TWO New Scot councillors have insisted poor income is one of the leading reasons migrants are put off from running for election despite the welcoming response they have had from Scotland since taking office.

Martha Mattos-Coelho and Auxi Barrera – who became the country’s first Iberian councillors in Edinburgh and Fife respectively last year – have said they have never felt any rejection from Scots after becoming active in politics and are passionate about encouraging other Europeans living here to follow the same path.

Bar a mountain of online abuse both have received at certain junctures, they have been amazed by the support from residents and colleagues after choosing to run for election on the back of Scotland being forced out of the EU.

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But both have insisted it is still a challenge to get other New Scots to consider becoming a councillor because the pay is so low.

Mattos-Coelho, who is originally from Lisbon, told The National she has had to claim benefits on top of her council income, while Barrera has said she has to rely on a second job to get her through.

She said: “I am a single mum, I’m a councillor and I get Universal Credit. I think the income is definitely a problem.

“The way some people treat us [online] is a problem too, but overall people are welcoming to us.”

Barrera (below), who moved to the UK from the Spanish town of Utrera, said: “The income we get is ridiculous.

“We are non-stop. It’s all day, every day. It’s having an impact on my family, I’m not having as many days out as I would like to.

“We need people like me and Martha who are young and have energy to come forward and if we don’t start through us, then we cannot get more young people to see what you can do.

The National:

“But having £20,000 a year is ridiculous and I need to rely on a second job.

“I have thought several times about leaving that second job but the math doesn’t add up. I can’t cope with my bills. My boy is in high school so he needs extra money to come and go and have lunch there.”

Mattos-Coelho and Barrera were both surprised when they were elected having not had political backgrounds or been born here.

And they have continued to be astounded by the level of support Scots have given them.

Following the Brexit vote, a man came up to Mattos-Coelho in Edinburgh specifically to apologise for the result.

She said: “I remember being on Princes Street with a newborn baby and a guy came and apologised to me.

“I said ‘what for?’ and he said ‘I didn’t vote for Brexit’. It does show how Scots are different. People have taken the time and effort to make me aware I’m welcome here.”

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Barrera, 36, said: “The support I have received from residents has been overwhelming. As a councillor from another country, I have not felt any rejection from anyone for being a migrant. We should all be proud that is happening in Scotland.”

However, despite many New Scots feeling just as welcome here as Barrera and Mattos-Coelho do, both councillors said a lot of them will not feel as if they have a right to contribute to policy and law-making in the nation.

They said encouraging New Scots to pursue a passion for politics can be hard when many of them don’t feel or know they have the right to vote.

Barerra said: “I have worked in a charity that helped migrants before and the problem I have seen is that many of them, although they are comfortable here, they keep in their minds they want to go back to their home country and because of that they don’t feel like they have the right to vote [or get involved in politics].

The National:

“They don’t feel they can make a decision for a country they are going to leave in a few years. I think that’s the challenge, making them realise they might be here for 10 years, but if you love politics, you can just serve one term. If this is what you feel passionate about, why not?

“I know I’m not going to stop as a councillor, I want more and I know there are migrants out there who are the same as me, but they don’t know how to do it or they just want to have the security of an income.

“That saddens me because we could be losing many really good politicians.”

Mattos-Coelho and Barrera can vouch for how much having a different perspective on things can have a real impact on local decision-making and they both hope more New Scots will see this and consider getting involved in politics.

“We do things in a different way. There was a motion that I came to second about photo ID and someone said ‘you have to show photo ID in Portugal’,” said Mattos-Coelho, 46.

“But that’s something we’ve been born with. It was very difficult for people to understand that photo ID here isn’t needed because of the way the culture is, when in Portugal it is part of us. It’s those kind of experiences that we have that can be very helpful with policy.”

Barrera added: “Because I am a migrant I think I am able to think outside the box because I am able to compare how things are in Spain and how things are here. I’m able to come up with new ideas and perspectives and I think that’s very valued in my group.”