Imagine what it would be like to have your country invaded by hundreds of thousands of people from a different culture, with different values, who sometimes do not even speak the same language as you. These people have usually come to live near you, not because they want to live like you, but because they want to improve their standard of living, which may already be higher than yours. Eight million British people have experienced just such an invasion over the last 20 years: these people live in Scotland and Wales-and the immigrants have been the English.
The current debate over the nature of the “New Britain” and the political institutions which can best reflect the separate concerns of the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish, frequently overlooks the extent to which those identities might be affected by large-scale internal migration within the British Isles.
Of the 55 million people who were counted at the last census as residing in Great Britain (meaning England’s 47 million, Scotland’s 5 million, and Wales’s 3 million), 93 per cent are British-born. Of those, four-fifths were born in England. The largest national group in England born outside the country are the Scottish-born (about 750,000). This group is also bigger than any ethnic minority living in England, except for those who describe themselves as of Indian origin.
THE ENGLISH IMMIGRANTS
The latest statistics, based on the decennial census of population for 1971, 1981 and 1991, reveal surprising trends of movement within Great Britain. A notable development is that the English are moving to the “Celtic fringes” of Scotland and Wales in larger numbers than ever before. Nearly 20 per cent of the current Welsh population, for example, was born in England-and nearly 8 per cent of the Scottish population was born in England. A central question arising from high levels of internal migration must be whether a large influx of people out of one part of the country and into another creates a more unified Britain, or exacerbates regional tensions and latent nationalisms by threatening identities.
In rural Wales the effects of English immigration have been keenly felt. An additional 150,000 English-born people have moved to Wales in the last 20 years. Now, English-born residents constitute half a million people, or a fifth of all residents in the principality. The least populated Welsh county, Powys, has seen the fastest increase: in 1971 it had…