BREXIT has triggered a rise in anti-Scottish sentiment in England, according to academics who have uncovered a “surprising” number of experiences of hostility south of the Border.

The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) researchers say evidence suggests there has been a “shift in atmosphere” south of the Border towards those perceived as “foreigners” after the 2016 vote.

Some Scots living in England have reported an increase in incidents such as “sneering contempt” and “abuse about Jocks”.

While the researchers caution the findings come from a small number of surveys and should not be exaggerated, they say it is enough to raise the possibility it is becoming a “significant issue”.

And they concluded the “changed political atmosphere in England is causing discomfort among a number of Scots living there and leading some to move back”.

READ MORE: Charting the increase of anti-Scottish hostility in England

Dr Duncan Sim, honorary senior research fellow at UWS, said the findings emerged from studies on the Scottish diaspora aimed at looking at people who had returned home after living elsewhere.

“Scotland has quite a low birth rate and our population grows mainly as a result of immigration,” he said.

“Post-Brexit the Government in Westminster is trying to cut back on immigration, so we thought one way Scotland could offset the loss of European migrants is to try and attract back Scots who have gone abroad.

“I started analysing the questionnaires we got back. A lot of people who were coming back from England were emphasising their family connections and were coming back because they thought it was a better quality of life and were fed up with London anyway.

“But a surprising number said there is a real shift in atmosphere in England, it is not such a nice place anymore.”

Sim said the concerns raised over hostility to immigrants which was beginning to “spill over” into anti-Scottish attitude led to second survey of Scots living in England.

Again, this found a number of people who said they were aware of a change in atmosphere and increased hostility towards migrants. He said: “What made a difference in the Brexit referendum is to do with the political rhetoric and where the politicians are coming from.

“There was never the anti-immigrant rhetoric in any of the political parties [in Scotland] in the way there was really at the heart of Government in Westminster.

“That then trickles down and influences people’s opinions. It has led to a definite shift I think south of the Border.”

Murray Stewart Leith, professor of political science at UWS, said while Scots had got used to dealing with “banter”, the research suggested there was now a “much harsher edge” to it.

“A number of our respondents made it clear they had considered moving back to Scotland or they were moving back to Scotland for those exact reasons,” he said. “There is a minority – and it is a minority – of people who are now being quite vocal and demonstrative about their dislike of people from other places.

“I must also stress there are plenty of Scottish people living in England, there are plenty of people who have no problem with it and are quite happy to stay.”

Last week author Louis de Bernieres, best known for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, claimed many in England would be “glad to see the back” of Scotland, because of the “barely concealed Anglophobia” of most Scots.

His comments provoked a furious response from historian Professor Sir Tom Devine, who said it illustrated “the growing ethnic hostility to the ‘parasitic’ Scots” and was “the kind of rabble-rousing nonsense that can only add fuel to the fire of post-Scottish grievance”.

Leith, who co-authored the book “Scotland: the New State of an Old Nation” with Sim, said while there were many different reasons people voted for Brexit, attitudes towards immigration clearly had an influence.

“What we seem to have found was that amongst a minority of people in England that attitude towards immigration isn’t necessarily about people originating from outside the UK,” he said. “It is about migrants in general who are moving in from other areas and some of that seems to have spilled over into Scottish migrants into England.”

The research was based on detailed responses from 73 people either currently living in England or who have recently done so. 

Leith said there was a need for more research to be carried out into the issue, adding: “The fact we have evidence such rhetoric exists is concerning.”