Post-war emigration

Canada was a promoted destination
A poster promoting Canada

In the period between the two World Wars, Scotland had the highest emigration rate of any European country:

  • Many Scots saw emigration as an escape from unemployment and poverty in the Highlands, and from the depressed industrial areas of central Scotland.
  • Scots moving abroad made up 60 per cent of the total British emigration in the 1920s.
  • This resulted in a ‘brain drain’ where skilled and educated Scots left Scotland in search of better wages abroad.
  • The 1931 census showed a drop in Scotland's population for the first time since official records began in 1801.

Government action

After World War One, the government set up the Overseas Settlement Committee to help ex-soldiers emigrate.

The Empire Settlement Act of 1922 provided the first large scale government assisted migration programme. It was intended to boost the rural populations of Canada and other parts of the British Empire. Subsidies were paid to emigrants who agreed to work the land for a certain period of time.

The Canadian government actively encouraged emigration from Scotland. Full-time agents based in Glasgow and Inverness promoted a move to Canada.

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