were 14 children in the class, of whom eight were native Doric speakers—as is the case in the north-east of Scotland—and six were native Latvian speakers, because for some reason the Latvians all seem to come to my constituency. Of course, the children had reached an accommodation by teaching one another the other language, so they were all bilingual and spoke a hybrid Latvian/Doric language. The genuine difficulty was that the teacher had been no part of that process and was having substantial difficulty understanding what the kids were talking about. I found that hugely amusing; the children tried to teach me a little of their new Lat-Doric language, but they utterly failed to do so as I am not much of a linguist.

From time to time we will all meet people who make remarks about immigrants. I always respond simply by saying that, if we send everybody home to their point of origin, what would we do with the 40 million Scots that we would have to take back to Scotland?

Immigration is part of the modern world, and it contributes to many of our areas. In my area 10 years ago, we had one quarter of the number of dentists per head of population that Edinburgh had. Many of my constituents had to travel to countries in Europe for dentistry, as they could not even access private dentistry facilities. Now we have a lot of Polish dentists and a stable dentistry system, so that is one example of the benefits of immigration.

The Poles have been coming in waves of immigration. When I was a boy scout, my patrol leader was Zbignew Klemens Skrodski—members will be able to guess where he came from.

I am delighted that Ban Ki-moon has given an excellent statement in support of international migrants’ day. I am also delighted that we are having this debate, and I thank all those who have made it possible.


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