AFTER Fife SNP council candidate and EU national Olaf Stando revealed he had received a barrage of xenophobic abuse during his campaigning for the local elections, The National sought to delve deeper into the issue. We spoke to more EU nationals involved with Scottish politics and an expert in migration and social justice to find out if xenophobia in Scotland has spiked since the Brexit referendum.

XENOPHOBIC abuse is under-reported in Scotland and incidents are becoming accepted as “everyday microaggressions” post-Brexit, a Strathclyde University academic has claimed.

Professor Daniela Sime, reader in education and social justice at Glasgow University, said it was difficult to say whether xenophobia has got worse since the 2016 referendum, but part of that may be because most victims do not speak up about abuse.

In a paper due for publication soon, she looks at young people’s experiences of xenophobia post-Brexit and talks about how the UK leaving the EU has brought about “new insecurities” for European migrants, while exploring some of the coping strategies people use to integrate themselves into society.

When asked whether she felt xenophobia had spiked since the Brexit negotiations, Professor Sime said there was a lack of hard evidence to say one way or the other, but there was no doubt people felt like reporting incidents would not achieve anything, while others felt they had to hide signs they were from other countries.

“If you go by what we have as hard evidence – there was a spike after Brexit in reports [of xenophobia] but a lot of these were not necessarily against EU nationals. The Asian communities saw a spike in attacks,” said Professor Sime, who came to Scotland from Romania about 24 years ago. “I don’t necessarily think that spike has been maintained but certainly, anyone you ask, the majority of people on the ground have experienced it.

“The main thing is a lot of these incidents people will not report because they think it’s minor and the police don’t care. A taxi driver said there’s too many immigrants like you in the country to me a while ago but I didn’t call the police.

“So for a lot of these incidents, and for young people I think, it’s everyday microaggressions. If incidents are more serious like physical attacks or attacks over their property, they would report them but I think there is an under-reporting of incidents.

“When we did a study of young people after the referendum as well, people said after Brexit they were trying to disguise their nationality. Some wouldn’t speak in Polish on the bus for example. And for young people who moved when they were four or five, they don’t remember much of their country of origin, they do feel this is their home and some of them will say they are Scottish and I think that reminder you are not from here is taken quite personally.”

From Edinburgh to Aberdeen, EU nationals involved with Scottish politics have said they have had to endure xenophobic abuse living in Scotland.

And some say it very much exists within the independence movement.

Jule Bandel (below), who was recently elected as a Green councillor in Edinburgh and is originally from Germany, said she experienced xenophobia on the doorstep while she was campaigning which she said “shook her up”.

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“I was talking to someone who was very much for the EU but she felt very strongly against independence,” said Bandel. “We tried to have a chat, I was saying council elections are not about that they’re really about local issues, but it wasn’t a great experience. She got quite abusive.

“When I mentioned I was from the EU, so I obviously wanted Scotland to go back into the EU, she just said ‘well you can go back’. So she was just sort of telling me to go back to my own country. That really shook me up at the time.”

ELLEN Hofer (below), who is also from Germany and a creative director at EU Citizens for an Independent Scotland, added: “I’m actually more worried about these [xenophobic] attitudes inside the movement. I find it deeply embarrassing and distressing when I realise that there’s people who fight for independence but do it based on a nationalistic idea.

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“People have said to me I shouldn’t have been allowed to vote in 2014 or Europeans should be barred [from another vote] because the first time Europeans didn’t support independence, all that kind of stuff.”

Former MEP and current Aberdeen City councillor Christian Allard, who is French-born, said he “constantly” experiences abuse online and former Tory leader Ruth Davidson once had to apologise to him after her party press office issued a statement questioning the right of EU citizens to take part in Scottish politics.

He said: “I get abuse constantly. People say you can go back home, go back where you come from, if you’re not happy you know what to do.

“I say to people we want for Scotland what Britain always was. It was open.

“We are losing that vibe of welcoming Britain and sharing our democratic rights with people who don’t have citizenship. You could say that’s been reversed now.”

Despite the evident existence of xenophobia in Scotland, on the flip side, Allard is hoping the country may start to change attitudes about what it means to be a citizen.

Hofer, Allard and Bandel are all in the same boat as SNP staffer and recent council election candidate Olaf Stando in that they don’t have UK passports, but none of them are considering trying to get UK citizenship because of the expense and the fact they don’t want to risk their EU citizenship.

After refugees won the right to vote in Scottish elections in 2020, Allard is hoping that will one day not matter and we will move beyond documents dictating people’s identity.

He said: “People ask me sometimes why migrants so interested in representing other people in the country they’ve migrated to and the reason is migrants want to be, maybe, more Scottish than the Scots. You want to prove yourself.

“The great thing about Scotland is that a lot of people say if you live here, you’re a Scot, no questions asked. I think we’re very much in the 21st century and redefining what it is to belong.

“We really have to redefine what it means to be a citizen.”