Scots tourism expert wants campaign to attract more refugees and migrants to tackle ‘pressing need’ for workers

One of Scotland's leading travel, tourism and events experts has called on the country to mount a campaign to attract more refugees and migrants to help tackle the "pressing need" for workers in sectors across the country.

Peter Irvine has written a new essay suggesting Scotland does a lot more to attract migrants and refugees into the country. Picture: Neil Hanna
Peter Irvine has written a new essay suggesting Scotland does a lot more to attract migrants and refugees into the country. Picture: Neil Hanna

Peter Irvine has suggested a "powerful committee" leads a campaign to "fire up the public" and make Scotland a "hospitable and viable sanctuary.”

He suggested it could be backed by commercial, cultural and financial organisations, hotel groups and hospitality providers, farms and entire islands, with accommodation offered as part of employment packages.

His ideas are set in a new edition of Imagine a Country, a collection of essays setting out "ideas for a better future” in Scotland, which will be launched at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this month.Irvine, one of Scotland’s leading event organisers since the 1970s, led the creation of Edinburgh's official Hogmanay festival and celebrations to mark the opening of the Scottish Parliament. He has written a Scotland the Best travel guide for nearly 30 years.

Peter Irvine has written an essay for a new edition of the book Imagine a Country. Picture: Neil Hanna

In the new edition of Imagine a Country, edited by Val McDermid and Jo Sharp, Irvine writes how he could not imagine what it is like to be “stateless, to walk thousands of miles to get away from my country in search of another life and somewhere to belong.”

Irvine suggested that a nightmarish situation could be turned into “an awakening – for us.”

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He writes: “The tide of refugees and migrants on Europe’s borders will not ebb and it’s clear that this Tory government will never address its pragmatic, never mind moral, responsibilities to Scotland.

“In Scotland, a small and discrete country, we may have a unique and heroic opportunity.

“As pointed out for years, we harbour a very different set of circumstances. We are entrepreneurial, compassionate and boast an ingrained sense of fair play. We live on the outside edge of Europe.

“Most importantly, we have a long experience of migration. Historically, our people have had to leave (enforced or otherwise, as migrants do) to find a better life and improve the economic and cultural health of the countries that took us in.

And so, we should have the right to create a new system, lower the drawbridge and also raise the bar on how migrants are received and, crucially, valued.”

Earlier this year, when Irvine launched a new book dedicated to Scotland’s islands, he bemoaned how the growth of the tourism and hospitality sector was being hampered by a lack of suitable accommodation for staff and an exodus of workers.

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In the new book, he writes: “It’s been clear since the Brexodus and in Covid times that there’s a pressing need for workers in many sectors.

“And the challenge of our ageing population is well-documented. We need more people: other people who will enrich us, driving not draining the economy.

"Let’s say we could form a powerful committee, determine realistic objectives to make Scotland a hospitable and viable sanctuary for migrants and refugees, launch a campaign to fire up the public, and set the nation on a collection mission to consider all the creative and practicable ways we could help.

“Obviously we can’t start a 'flood’ of new people into Scotland, but we must significantly turn up the volume on the trickle we’re allowed to provide for at the moment.”

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