Reasons for immigration

There were a number of factors that forced or encouraged people to move to Scotland after 1830.

The factors that forced people to leave their native country to move to Scotland can be referred to as 'push factors'.

The factors that encouraged people to move, specifically to Scotland, can be referred to as ‘pull factors’.

Push factors affecting immigrants

Political problems and foreign rule

By the 19th century, Ireland was ruled by Protestant Britain. Ireland was split religiously, with Catholics in the south and Protestants in the north.

Many of the laws that the British Government passed for Ireland were anti-Catholic (75% of Irish immigrants were Catholic). They could not:

  • inherit land from a Protestant
  • borrow money to buy land
  • vote in elections

Land ownership

Very few Irish farmers owned the land that they worked on - tenant farmers had to pay rent, which was decided by the landowner.

Many landowners did not live on the land. Some lived in England and used it as a way to generate income. If tenant farmers could not pay rent, they were evicted.


Ireland’s population doubled between 1800 and 1850. By 1841 the population had risen to over 8 million. This reduced how much land was available and Ireland struggled to produce enough food to feed the population.

Lack of industry

There was little industrial development in Ireland or Italy. Unemployed labourers did not have the choice of moving to the towns for work.

Most Irish people were illiterate and could only farm or do manual labour for a living and wages were very low for a farm worker.

Famine and poverty

Irish farmers relied on the potato crop, as they can be grown on a small piece of land. Between 1845 and 1848 a potato blight struck the harvest in Ireland and this resulted in the ‘Great Famine’. Approximately two million people left Ireland to escape starvation.

There were also food shortages in Italy as a result of a backward agricultural system and lack of industrialisation.


Relatives view bodies of Jewish people murdered in pogroms
Relatives came to view the bodies of Jewish people murdered in the pogroms

Only small Jewish communities existed in Edinburgh and Glasgow in the early 1800s. These grew in size as a result of Jewish people fleeing ill treatment in Eastern Europe.

By the 19th century, many Jewish people fled from Russia, Ukraine and Poland. They were trying to escape ‘pogroms’ (attacks by a gang or mob) which were led against them.

Jewish people fled Germany and then Europe in the 1930s as the Nazis increasingly persecuted them.