Fairlie blasted for blaming No vote on immigration

The ex-SNP No2 suggested 'open door' immigration skewed the result. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The ex-SNP No2 suggested 'open door' immigration skewed the result. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A FORMER SNP deputy leader has been accused of sectarianism over suggestions that Scotland’s “open door” immigration policy was behind the No vote in the independence referendum.

Jim Fairlie was referring to a study by Edinburgh University last week that found people born in Scotland voted narrowly in favour of independence last September.

And he tweeted: “Why open our doors to those more likely to vote to deny us independence & skew vote more?”

But Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone was not impressed. He said: “Mr Fairlie appears to believe that there are two classes of people in Scotland: those who believe in his separatist dream and deserve to live here and those who don’t and aren’t welcome.

“This is sectarianism, plain and simple.”

A study into the breakdown of the referendum, looking at the votes of more than 4,500 people, found that a majority of people born in Scotland (52.7 per cent) had voted Yes. It also found 72.1 per cent of people born in the rest of the UK and 57 per cent of those born outside UK had voted No.

Mr Fairlie last night said: “My view is that any Scot living in Scotland should have been allowed the vote.

“Any Scot living outside Scotland wasn’t entitled to the vote. I argued that consistently throughout.

“It was the people who were in Scotland – the electorate – they were the only ones entitled to the vote.

“It has nothing to do with race or ethnicity.”

He went on: “I thought the figures in the study were interesting as do many other people.

But he added: “You’re not allowed to talk about immigration in this country.”

Asked if he would back tighter immigration controls in an effort to secure a Yes vote in future, he said he would be setting out his views in a forthcoming blog.

Mr Fairlie added that he had been mistaken in his attempt to express his view in a tweet and to talk of “native” Scots when the survey talked of “native born” Scots.

Scottish Liberal Democrat president Sir Malcolm Bruce said: “In his hunt for reasons to explain why his campaign lost the referendum vote, Jim Fairlie has resorted to blaming voters – some of whom come from other parts of the world to live and work here.

“Jim Fairlie’s bizarre solution should be unthinkable to every democrat.”

Mr Johnstone added that the statement had been “shocking”, coming from a senior member of the Nationalist movement.

Mr Fairlie was the deputy leader of the SNP between 1981 and 1984 but quit the party over its “Independence in Europe” policy.

He came to prominence again during the referendum campaign and warned afterwards that any future drive for independence had to set the idea of socialism to one side if it was to attract the support of Scotland’s middle classes.

“Just as Scots have emigrated right around the world, Scotland has always welcomed incomers both from other parts of the UK and from further afar,” he said.

His comments brought a heated response from fellow Twitter users.

Gray Dunion wrote: “Are you suggesting we close our borders in order to avoid letting No voters in? Because I’m afraid that’s what it sounds like.”

Adam Ramsay said: “What’s the point of building an awesome country then not letting people in? We win by winning the argument, not socially engineering the electorate.”

An SNP spokesperson said last night: “Mr Fairlie has not been a member of the SNP for a quarter of a century.”

Last week’s study was the biggest yet of how Scotland had made its historic decision on 18 September and it found that the votes of people born outside Scotland had been crucial to the result.

There were more than 420,000 people from elsewhere in the UK living in Scotland when the last census was taken.

And if they cast their ballots in line with the findings of the Edinburgh University study, more than 300,000 of them will have voted No.

That’s a significant number in a contest that ended with 2,001,926 votes for No and 1,617,989 for Yes.

Study author Professor Ailsa Henderson said it showed the importance of “Britishness” among voters born elsewhere in the UK in deciding the result.

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