No fron­tiers

To­day’s east­ern Euro­pean­mi­grants are to­mor­row’s mil­lion­aire en­trepreneurs

The Herald Business - - Contents - IAN McCON­NELL

THE most vis­i­ble sign of the latest wave of im­mi­gra­tion to Scot­land is the plethora of work­ers from east­ern Europe in our ho­tels and restau­rants. Much has also been made of the ar­rival in towns and cities of Pol­ish bus driv­ers, and of the part which east­ern Euro­peans have played in en­abling food man­u­fac­tur­ers in the north to go about their busi­ness amid oth­er­wise chronic work­force short­ages.

The re­cent en­tice­ment of Pol­ish den­tists by the Scot­tish Ex­ec­u­tive, to fill cav­i­ties in the Na­tional Health Ser­vice, also at­tracted much me­dia at­ten­tion.

How­ever, while th­ese are the in­stant signs of the wel­come re­turn of net in­ward mi­gra­tion to a na­tion which has been fret­ting over the brain drain and wor­ry­ing about pop­u­la­tion de­cline, the true longer term ben­e­fit has yet to be reaped.

This is not to un­der­play the im­por­tance of th­ese new work­ers in the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor, where they of­ten go about their busi­ness with a deal more pro­fes­sion­al­ism and en­thu­si­asm than some of the in­dige­nous staff, or of the den­tists, bus driv­ers, or food fac­tory work­ers.

A grow­ing work­force should boost Scot­land’s longer- term rate of eco­nomic growth, and the new ar­rivals are par­tic­u­larly wel­come to em­ploy­ers at a time when the job­less to­tal is bliss­fully low and many young Scots are show­ing lit­tle in­ter­est in a lot of the posts be­ing filled by im­mi­grants.

The en­thu­si­asm of some of those ar­riv­ing also bodes well for Scot­land with, to cite just one ex­am­ple, a time- served elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer serv­ing as a builder’s labourer to get a foot on the lad­der. And it is this type of en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit, if his­tory is any­thing to go by, which will pro­vide that ic­ing on the eco­nomic cake.

There is no end of sta­tis­tics which high­light the greater en­tre­pre­neur­ial ac­tiv­ity of im­mi­grants and the names which bear this out trip off the tongue.

There are the Nar­di­nis, of ice- cream fame, who came to Scot­land as part of a huge wave of im­mi­gra­tion from Tus­cany in the late nine­teenth cen­tury. It was Pi­etroNar­dini who joined the flow of peo­ple from around the town of Barga, with “ hunger” cited as the driv­ing force.

Then there is Sir Reo Stakis, the man who ar­rived from Cyprus sell­ing lace be­fore bring­ing af­ford­able eat­ing out to the masses and build­ing a ho­tel em­pire.

There are the Tiefen­brun brothers, Ivor at Linn Prod­ucts and Mar­cus at Cas­tle Pre­ci­sion En­gi­neer­ing. Cas­tle was founded by their fa­ther Jack in 1963 in Castlemilk where it re­mains to this day. Jack had fledVi­enna af­ter Hitler’s thugs con­fis­cated the fam­ily’s as­sets in 1938 and barely made it with his life to Switzer­land.

Mean­while, the im­pact of en­tre­pre­neur­ial Asian im­mi­grants on the Scot­tish econ­omy is im­pos­si­ble to miss.

Among those to have made their mark are Cha­ran Gill, who built the Har­lequin Restau­rants chain, and San­jay Ma­jhu, who cre­ated theAp­ple Phar­ma­cies chain and now owns Har­lequin. Maq Ra­sul built Global Video, and the late Yaqub Ali was lauded by none other than for­mer Bank of Eng­land gov­er­nor Sir Ed­die Ge­orge.

Re­turn­ing to the Ital­ian in­flu­ence, there is Gio Benedetti. He was de­posited on th­ese shores from Italy 40 years ago as a 10- yearold boy to make a life with his un­cle, who owned Joe’s Café in Irvine. Benedetti sold his first busi­ness, ICS, to Ini­tial for about £ 30m at to­day’s prices, hav­ing built the big­gest dryclean­ing plant in Europe at Kil­win­ning, al­though he has per­haps been up­staged in the pub­lic­ity stakes of late by his vi­o­lin- play­ing daugh­ter Ni­cola.

When we look back in decades to come, there will un­doubt­edly be many more of th­ese suc­cess sto­ries. They will be re­mark­able hu­man tales of tri­umph over ad­ver­sity and of sheer hard work and per­se­ver­ance. To­gether, they will have trans­lated into a pow­er­ful eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion to Scot­land.

In spite of all the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal pointscor­ing on im­mi­gra­tion amid ad­min­is­tra­tive bun­gles, the fo­cus will hope­fully re­turn to the many valu­able new ar­rivals rather than the few prob­lem cases.

It is im­pos­si­ble to say with cer­tainty that Scot­land’s longer- term eco­nomic un­der­per­for­mance will be ad­dressed by the re­turn to net in­ward mi­gra­tion. How­ever, the sto­ries of en­tre­pre­neur­ial en­deav­our to this point sug­gest that it just might

Ian McCon­nell is Busi­ness Ed­i­tor of The Her­ald

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.