‘Why don’t you go back home?” said the woman to John (not his real name) when she heard his Scottish accent. As he later told us, it felt somewhat ironic as he was at Liverpool Pier Head for the Cunard bicentenary celebrations – a shipping company founded by Scots. But these incidents were becoming increasingly irritating. While working in London, he had experienced “sneering contempt from colleagues, with tiresome tropes and stereotypes quick to surface”.

In Liverpool, he was fed up with “racist incidents with taxi drivers who picked me up from Lime Street Station and ended the journey with abuse about Jocks if I only had Scottish notes”. He went on to say that these incidents had increased post Brexit and he had now moved back to Scotland.

The experiences of people like John have surfaced in a study which we have been carrying out at the University of the West of Scotland into the effects of Brexit on Scots living in England, some of whom, like John, have now decided to return home. But are these incidents typical? Do they indicate a growing resentment within England towards all “foreigners”, including Scots? This is what we sought to find out and the results surprised us slightly.

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One of the features of Brexit – particularly given that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted Remain – is that it is essentially about England. Politics guru Sir John Curtice has shown that, of those people who felt English rather than British, a whopping 74% of them voted to Leave the EU. The writer Fintan O’Toole ­believes that Brexit is very much an English nationalist movement while others have suggested this has been fuelled over the years by a right-wing media hostile to Europe and by a growing sense of English isolationism. We have ended up, in the words of Antony Miall in his book, The xenophobe’s guide to the English, whereby “English views on ­foreigners are very simple. The further one travels from the ­capital in any direction, the more outlandish the ­people become”.

This growth in English nationalism may well be beginning to destabilise the constitutional settlement established by Tony Blair with the setting up of the devolved administrations – aided by Boris Johnson’s belief that devolution was in any case a “disaster”. But it may be that a break-up of the UK is not a cause for concern in some parts of England. After all, an opinion poll conducted for the Daily Telegraph in 2017 suggested that 60% of the people they spoke to believed that achieving Brexit was more important than keeping the UK together.

Of course, one of the key elements of Brexit was the desire to reduce immigration and end freedom of movement. This has led to a hostility towards those seen as “foreigners”, whether they have the right to be in the UK or not. One concerning side effect of Brexit has been an increase in hate crime, ­particularly in parts of England that voted Leave. This was not the case in Scotland, where the number of recorded ­racially and religiously motivated hate crimes actually fell after the Brexit referendum.

So how does this seeming hostility affect the Scots (and the Welsh and Irish) who actually live in ­England? Are they now foreigners too? The Irish, of course, have long been the target of negative ­stereotypes, anti-Irish jokes and workplace bullying. Since Brexit, many Irish people have ­decided to move back with the Irish Times reckoning that the numbers returning have reached almost 9000 per year. The Welsh? Well, we have the words of Anne McMorrin, MP for Cardiff North, in a St David’s Day debate in the House of Commons. She spoke of the dismissal of Welsh culture by the London elite, going on to claim that false English superiority was leading the Government to pursue a “hard Tory Brexit”, which was damaging to Wales. We have certainly seen a Brexit that is damaging to many areas.

There has always been an element of dismissal, if not hostility, from the London elite when it comes to Scots too. We have routinely been called “subsidy junkies” and “whingeing Jocks”; Jeremy Paxman criticised what he called the “Scottish Raj” in England, as if being a successful Scot down south was somehow a negative. We have had disparaging remarks from Nigel Farage to openly insulting comments about “little sweaty jocks” from the columnist Katie Hopkins. Such anti-Scottish racism was openly evident following the 2014 independence referendum – most shockingly perhaps during a visit to a school in Somerset by Conservative MP James Heappey. When a Scottish schoolgirl told him she would have liked to have voted for Scottish independence, had she been able to, he told her to “f*** off back to Scotland”. Our research shows evidence of similar sentiments today.

To be fair, it is important to note that many Scots have told us that they have felt very welcome in England, many have been there for years, have partners and children born there and they remain very settled. But there is definitely a sense that some things have changed after Brexit.

Alan told us that “the fact that ­Scotland has objected to the UK-wide Brexit ­result and stated that they wish to remain within the EU has certainly made the English more critical of Scots and ­Scotland”, while Ellen thought that “there is an ­element that want England for the English and everyone else to go home”.

David thought that there had been a shift over a longer period: “I think things have changed over the years as English nationalism has become more prevalent. When I visit England now, I’m aware sometimes of occasional hostility.”

Scots recognised that there was considerably more hostility directed at Europeans (especially from eastern Europe), and, for many, this had not impinged on them personally. And the anti-Scottishness that was explicitly linked to the independence referendum of 2014 was understood by some Scots. They believed that their ­English friends were puzzled and angry that Scotland should seek to leave the UK and thought that Scotland was heavily subsidised by England. Mary told us that one of her friends actually accused Scots of being “disloyal to the Queen of England!”.

So where does this leave us? It is, of course, far too soon for the full political effects of Brexit to become apparent, let alone the economic and social ones. But already the increase in reported hate crime in England is worrying and appears to reflect a growing hostile environment for Europeans and others living there. While we may be concerned by this development, we should not perhaps be totally surprised. Immigration was a key driver of the Brexit vote and this has been linked to a rise in English nationalism.

What may surprise many (including ourselves!) is the fact that hostility to the European Union appears to be accompanied in some cases to a hostility – or at least an indifference – to the older unions which go to make up the United Kingdom. Demands for a second independence referendum in Scotland, and problems in negotiating around the Irish backstop may lead many English nationalists to regard Scotland and Northern Ireland simply as a nuisance. There are many who would regret the break-up of the UK, but the Daily Telegraph opinion poll might ­suggest otherwise – certainly among Tory voters. And we have Nigel Farage saying that the break-up of the UK, while “deeply regrettable”, was a price worth paying to deliver Brexit.

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SO, our research has shown us that the changed political atmosphere in England is causing discomfort among a number of Scots living there and leading some to move back. That said, we would not want anyone to exaggerate our findings. Many Scots are happily settled in England and, while irritated by stereotyping about kilts, drunkenness and so on, saw this as banter. While tiresome, it was not threatening, and many Scots living in England, long ago learned to deal with it.

But it does appear that Scots are viewed within England more negatively than before. Partly, this results from the 2014 independence referendum, partly by Scotland voting so differently from England in the Brexit referendum, and partly because of the noted hostility towards migrants in England, regardless of their origins.

It may well be that, as demands grow for a second Scottish independence referendum, that some people in England will actively encourage Scotland to become independent and to leave “England to the English”. Writing recently in the Sunday National, historian Sir Tom Devine believes that it will be England which will bring the Union to an end. We have long discussed this point between ourselves and we feel he may well be right.

Murray Stewart Leith and Duncan Sim work at the University of the West of Scotland. All the names in the piece have been changed to preserve anonymity