AN ELDERLY friend of mine, over 90 years old and as bright as a button, commented: “It’s a shame about all this immigration. Surely these people should go back to their own countries?”

A bit taken aback, I asked why she thought this. She replied that the population was growing too fast and there won’t be enough room in the hospitals or schools for everyone.

I gently reminded her that she came from immigration stock herself. She was quite affronted.

“What on earth do you mean?”

“Your parents were born in Italy. They both emigrated to Scotland before the First World War.”

“That’s different,” she replied.

It’s true. Her parents were immigrants, young, impoverished and ‘foreign’. What they were rich in was fortitude, courage and ambition. That’s not to say that their experience was not fraught with prejudice and victimisation.

They were regarded as foreign and alien; their families were too big, their religion hated.

Gradually, as relationships were formed and mutual respect and trust established, the perception changed and, unless it is highlighted, today they are not regarded as different at all.

This story can apply to all other ethnic groups who are successfully living and contributing to our country’s prosperity and mutual success.

In the latest census, the ‘foreign-born’ population in Scotland has more than trebled from just over 150,000 in 2000/01 to 530,000 in 2019/20. Over half live in the main cities, Polish being by far the biggest cohort. Most are settled, integrated and already contributing to our overall successes.

It is dangerous that, over the years, too many politicians drown out this message of positive immigration with negative soundbites fuelling fear and prejudice. The language used can be abrasive and decisive, a political tool to gain votes and power, to encourage suspicion rather than foster integration.

Increases in immigration can create problems at the beginning. Services can be stretched, populations can be challenged. But surely history shows, if successfully managed, it can also have a positive effect on a country, making for prosperity for all.