Immigration to Scotland from overseas: the experience of nurses

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Nurse migration to Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, has been intimately linked to the needs of the NHS. From its inception in 1948, the NHS has periodically relied on the recruitment the recruitment of overseas nurses to meet its staffing needs. Initially, they came primarily from the West Indies and Africa, but more recent policy-led nurse recruitment has involved targeting those from the Philippines, India, and Spain alongside others who made their own way to Scotland. There have also been determined attempts in Scotland to use the skills of nurses who came to Scotland from a refugee and asylum seeking immigration route.

It is generally understood, however, that the legacy of discrimination against first generation overseas health workers has had consequences for the recruitment from the second generation. Nurses, especially, do not see nursing or other health service work as a career they would wish for their children. For more recent migrant nurses, the experience of coming to Scotland is within an increasingly hostile UK controlled immigration climate. And yet the social and political climate within Scotland, which since 2002 has witnessed unprecedented levels of in-migration, means there are particular nuances reflected in the experiences of migratory nurses.

This chapter examines the social, political and policy context within which nurse migration has occurred in Scotland and interweaves historical data with two sources of more recent empirical data:

• analysis from a ‘Witness Seminar’ sharing event with retired Caribbean nurses and new nurses from a migratory background;
• analysis of interviews with migrant nurses (some of whom came as refugees and asylum seekers), engaging for the first time with the Scottish Health and Social Care sector, about their experiences of migration to Scotland.

This blending of an historical perspective with more recent empirical data offers a particular insight into the ambitions, hopes and disappointments of a specific professional group in Scotland.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Scots: Scotland’s Immigrant Communities since 1945
EditorsTom M. Devine, Angela McCarthy
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781474437905
ISBN (Print)9781474437875, 9781474437882
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2018

Publication series

NameStudies in Scottish and Irish Migration


  • migration
  • Scotland
  • history
  • racism
  • refugees
  • identity


Dive into the research topics of 'Immigration to Scotland from overseas: the experience of nurses'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this