By Liam Alastair Crouse, Rhode Island, USA
The discussion of immigration in Britain is often plagued by stereotypes, ethnic prejudice, and xenophobia. Indeed, in the past year, the British Government, having responded to such beliefs, moved to curtail immigration into the UK from hundreds of thousands to only tens of thousands by cutting various visa programmes across the board.
I am one of the numerous people affected. I came to Scotland five years ago to study at the University of Edinburgh on a student visa. Back in 2008 when I applied, students had the option, after study, to apply for a post-graduate visa.
In April of last year, the British Government decided to rescind their offer, leaving many prospective immigrants with higher educational qualifications with no further option than to return either to the countries of their birth or find another which find value in them and their skills.
As a graduate in Celtic and Archaeology, my return to the United States has neither been the most fruitful nor the most optimistic of homecomings and has frankly been distressing. I was indeed surprised to learn that the United States does not have much need or want for fluent speakers of Scottish Gaelic (or archaeologists for that matter!).
The current dearth of qualified Gaelic teachers and similar professions in Scotland, as well as the campaign to rejuvenate the declining Gaelic language, means that I would abet in augmenting various aspects of Scottish life. And besides, I wasn’t planning on returning to America anyway.
My mother, who was born in Canterbury, England, is now a Canadian national living in the US. I missed out on claiming British citizenship when I turned 18 – a prospect I did not detect until a few weeks after the event.
I still have family in Britain (on both sides of the border), but that doesn’t necessarily help my case. I am, personally, very lucky that I do have a way to return to Scotland, through Canadian citizenship and a British Ancestry Visa (Commonwealth citizenship is a requirement); however, it seems to be rather convoluted.
The British Ancestry Visa, which allows those who had a grandparent born in the UK attain a settlement visa for up to 5 years, is available only to those who hold Commonwealth citizenship. It is an exclusive club indeed – many who are not as fortunate in their potential allegiances as I am have been snubbed and rejected by the British Government.
However, I digress. The Scottish Government supports a more open, welcoming immigration policy to that of the British Government’s isolationist dogma which spurns a contributive, profitable, and beneficial class of immigrant. There are many potential immigrants who would consider returning to their ancestral homeland if accorded a path.
I maintain hope that in independence, Scotland will prepare a warm welcome for her far-flung children who gaze inward from beyond a fence of separation… biding and expectant.