Research Programme

Migration and the constitutional future of Scotland

Allan Findlay, Jakub Bijak, David McCollum, Robert Wright, David Bell, Helen Packwood, Scott Tindal

This research was funded by the ESRC's Future of Scotland Programme


Project summary

This suite of research projects aimed to inform the debate in the run up to the Scottish referendum. The evidence produced advised on likely future planning need in the area of migration, considering the likely influence of constitutional change.

Several research questions were explored;

1) Is migration in Scotland is different from the rest of the UK and do the views of Scottish people to migration may differ from the views held in other constituent countries?

2) What are Scottish employers views on UK immigration policies and how do employers think constitutional change might influence their employment of migrants?

3) How might a change in UK immigration rules impact Scottish Higher Education Institutions?

4) How might migration to and from Scotland be affected by the outcome of the referendum?


Project activities

Date Activity Description
9 December 2015 Presentation at the ESRC event "The Impacts of Economics on the Scottish Referendum and Lessons for the Future" held at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Robert Wright presented the paper "Financial Literacy and Political Attitudes: Immigration, Scottish Independence and EU-Exit" at this event.
18 August 2014 Presentations at the IGU Regional Conference held in Krakow, Poland Alan Findlay and Helen Packwood presented the paper "Immigration, Scotland and the constitutional change debate: Geography, difference and the question of scale." David McCollum and Scott Tindal presented the paper "The political-economy of immigration policy: the Scottish example."
16 August 2014 Debate at the Edinburgh Festival of Politcs. A two hour debate on migration between David McCollum, Sue Cameron from the Daily Telegraph and Lilja Gretarsdottir from the Council of Europe. 
12 August 2014 Presentation at the event titled "The Independence Referendum Campaign: Help or Hindrance?" held at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Paper presented by David McCollum titled "Attitudes towards migration and the independence debate."
5 August 2014 Seminar presentation as part of the SRA Scotland Evening Seminar Series held at The Melting Pot in Edinburgh. Helen Packwood presented her paper titled "Immigration, Scotland and the Constitutional Change Debate."
26 April 2014 Presentations at the "What happens if Scotland votes no?" event held at Trades Hall, Merchant City, Glasgow. David Bell presented on Welfare and Pensions and David McCollum presented on Borders and Immigration.
27 February 2014 The Politicians and Professionals Seminar Series on Migration held at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. David Bell, Allan Findlay, David McCollum and Jakub Bijak present the seminar "Should Scotland have its own immigration policy?"
14 February 2014 COMPAS Breakfast Briefing held in London. Allan Findlay, David McCollum and Jakub Bijak presented the briefing "Where does migration sit within the debate over the future of the UK and Scotland?"
7 February 2014 Presentation at the Migration and the Referendum Debate Conference held at the COSLA Conference Centre in Edinburgh. Alan Findlay and David McCollum presented the paper "The Economic and Demographic Impacts of Migration."



Bell, D., Findlay, A.M. and McCollum, D. (2014)  Labour  migration policy and constitutional change in Scotland. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 30 (2), 310-324.

McColum, D. (2014) 'The Scope for a differential immigration policy for Scotland.' In Future of UK and Scotland. BEYOND SMITH: Contributions to the continuing process of Scottish devolution. Centre on Constitutional Change, University of Edinburgh, Chapter 12, 41-43.

McCollum, D. and Blinder, S. (2014) ‘Question 13: Does Scotland need a separate immigration policy? And if the vote is Yes could we have one?’ In Jeffery, C. and Perman, R. (eds) Scotland’s Decision: 16 Questions to think about for the referendum on 18 September, Birlinn Limited (e-book).

McCollum, D. and Findlay, A. (2016) The political economy of immigration policy: The example of Scotland. Scottish Affairs, 25 (4), 506-529.

McCollum, D., Findlay, A., Bell, D. & Bijak, J. (2013) Patterns and perceptions of migration, is Scotland distinct from the rest of the UK? CPC Briefing Paper 10, ESRC Centre for Population Change, UK.

Packwood, H. and Findlay, A. (2014) Immigration, Scotland and the constitutional change debate: Geography, difference and the question of scale. CPC Briefing Paper 14, ESRC Centre for Population Change, UK.

Tindal, S., McCollum, D. and Bell, D. (2014) Immigration policy and constitutional change: The perspective of Scottish employers. CPC Briefing Paper 15, ESRC Centre for Population Change, UK.

Tindal, S., Packwood, H., Findlay, A., McCollum, D. and Leahy, S. (2015) In what sense distinctive? An analysis of cross-border student migration flows. Geoforum, 64, 90-99.

Tindal, S., Wright, R., Findlay, A. & Bell, D. (2013) European Union and International Students in Scottish Higher Education Institutions. CPC Briefing Paper 13, ESRC Centre for Population Change, UK.


Media activities

Examining the case for union - borders and immigration - Centre on Constitutational Change website, 24 April 2014.

Manifesto Check: SNP migration plans focus on international students - The Conversation online, 21 April 2014.

Where does migration sit within the debate over the future of the UK and Scotland? -, 7 April 2014.

Scottish independence: 'Migration could rise' - The Scotsman, 14 February 2014.

Constitutional change and immigration in Scotland - Centre on Constitutational Change website, 26 September 2013.


You can also browse population-related articles from CPC members on our! page.