As everyone knows, North Edinburgh, like the rest of Edinburgh, has seen a lot of people from Poland and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe arrive here in recent years. But recent immigration statistics suggest that the picture is changing. In fact, the number of people from Eastern Europe returning home doubled in 2007-8.
Whether this trend will continue in the future no one knows. But what this underlines is the way in which our community here in North Edinburgh is changing. As well as people from Poland and elsewhere, we have seen more people coming here from Africa, and other parts of the world.
These types of changes to communities are not limited to Edinburgh. They are happening all over Europe, and indeed elsewhere in the world. They just emphasise how much we are all now ‘one world’.
What we need to do is make that these new communities are able to properly integrate into our society here in Scotland. I know from speaking to many of these recent arrivals that this is what they want to do – they are proud of their own communities, but also want to be able to play their part in our society.
Giving people the opportunity to learn English is important. And we also need to recognize that these types of changes can put extra demands on our social services, although it should always be remembered that these new incoming residents actually pay much more in taxes to the government than they get back in local services. In England, the government gives extra cash to those councils with large immigrant populations to help them meet the extra pressures – unfortunately, the Scottish government does not give the same type of help, which I think is wrong.
We can all try and learn more and understand other communities and cultures. This is something the local schools have been particularly good at encouraging – other community organisations could perhaps do the same.
In the case of the Poles, it’s not, of course, the first time that large numbers have come from that country to ours. During the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of people came from Poland and served with the British armed forces in the fight against Hitler – my own father was one of them. And Edinburgh was one of the centres of that community.
That’s a reminder of our shared history, and the hardships shared by so many from Britain and Poland (and of course the other occupied countries) during those difficult years. And June 6th this year will be the 65th anniversary of the crucial Normandy landings which started the liberation of Western Europe from the Nazis. There are still many veterans from those years, and I am very pleased that the Government has made money available through the Lottery Fund to ensure that British veterans will be able to travel to take part in the events to mark D-Day.
This is just part of what the government has done to recognize the contribution made by those who have served in our armed forces. In 2004 the Government introduced veterans badges to honour those who fought during
the two World Wars. Now they are available to all veterans. I have been privileged to meet and present badges to ex-servicemen and women in Edinburgh North. I am keen to make sure that anyone who is entitled to a badge gets the recognition they deserve. You can obtain more information from my constituency office on 0131-557-0577.
Finally, a note on MP allowances. This has understandably been one of the big issues at Westminster and in the country as a whole over recent weeks. I completely understand people's anger at the revelations on MPs allowances. We need a fundamental reform of the system, and I’ll be doing my best to bring that about. I have published details of all my MP allowance claims in recent years on this website which you can find on the homepage, and if you have any questions or comments, do get in touch.