Negative attitudes to Irish immigrants

Scots identity

The Scots worried about the large numbers of Irish arriving in Scotland.

The Church of Scotland, newspapers and political leaders tried to convince Scots that they were in danger of losing their identity and their religion.

Cost of support

Many Irish people were very poor and arrived without any money. The Scots worried that the Irish would drain the Poor Law provision, costing them more in taxes.


Many workers felt that the Irish immigrants took their jobs. The Irish were willing to work for lower pay and in poor conditions, and the Scots felt that this put them out of a job.

Moral claims

The Irish were blamed for bad behaviour:

  • The navvies gained a reputation for being violent.
  • The Irish were stereotyped as illiterate due to their lack of education.
  • They were also regarded as poor and unhygienic.

Positive attitude to Irish immigrants

On the other hand, many Scots made Irish settlers feel welcome:

  • Early immigrants often married locals and changed their surnames to Scottish equivalents.
  • Employers were very happy to see so many Irish immigrants as there was a shortage of manual workers and factory workers.
  • The Irish were willing to work for long hours and low pay and were welcomed by employers.
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