New Scots? Eastern European young people's feelings of belonging and national identity in Scotland post-Brexit

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This article examines the impact of Brexit on young people aged 12-18 who had moved to Scotland from Central and Eastern Europe. It draws on empirical data collected with over 250 young people who contributed to an online survey and focus groups between 2016-2018, immediately after the Brexit referendum took place. The paper examines young people’s feelings of national identity and how their sense of belonging has been impacted by Brexit. The key findings reveal that factors such as their everyday experiences of racism and xenophobia and perceptions of what other people, often their friends, might think about who gets to belong were identified as significant to the identities young migrants felt able to claim. While many young people expressed a strong sense of belonging in the UK as a whole and over half said they were feeling Scottish, access to a Scottish national identity seems to be restricted and often denied to them. At the same time, many felt able to occupy the national identity of their country of birth or claim hyphenated identities that included Scottishness and a European identity. In the context of Brexit, this poses a challenge for making New Scots feel like they belong in Scotland, as many may now decide to review their plans to remain in Scotland long-term if their rights change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-353
Number of pages18
JournalScottish Affairs
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2020


  • national identity
  • Eastern European migrants
  • migration
  • young people
  • New Scots
  • Brexit


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