Immigrants prefer England to Scotland

Situation leads to accusations from a cross-party group of MPs

27th May 2009: England continues to be happy hunting grounds for the immigrants. Statistics released to MPs in a parliamentary written answer reveal England is preferred over Scotland by the immigrants.

The fact that England is taking a far bigger share of immigrants than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, has led to accusations from a cross-party group of MPs that the main political parties are “in denial” about how the country will cope.

More than nine out of every 10 migrants entering Britain over the past two decades have settled in England. The total is 20 times more than the number of migrants, who have gone to live in Scotland.

The Office for National Statistics has further revealed the level of net migration – the number of those settling in the UK minus those leaving – amounted to 2,149,000 for England for the period between 1991 and 2007. This equates to 92 per cent of all UK immigrants.

Over the same period, net immigration into Scotland amounted to just 105,000 – fewer than half the number currently moving to England in a single year. Immigration added 56,000 to the population of Wales and 27,000 in Northern Ireland.

The disclosure came in response to a parliamentary question from Nicholas Soames, the Tory MP and co-chair, with Labour’s Frank Field, of the cross-party Balanced Migration group.

It came at a sensitive time in the debate on immigration, with the far-right British National Party hoping for gains in next month’s European parliament elections.

Reacting to the statistics, the MPs said the imbalance delivered a warning to parliamentarians from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland not to interfere with debates on immigration.

Soames and Field – who have argued that Britain would need to build another seven Birminghams to deal with expected population growth by 2031 – said in a joint statement the research showed immigration was “overwhelmingly an issue for England rather than other parts of the UK”.

However, Keith Best, chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service, which represents immigrants and asylum seekers, said while London had been historically the first port of call for many foreign workers it was “completely skewed” to suggest that people never moved to other parts of the UK.

“Scotland is crying out for people because of depopulation,” Best said. “We need some proper research to look at the ultimate destination of migrants.”

Experts also argue that predictions about immigration and population growth could be rendered obsolete as rising unemployment makes Britain a less attractive destination. Figures from the Office for National Statistic last week showed that the number of eastern Europeans returning home had more than doubled.

A Home Office spokesman, meanwhile, said: “Migration brings benefits to the UK but we know of its impacts too. That is why the Government is controlling migration.”

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